Multiple new-build broker firms have complained to Mortgage Solutions about delays in receiving an authority to proceed from Help to Buy agent three, which operates in the south of England.
One broker said requests to agent three were taking up to 30 days to process, raising concerns that borrowers who wanted to use the current Help to Buy scheme would run out of time.
Typical service levels for processing an authority to proceed are less than a week. To clear the backlog, builders were asked to bypass agent three and deal with Homes England directly.
Helen Pierson, director of MAB Network Partner, said: “This protracted timescale to receive an authority to proceed has provided an additional layer of challenges when trying to forecast exchange and completion dates.
“It has left purchasers particularly confused when considering, for example, when to give in notice on rental properties, book removals and enrol children into new schools.
“That everyone involved is under immense pressure is well documented. I don’t doubt that errors on reservation and property information forms and solicitor documentation is only adding to Help to Buy Agent delays.
“Perhaps we all need to take a step back and focus on ensuring greater accuracy.”
Since January, a new system of using three Help to Buy agents was implemented to process all applications in England. Agent one covers the north, agent two deals with the Midlands and London and agent three covers the south of the country. Brokers say since the agencies have been consolidated, service levels have suffered.
Homes England said that its southern agent had seen the largest rise in demand for Help to Buy homes since the start of the pandemic, but all three agents have been under pressure to maintain performance levels.
A spokesperson said: “Homes England has been working with [agent three] to ensure that authority to proceed or exchange notices are issued within agreed timelines and to reassure homebuyers.
“Where this hasn’t been possible and the sale is due to complete by the end of October, we have implemented a process for builders to come straight to Homes England so we can process the application quickly.
“We would like to apologise to any homebuyers who have experienced delays and hope your purchase is now on track for completion. If any home buyers are still concerned, they are asked to contact their builder direct.”
Agents one and two are working close to agreed service levels and builders are being asked to follow the usual procedure.
Pierson added: “With many developers approaching critical accounting periods parity of service across the three agents is going to be key to delivery.”