Consumer Skills
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04th May 2000

HAPPIER HOUSE HUNTING

With house prices in Northern Ireland climbing by more than 10% a year, buyers are under pressure. They should not have to face additional strain because the process is inefficient says the General Consumer Council.

The Council today published an action plan for Government, the professions and industry to make the process of buying a home less cumbersome, risky and stressful. A key reform is to give information ‘up front’ on each house so buyers know from the outset what is on offer. A seller’s information pack should be available as soon as a house goes on the market. Builders of new homes should introduce a code of practice that has the Office of Fair Trading’s new seal of approval. All solicitors doing residential conveyancing should belong to the Law Society’s Home Charter Scheme. All estate agents should belong to the Ombudsman for Estate Agents Scheme. Buyers should receive compensation to cover the cost of putting things right if the house survey report proves to be flawed. The seller’s information pack should include an independent survey report on the physical condition of the house as well as documentation about ownership, warranties, any restrictions on use or developments affecting the property’s value. Joan Whiteside, Council Chairman said, “The Government has pledged to introduce a seller’s pack in England and Wales. We need a working party in Northern Ireland, led by Department for Social Development, to make changes here.” She added, “When buying a house, consumers have to deal with estate agents, solicitors, surveyors, builders, lenders and others. How well they look after their clients is critical.” Mrs Whiteside concluded, “We know from our research and our consultations that most people working in the housing market recognise the need for change. The Council’s recommendations in Improving the house buying process provide the road map. We want to work with the other stakeholders to make buying a house easier in Northern Ireland.” NOTE TO EDITORS The report, Improving the house buying process, is available free of charge from the Council or from the Web site: http://www.gccni.org.uk For further information, please contact Lillian Buchanan at (028) 9067 2488 or by E mail: [email protected]