YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU
1.2 million people a year are buying property in the UK, this is a statistic which has come from the new government paper (Research on buying and selling homes).
Buying a house is one of the most stressful things anyone can do. It compares with going through a divorce or becoming a parent. With this research paper, the government is trying to simplify the process of buying and selling homes.
We need to try to change the system, so that we can help people go through this process in a seemless and stress free way. At the minute, the transfer of relevant information and the time spent waiting for all parties involved to complete checks and documentation is creating stress.
This needs to change. So how do we do it?
Well, I've got quite a simple solution and it is easiest to relate it to when you're buying a car:
A car has a number plate and a property has an address, so you can find your car and you can find your house but a car also has a vehicle identification number (a VIN number), which is a unique number to that car. A property kind of has that, in the title register but that information is locked away at Land Registry and it's not readily available.
So my proposition really, is that every property should be given a unique referencing number, that can come from the original title register and can be cross-referenced with coordinates (longitude, latitude and importantly altitude) so that where there are flats within one building we can see the properties on different levels within the block without confusing the coordinates.
What are the benefits to doing this?
Well, from this, you create a single reference point for each property and you can start to attach documents to that single reference point.
You can attach utility bills, you can find out how energy-efficient the property is, see how it's performing, you can have a look at when planning permission was granted, where the building regulations were approved for any works etc.
Gas Safe engineers can attach details of when the last boiler service was undertaken, electricians who have undertaken work can attach documentation to the same reference number.
Past insurance claims and any mortgage details can be attached as well.
There's an awful lot of data which you can attach to this unique ref. number and you can start to gather the information together into a log book, like the one you’re provided with when you buy a car.
I also believe that every home should have a survey. That way everyone understands the true condition of the property that they're buying and this should be undertaken by the vendor, prior to them selling the property. This would stop the stressful period where no one trusts each other and everyone's a bit lost and they're not quite sure who's doing what, and it will make people take responsibility for their property.
If the vendors get a survey undertaken and all of the documentation is available in a centralised place, then buyers can start to buy with confidence, and sellers will be committed sellers because they have had to go through a process to bring their property to the market.
In Scotland this already happens and it works really really well, amazingly well in fact and I really think that we should look at bringing the same system to the whole of the UK.
Within the RICS, I sit on the residential survey and valuation working group, so I want to be at the forefront of this with the RSS (Royal Statistical Society). I want us to help the government to create a process which makes it easy for people to buy property. A less stressful process, making data more available, allowing people to buy with confidence, in turn creating an easier experience for all involved. Hopefully, by moving away from pen and paper and sending documents in the post, by using the latest technology and having an online service, transactions will be speedier and everything will run more smoothly.
There's a new questionnaire which has been raised for when you're buying a flat, again the management companies have to provide information, this all takes time. This documentation should just be locked in a central system, so we should know how long is left on the lease, how much the service charges were last year, whether there are any scheduled works etc.
There should be a working logbook for something which is, a fundamental part of our lives. If you buy a car this information is there, if you buy a property for, ten times, a hundred times the price of a car there's nothing, there's nothing available.
I think that we should be more responsible property owners and when people want to sell a property, they should be prepared to be totally honest about exactly what they are offering to the market. If there's a problem with the property then the vendor can either sort it out, or they can sell it, as seen, and the buyer can buy with confidence.
This is a simple solution, "a unique referencing number". I've talked to stakeholders in the industry, I know that this can be achieved and I want to hear your views, so please either comment on our social media or share this post. I want to use this data, and feed it back to both government and the RICS, but if I've missed anything, please email me.