Towards the end of February, Trading Standards and the government jointly announced the new information that must be included on all property listings, in a major move forward for those championing greater levels of upfront information.
As a result of the changes, a property’s council tax band or rate (for lettings and sales) and the property price and tenure information (for sales) must be included on all property listings by the end of May. Data fields for these particulars have started to appear on the major portals over the last few weeks and will continue to do so in the lead-up to the changes.
What is being introduced and how?
The above changes form the first phase of a project led by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT), in partnerships with industry leaders and the major property portals, to better define what amounts to ‘material information’ for property listings.
There has been a push for some years now for more upfront information to be included in property listings, to make all parties in a transaction more informed and reduce the chances of fall-throughs or other issues from occurring.
According to NTSELAT, the new required information is the first of three phases. Part A of the three-phase project includes information that is considered material for all properties, while a further two phases are in development. These will include further material information – for example restrictive covenants, flood risk and other specific factors that could have an effect on certain properties.
The statement announcing the changes said that, as new data fields for tenure, price and council tax are added to portals, any left empty by an agent will be flagged on the listing so consumers can clearly see what information is missing. What’s more, this will link to advice on why that information is important and how it can be secured.
NTSELAT says it wants all material information to be compulsory on property listings once all three phases of the project reach their conclusion – at which stage, agents will need to include all the required information before it is listed on a property portal.
The body says it has evidence highlighting overwhelming support within the industry for the mandatory disclosure of material information, with benefits, it adds, including a fall in unnecessary enquiries (in other words non-serious, timewasting buyers), faster sales and a lower number of transaction fall-throughs.
James Munro, senior manager at NTSELAT, said the announcement ‘represents an important milestone in the journey to improve material information on property listings’.
He added: “I’m delighted with the progress that has been made with the industry to help define and clarify what constitutes material information and I am grateful to the property portals and other industry leaders who have supported this work.”
He continued: “I am aware that there are software companies who are already enabling this information to be included in property listings.
“These technical changes will prompt all players in the property market to do things a bit differently. Vendors and agents may find that bringing conveyancers on board at the outset helps ensure all information is available for marketing, and issues with things like restrictive covenants or boundaries can be addressed earlier.”
He said that, as a result of the changes, consumers would gain a better understanding of why certain information such as a property’s tenure is important. This will allow them to make informed decisions when they embark on a property search and should help to improve the whole process for all parties.
Neil O’Brien, a minister from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said a key part of the government’s much-talked about levelling up agenda is creating a fair and just housing system that works for everyone. This includes supporting more first-time buyers to move onto the housing ladder.
He added: “Far too often when buying and selling properties, deals fall through, costing young people thousands of pounds in wasted expense. By providing all the necessary information up front, this can be avoided, and it will make the process of buying a first home much easier and more cost-effective.”
The National Trading Standards website includes a full list of the Part A material information, as well as giving a summary of the type of information that will be included in Parts B and C.
Meanwhile, full guidance for the industry is being created alongside industry partners to cover all three phases. There will also be guidance to support consumers looking to buy, sell or rent a property.
The changes, which have largely been welcomed by the industry, were supported by a steering group with members from redress schemes and professional bodies representing agents. The three main portals – Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket – were also involved, in collaboration with software companies.
How will buyers and sellers benefit?
The hope is that, with more upfront information provided early on, people will be able to make more informed choices, and not progress to a viewing (or further) unless they know for sure the house is right for them. The same will be the case for tenants looking to find the perfect rental property.
With more motivated, informed buyers or tenants on board, the likelihood of hold-ups and problems should in theory reduce, improving the process for everyone.
For sellers and landlords, there is an opportunity there to provide buyers with as much information as possible from the very start – to ensure there are no shocks or nasty surprises at a later date.
Again, this should help to speed up the process of buying, selling, letting or renting a home, which is the main ambition for most in the industry.
Here at Howland Jones, we have already been including the recommendations in Part A for many years and we can help you to come to terms with the changes, no matter your property journey.
Our offices are based in the village of Measham in the East Midlands, and we cover areas such as North West Leicestershire, South Derbyshire, Hinckley & Bosworth, North Warwickshire, Tamworth, Swadlincote and Ibstock.
You can find out all about us by getting in contact here.