Lock-out deals offer security to buyers

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The Independent Online
Home buyers who want to make sure they do not get pipped at the post by another buyer can ask the seller to sign a legally binding lock-out agreement.

The validity of these clear- run agreements was tested recently when Tim Pitt, a commodity trader, successfully sued for damages after the owner of a thatched cottage in Suffolk that he was trying to buy sold it to someone else.

Last month the Independent, in association with the law firm Nabarro Nathanson, offered readers the chance to buy a lock-out agreement that can be used by home buyers.

This prevents the seller showing anyone else the property, sending out a contract to anyone else or agreeing to do a deal at the end of the lock-out period. It also offers something for sellers, as the buyer pledges to organise a survey or make a mortgage application within five working days.

The offer was popular with readers - about 2,000 forms were sold - despite the lack of activity in the housing market. We are giving readers another chance to buy the form, which is available only through the Independent.

But before the end of the year, the law stationery firm Stat-Plus plans to sell versions of the form. These will be available through solictors. Estate agents will also be able to buy the forms, although some do not want to get involved as they believe that the forms give an advantage to the buyer, while they act for the seller.

Derek Sendrove, a senior partner of Nabarro Nathanson, said hundreds of people had been in touch wanting to talk about being gazumped. But the firm specialises in commercial property, not domestic conveyancing.

'Anyway it would be wrong for us to get involved in cases where home-buyers already have their own solicitor,' Mr Sendrove said.

He said that once solicitors held stocks of the forms it might encourage buyers to approach a solicitor in the early stages of home buying.

'I hope these lock-out agreements will change the way that property selling is conducted.'

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