Lock-out deals stop gazumping

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ESTATE AGENTS say there are likely to be more houses sold in the coming months as confidence grows that house prices have stabilised, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

But it warns that in spite of an upbeat mood among estate agents brought on by more house viewings, only realistically priced houses will sell.

In many areas there is a shortage of property for sale. Gazumping has not returned to the scene, but buyers who do not want to lose a property they are buying can now ask the seller to sign a legally-binding agreement to lock out other buyers for a specified period.

The validity of these clear-cut documents was tested last year by Tim Pitt, a commodity trader, who won damages from the owner of a thatched cottage in Suffolk he was in the process of buying, after it was sold to someone else.

The legal stationer Stat-Plus plans to market a standard lock-out agreement to solicitors by the end of this month. The documents will only be available in packs of 50, and will not be on sale to the public.

In the meantime, lock-out forms are exclusively available through the Independent on Sunday. The forms have been drawn up by law firm Nabarro Nathanson.

Derek Sendrove, a senior partner with the firm, said he hoped that once home buyers knew about these forms, they would approach solicitors earlier in the buying process.

The forms ask the vendor to agree that no details of the property will be sent to anyone else, and that no one else will be allowed to view the property, or have it surveyed.