Woolwich sets up as property dealer

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The Independent Online
WOOLWICH yesterday revealed that it is taking the unprecedented step of buying houses on its own behalf from mortgage customers in an attempt to win customers who are afraid of getting entangled in a house-buying chain.

In an unheard-of move, the bank yesterday revealed it has begun buying and selling its own stock of houses, setting itself up as a dealer in houses rather than acting as an agent between buyer and seller.

Until now, lenders have only owned houses following repossessions. If copied by other lenders and estate agents, the move could transform the housing market for customers who fear being gazumped or let down by the housing chain.

Under the pilot scheme, HomeSmart, a division of the Woolwich, will value a property within two days of a request and commit itself to an offer if the property is suitable. It will then undertake repairs and sell it on to customers who want to buy without relying on a chain.

The drawback for customers is that they are likely to get a lower price if they are selling to HomeSmart than they might get on the open market, because Woolwich has to recoup the cost of purchase and repair.