Property: House `log' plan for simpler sales

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The Independent Online
Making house-sellers rather than buyers responsible for the survey and introducing property "logbooks" would help make buying a home as simple as buying a car, a report said today.

Offers to buy or sell houses should also be made legally binding on both sides, which would end the nightmare of gazumping and long chains, it said.

The proposals were put forward by the Adam Smith Institute, the right- wing think tank, following the Government's decision last week to research why buying and selling houses causes so much stress and misery. Under the institute's proposals, sellers would be responsible for the survey and for keeping a logbook of essential information which would be given to potential buyers.

It was quite common for several potential buyers to have surveys done on the same property, which was "needless duplication and a source of cost, uncertainty and delay", the institute said. In addition, electronic links between solicitors and local councils could cut the buying time "from months to minutes", it claimed.

The report suggested moving to a system similar to that in Scotland, where the offer to buy a house and the seller's acceptance of it are binding on both sides. In England and Wales, the law allows either party to withdraw from a sale until the time contracts are exchanged, and obliges estate agents to make the seller aware of any other offers right up until this moment.