Property prices in north force rethink on gazumping laws

PROPERTY OWNERS struggling to sell low-value homes in the North could be excluded from new anti-gazumping laws.

Ministers have privately admitted they may have to exempt house sellers in the North from legislation to tackle gazumping, where a seller pulls out of a deal to sell for a higher price.

For the first time, sellers would have a statutory obligation to produce accurate information packs for potential buyers, adding an estimated pounds 550 to the cost of selling.

Ministers defended the scheme by insisting the charge would be negligible for most sellers in the South-east, where the property market is expected to take off again in the new year. But they have told officials that exemptions may be needed for the charge, which could add greatly to the cost of a house in the North, where property is cheaper, prices are rising slowly or not at all, and gazumping is much rarer.

Department of Environment officials confirmed that excluding low-value property from the scope of the legislation was among the options being considered by ministers to ensure it gains wider support. Ministers are determined to go ahead with the sellers' packs, now being tested in Bristol.

They hope electronic conveyancing will also be adopted in Britain, enabling searches and contracts to be done on computer.

"At the moment, we have the worst record for selling housing. It is something like an average of 10 to 12 weeks and in other countries it is down to two weeks," said a spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

The Lord Chancellor's office and other Whitehall departments will be involved in discussions on electronic conveyancing.

David Brown of Henriques Griffiths, a firm of solicitors involved in the Bristol pilot, said sellers' packs were "a prelude to greater things".

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