Letter: Gazumping: House purchasers cannot be completely protected

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The Independent Online
Sir: I read your leading article 'A precedent that should protect the purchaser' (29 July) with interest, but wish to make the following comments.

First, a general rule that an agreement relating to land must be in writing is still the best approach. It is not unreasonable, however, for a purchaser to have some guarantee that he is not wasting his money and time in getting ready to sign the contract. It is surely not beyond the wit of man to produce a standard document for use by estate agents and solicitors, allowing a fixed period of time to sign the contract.

Second, the Law Society has made strenuous efforts to introduce the protocol conveyancing system. It has not met with universal praise from the legal profession, but, in particular, the system necessitates estate agents informing the vendor's solicitors when instructions are received so that the deeds can be obtained and for the vendor's solicitors to proceed with the usual searches.

Unfortunately, most estate agents do not inform solicitors of an impending sale, and, sadly, vendors seem strangely reluctant to produce money for their solicitors to do the searches. Local searches can cost as much as pounds 80 and add to that office copy entries and Coal Board searches and the figure is approaching pounds 150.

Third, could I beg that you refrain from this ritualistic lauding of the Scottish conveyancing system. This seems to be weighted heavily in favour of the seller who invites tenders from, say, six prospective purchasers and has the right to accept the one that suits him at short notice. Each of those purchasers spends money on searches and survey fees (do some of those fees go to the same surveyor?).

In addition, that system takes no account of the difficulties of a prospective purchaser with a property to sell. Such a system would not, in my view, operate effectively in England and Wales.

Finally, the main reason for delay always was, and still is, the waiting for an offer of mortgage. Many lenders have been incredibly slow recently.

Yours sincerely,




30 July