Budget: Government to launch inquiry into house sale "fall throughs"

Posted: 18/3/2016

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The Government is to launch an inquiry into failed housing transactions.

Although part of the Budget, it was not announced by the Chancellor in his speech, but emerged in the small print of the lengthy Red Book that is published afterwards.

It gives few clues, but says that “consumers spend £270m each year on failed housing transactions”.

It adds that “the Government will shortly publish a call for evidence on how to make the process better value for money and more consumer-friendly”.

The inquiry will, it appears, be handled not by the Department of Communities and Local Government, but by BIS – the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

It is a familiar subject, giving off a distinct whiff of déjà vu. Home Information Packs were meant to prevent fall-throughs by giving would-be purchasers information up-front. They were canned by the incoming Coalition Government in 2010.

In 2009, the then Office of Fair Trading launched a lengthy study into the home buying and selling process, and considered whether the market in England and Wales could be more like that in Scotland, where buyers and sellers make a binding commitment.

So what was the outcome?

The OFT came to this conclusion, with an emphatic hedging of bets. It said that it was “not possible to quantify, with certainty, the costs and benefits of introducing a point of earlier commitment, but it is clear that the potential benefits might be substantial”.

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