A seller’s guide to material information

Upfront information is simply the information about a property that a seller has prepared in advance, ready to disclose to a potential buyer.

This is not to be confused with material information which is what should be disclosed before a property can be listed for sale. But all this is about to change…

Why does it matter?

Traditionally, property sales in England and Wales have been conducted under the principle of ‘Caveat Emptor’ – that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.

However, the Government has decided that there should be more consumer protection built into the system and proposed radical changes in its Levelling Up White Paper published in 2017, pledging: “We will improve the home buying and selling process, working with the industry to ensure the critical information buyers need to know is available digitally wherever possible.”

Trading Standards has said it will require more detailed upfront information to be provided and has published a plan to be carried out in three parts: A, B and C.

The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) has already published new guidance to help agents ensure they are meeting their requirements under Part A.

It requires key information to be published in all listings including council tax band or rate, property price and details of tenure (freehold/leasehold etc).

Guidance on Parts B and C has yet to be published but NTELSAT has said in a Project Summary that Part B will include “Information that must be established for all properties. It applies mainly to utilities (and similar), where non-standard features would affect someone’s decision to look any further at that property.”

Part C is said to cover: “Additional material information that may or may not need to be established, depending on whether the property is affected or impacted by the information. Applies to properties affected by the issue itself because of, for example, the location of the property” (eg flood risk).

National Trading Standards wants all material information to be mandatory on property listings once all three phases of the project are complete. At that stage, agents will need to include all the required information before it is listed on a property portal.

Revolutionise the process

And polls have shown the majority of estate agents to be in favour of the changes and industry-wide initiatives have been set up to ‘pilot’ what a wider-ranging upfront material information might look like.

One such initiative, among many others, has been run by the Law Society in conjunction with the Home Buying and Selling Group. The Law Society plans to change how data is collected and used for property transactions and believes that collecting information in this way can improve the system for all stakeholders and revolutionise the process.

They say on their website: “We’re working with forms providers and software houses to seamlessly integrate the new (TA6) form into the existing conveyancing workflow.

“The current TA6 contains crucial information relating to the sale of a property, covering areas such as:

  • compliance with building and planning applications
  • the supply of services
  • flooding
  • common parts shared with neighbours
  • information relating to Japanese knotweed and septic tanks

Until now, this information was only collated post-offer, after a solicitor has been instructed. In TA6 Part 1, we’ve identified key early marketing information that can be provided up front.”

They believe this information will help inform buyers’ decisions before making an offer.

Upfront information is important because research has shown that in cases where as much information as possible is gathered in advance of a sale being agreed, the chances of the transaction falling through are greatly reduced and the chances of a speedy completion can be greatly increased.

Offer is accepted

To put that into context, according to recent figures around 1 in 4 sales fall through before completion causing expense and frustration for both buyers and sellers.

This means that this work, traditionally done after a price has been agreed, will have to be done in advance and the necessary documentation will have to be available for the buyer before their offer is accepted.

In fact, many conveyancing companies (some in partnership with estate agencies) are already offering comprehensive ‘Sale Packs’, ‘Sale Ready Packs’ or ‘Sale Information Packs in advance of the new rules from NTSELAT rules being introduced.

Being completely sale-ready from the outset will save sellers time, money and stress and should create a more satisfactory and efficient process for everyone involved.

And because your estate agent, as well as your buyer, will have more information from the start of the process, the chances are that they will have a better chance of identifying the right purchaser for you.

At PH Estate Agents, we specialise in properties across Cleveland and North Yorkshire, our heritage comes from traditional estate agency values, based on trust and exceptional customer service.

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