House Purchase (Simplification)

– in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 9 March 1993.

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Photo of Mrs Teresa Gorman Mrs Teresa Gorman , Billericay 4:44, 9 March 1993

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to introduce new procedures for the conveyancing of freehold residential property; and for connected purposes. The purpose of this Bill is to simplify house purchasing. It would introduce new procedures for the conveyancing of freehold residential property and for connected purposes.

During the summer recess, I was fortunate enough to visit Australia with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which is an admirable organisation for the exchange of ideas between people in the Commonwealth. There I came across a scheme which takes the horror out of house buying. It is so simple that one wonders why nobody thought of it before. It was brought to my attention by a number of British people who have settled in Australia and bought a house there after previously having had experience of the trauma that people in this country go through when they buy a house. It is as simple as buying a new or second-hand car—or a yacht, if one had that kind of money. It is a kind of one-stop shopping for a house.

Under this arrangement, people who are looking for a house first of all make up their minds how much money they can afford. If they are going to borrow money, they find that out before they go looking. They then set out to find a house, through an agent, or privately, or through a building society. Having found their house, they get it checked out, if they so wish, before there is any commitment on their part or on the part of the vendor. They then go back to the agent, if they are buying through an agent, and complete a very simple form. The form is designed by the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia, is approved by the Government and is legally binding. It is a contract for the sale of land or a house by offer and acceptance.

Once people have decided on the house they want and the money they have, and are happy about the terms and the condition of the house, they make their offer and sign the form. If the vendor agrees, he or she signs the form. There is now a legally binding commitment, and there is no need for any other kind of rigmarole. The form includes the agreed date on which the transaction will take place, the settlement date. There is no need to pay a deposit; there is no need to get a solicitor, a conveyancer or anyone else involved. A contract has been made between two consenting adults, and it is binding. As I have said, this scheme is not only approved by estate agents and building societies in Australia, but endorsed by the Government.

The advantages of this scheme over the system that we have in this country are very many. To begin with, it cuts out the chains in which many people have half agreed to buy a house and then, later on, begin to change their minds and try to raise or lower the price by gazumping, or whatever the oppposite is—it is not gazundering, but it is something like that. That cannot be done, because once people have decided on a house they are committed, so long as the vendor agrees the price. It is not possible to change one's mind at a later date. People have to make up their mind and stick to it.

Having decided on the date on which the contract will be completed, that is also a commitment. The purchase time cannot be stretched out while the buyer or vendor looks round for something else. It is a commitment, and the parties involved must go through with it.

It also cuts out the practice of people making bogus offers for houses. Apparently, some people look at and make offers for a number of houses, hoping that the vendor of one of them will perhaps lower his price. But all the other people to whom they have made offers are then disappointed, and may find that that affects their own house purchase arrangements. This scheme cuts that out, because once people have made an offer, they sign the form. If the vendors accept it, that is it. Buyers cannot go around committing themselves to half a dozen people and then letting them down.

The Bill would remove most of the haggling after an offer has been made. Almost everyone who has sold or is trying to sell a house knows the awful feeling when, having agreed a price through a solicitor or privately, the buyer comes back to say that he has changed his mind, that he cannot raise the money, or that there is something wrong with the drains and he wants a reduction. The commitment has to be made by the buyer; once the form is signed, that is it.

The Bill would take most of the angst out of buying a house. It would make it as simple as buying a second-hand car. Buyers would make their bids in the knowledge that they could not wriggle out of the deal.

The scheme is not dissimilar from that in Scotland, which is excellent. It involves people making bids in a form of auction. Until the bids are opened and the highest bidder is discovered, no one knows who will get the house. I believe that my proposal is a little better than the Scottish scheme.

Most people have horror stories about trying to buy houses; if they have not had a bad experience themselves, they know of friends or relations who have. The scheme will take the horror out of house buying. The scheme is so simple that one wonders why nobody thought of it before. There is no reason why we should not adopt it in this country. The proposed scheme would need the sanction of Government. I wish to introduce the Bill because contracts have to be legally binding on both parties.

I seek leave to introduce the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mrs. Teresa Gorman, Mr. Peter Bottomley, Mr. John Bowis, Mr. Barry Field, Mr. Bernard Jenkin, Mr. Simon Burns and Mr. David Evennett.