Should Estate Agents Relinquish Their Superinjunctions?

Super-injunctions are at the centre of public debate. The argument rages over whether the wealthy should use the power that accompanies their wealth to prevent others knowing information which, arguably, should be within the public domain.

But what about the housing industry’s own version of super-injunctions? I refer to the highly-arguable ‘privacy’ veil that falls over information when a home is on sale.

In an industry that argues so vehemently against legislative regulation, again even the mildest forms of disclosure advocated by Home Information Packs, and often argues that the general public are “too well informed” about the market thanks to the interent, it is perhaps unlikely that the next few paragraphs will be well-regarded. But here goes.

1. Why should the contents of a structural or lesser survey of a home, not be shared between all prospective buyers, instead of each purchaser having to arrange and fund their own? (After all, an MoT applies to a car beyond three years old, so anyone buying it second hand will have to be aware of it - but will not have to arrange their own).

2. Why not have formal feedback after each viewing, so the potential buyer undertaking the next viewing can see it? (Ridiculous, you say? Well there are public reviews of the quality of almost every other commodity these days - why not homes?)

3. Why not record an offer on a house for sale and let that offer be known, formally, to other prospective buyers? That way, rival bids may develop. These may increase the eventual sale price and income for the seller (and indeed for the estate agent), while removing the lingering belief that many would-be purchasers have that interest in the property is actually just being talked up?

Of course the answer to the ‘why nots?‘ is caveat emptor, Latin for ‘the house sales process must always be defined by estate agents and weighted against the buying public’.

Such is the monopoly that sales agents carry over house sales that their dominance has now created the apparent need for buying agents to counter them. Property thus joins the legal industry in creating such a closed shop of information that only hired hands are allowed access to, or deemed capable of understanding, the essential information.

‘Twas ever thus, perhaps. We used to have to buy books and music only from high street shops until discount websites appeared; we used to be obliged to pay premium prices for air-tickets until ‘bucket’ stores and budget airlines came into play; and we used not to be able to seek compensation from train operators for delays and cancellations until regulators forced it.

Eventually the buyer came out on top in these three areas, forcing those in charge to give up their monopoly on information, distribution and power. Will the same happen one day for those selling homes?

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