Well they always say that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. As I experienced this week when accompanying a prospective purchaser around a property. The said gentleman informed me that “Your details are 2 inches out in the kitchen”. Possibly. “You can get fined for that under the Property Misdescriptions Act”. Wrong; on two counts. I invited him to sit down and discuss the subject. After looking at the ceiling and stroking my cheek in the manner of Marlon Brando in The Godfather (sadly I did not have any pussy on my lap to stroke-I mean the four-legged variety that eats Kittykins-what did you think that I meant?), I pointed out that his argument for my potentially receiving punitive measures had one major flaw. The Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 was replaced on 1 October 2013 by Consumer Protection Laws. As a side bar, the old legislation gave estate agents a 10cm margin of error on all dimensions when marketing a property. Stepping away from Imperial to Metric, two inches is the equivalent to 5.08 cm; so if the measurements in the kitchen were “out” by 2 inches and the Property Misdescriptions Act was still in use, I was not in breach as I still had 4.92 cm to play with. Stop laughing.
The recent legislation offers even greater protection to the buyer. As well as not misleading buyers with factually incorrect information, estate agents now have to take care to ensure that they don’t omit information that is clearly important, or that would affect the value or sale of the property. Photo shopping out the abattoir next to the property or the railway line running past the garden would be good examples. So a great piece of legislation, with potential purchasers feeling safe in the knowledge that the agent is giving a complete picture of all the relevant information to allow someone to come to an informed decision. But how does an agent glean all the necessary information. Yes, we do our homework, but when asking a vendor to complete a property questionnaire provided by their solicitor, there are invariably more “Don’t know” boxes ticked than not and this is supposing that a vendor is always wholly honest when ticking the other boxes. In addition, vendors are asked to sign off the details as factually correct before they are published for public viewing. This piece of legislation does make sense and for most respectable agents it will likely mean to simply carry on as you were.
Speaking of protection and honourable behaviour, I asked the potential buyer why he was viewing a property that was on the market for £150,000 when he had a deposit of £10,000 and a mortgage in principle of £110,000. “I don’t want to tell you everything” was the reply. Ok. I wonder whether legislation is being contemplated to protect agents from $£&*)”s?
Back to my old mucker Gideon and his new rules on stamp duty. Originally I understood that the rules would not apply if you owned more than 15 properties. It now transpires that the exemption only applies if you are buying more than 15 properties in one transaction. This is real time, not Monopoly. Further more, if you already own a property, (or lots of them) and declare that your next purchase is to be your “main private residence”, then you are also exempt. I wonder just how many people are considering ‘moving ‘ after April 1?