Radio Discussion Re-Ignites Debate Over Home Reports

Author: scott
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On 30 November 2010 our Senior Property Solicitor Ian Ferguson was invited on and took part in a BBC Radio Scotland programme “Call Kaye”. Ian is a critic of the Home Report scheme and was not surprised to hear of the views of many listeners criticising the Reports.

The following is an extract from the Scottish Legal News that day:-

“Trusting a Home Report is the equivalent of accepting as fact information from someone selling a second-hand car.”

That was the view of one disgruntled homebuyer, who took part in a BBC Radio Scotland debate today with solicitors, surveyors, ministers and consumer groups on the impact of the new system of buying and selling properties.

The controversial Home Reports, which include a single survey, energy report and property questionnaire, were launched on December 1, 2008 amid criticism from conveyancers who expressed concerns about their potential impact on the property market.

Almost two years on from their introduction, a “Call Kaye” investigation asked: Have Home Reports improved life for consumers?

David Borrowman, managing partner at Caesar and Howie, said: “The Home Report is not the detailed document we were told it would be – it is often bland and full of surveyor get-outs.”

Ian Ferguson, a property lawyer with Mitchells Roberton and spokesman for the Scottish Law Agents’ Society, (SLAS) said the question was one of trust.

He said: “The point is that you have a conflict of interest at the heart of the system. I don’t think buyers can rely on the information because sellers can have too much influence on the surveyors.

What angers me about the whole thing is that Consumer Focus has come across as anti-choice. If this is a good system, why is it compulsory? It is anti-consumer choice.”

He added that the problem of multiple surveys, which had previously been solved by solicitors who allowed ‘offers subject to survey’, had now resurfaced.

But the Scottish Government insisted that the majority of buyers were satisfied with Home Reports.

Housing Minister Alex Neil said: “It was because of this divergence of opinion that we carried out a review of the Home Report and we found that two-thirds of the buyers were happy with the system.”

However, the same evaluation found that almost 30 per cent of buyers had to commission a second survey.

RICS Scotland director, Graham Hartley admitted that the cost per transaction has increased.

Sarah O’Neill, a solicitor and head of policy and at Consumer Focus Scotland, said that while this “was a concern, buyers now have much more information available to them from the outset of the process.”

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