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Housebuyers' Protection Bill

Volume 113: debated on Wednesday 1 April 1987

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4.36 pm

I beg to move,

The leave be given to bring in a Bill to ensure the registration for public inspection of the selling prices of all residential properties; and for connected purposes.

I shall break all the records for brevity in introducing the Bill, but it is a matter of importance.

For most people, buying a house or flat is the biggest financial transaction of their life, yet that decision is made with less knowledge than when they buy, for example, a second-hand motor car or a packet of cornflakes. The key problem to which my Bill directs itself is that the buyer of a house or flat does not know how much to offer when he or she looks at an estate agent's list. Of course the asking price is published, but we all know that, while sometimes the asking price will be identical to the selling price, at others there may be a 20 or 30 per cent. difference between the two. Estate agents—perhaps not surprisingly—are rather secretive about the prices at which their properties sell.

My Bill is simplicity itself. It provides that, when a house or flat is sold, the price at which it changes hands will be registered for inspection, probably at the local town hall or Inland Revenue office. The information to be given will be the price of the property—I am talking about residential properties only—the date of the transaction and whether the property was sold freehold or leasehold. The name of the purchaser or the seller will not be published. Indeed, that information is already made available to the Inland Revenue at the Land Registry, but is not published by it, so the cost of that procedure would be minimal.

The advantage is that when anyone seeks to buy a property in a particular area, all he or she has to do is to inspect the lists on which are shown the dates of transaction and prices of similar properties that have been sold in the recent past. That enables the buyer to make his or her offer for the property with much more knowledge than ever before. The results will be to stabilise prices—not to control them, because demand and supply will still affect the price levels; but the Bill will have at least some effect in lessening the likelihood of gazumping because better knowledge of prices will give people less incentive to leap over a price that has already been partially agreed.

The Bill will also help in the valuation of properties, and in some instances it will even be of help to sellers. I cannot speak for all estate agents, but the few with whom I have discussed the Bill seem to think that it is not a had idea. I say most emphatically that I do not regard this provision as an invasion of privacy. The individual's name would not be involved. I believe that this is a simple and effective way of protecting consumers in their capacity as buyers of property and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Alfred Dubs, Mr. John Fraser, Mr. Frank Dobson, Mr. Clive Soley, Mr. Nick Raynsford, Mr. Chris Smith, Mr. Robin Corbett, Mr. George Howarth and Mr. David Clelland.

Housebuyers' Protection Bill

Mr. Alfred Dubs accordingly presented a Bill to ensure the registration for public inspection of the selling prices of all residential properties; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 1 May and to be printed [Bill 131.]