Home buyers and sellers need more choiceHousing market lacks innovation, says OFT

19 February 2010

Buying a house

A shake-up in how homes are bought and sold could lead to a better deal for home buyers and sellers, says the Office of Fair Trading.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has reaffirmed what Which? has argued for years – that the housing market needs reform.

The OFT’s latest study found that the housing market lacks competition as it’s dominated by traditional estate agents and there is little competition on price.

It suggested that more innovation in the housing market, particularly through online services, could have a dramatic impact on the cost of buying and selling a home.

Read our guides to buying a house and selling a house for top tips on making the process run as smoothly as possible.

Housing market needs more competition

Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: ‘This report reaffirms what we have argued for years – that the housing market lacks innovation and reforms are needed to improve the house-buying process for consumers.’

He adds that the report presents a number of challenges and hasn’t come up with any quick-fix solutions: ‘We believe an independent review after the election would be the best way to determine what has to change and how this can be achieved.’

Haggle for lower fees

The OFT’s report found that 32% of house sellers who had used a traditional estate agent believe the fees they were charged represented slightly or very poor value. However, 64% of sellers did not attempt to negotiate a lower fee.

OFT chief executive John Fingleton said: ‘We encourage home sellers to negotiate hard on commission fees and consider using alternatives to traditional estate agents.’

Failing to shop around and negotiate on fees could be costing house sellers up to £570 million a year, according to OFT analysis.

If you’re considering selling your home without using an estate agent, Which? can help. Read our guide to to find out how you can bypass estate agents completely.

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