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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 14:26 GMT
House-seller packs are introduced
Browsing in an estate agent's window
The government has signalled in the Queen's Speech a simplification of the way in which people can buy houses.

The measures are aimed at speeding up the home buying process, and improving housing conditions.

The plan involves introducing "home information packs", which would require the seller to assemble information about the property ahead of a sale.

Previously known as sellers' packs, they were a Labour Party manifesto commitment in 1997 and 2001.

Split interests

Similar schemes are already used in other countries, such as Denmark and New South Wales in Australia.

Under the proposed scheme, anyone selling their home, or estate agents acting on their behalf, would have to compile information and complete a basic survey of the property for potential buyers.

People will have better information at their finger-tips

Previous plans to introduce the packs stalled because of the 2001 general election.

Some professional bodies representing lawyers, and estate agents are sceptical about the packs' merits.

These include concerns over the "shelf life" of the packs.

Certain parts of the proposed sellers' pack, such as local authority title searches and home condition reports, could be soon out of date.

There is also concern about the cost for people on low incomes.

In a statement, the National Association of Estate Agents - one of the most vocal critics of the packs - said they "may not speed up the house-buying process and will certainly increase costs to sellers".

But those supporting the packs say it would cut down timewasters and gazumping, and would allow consumers to make more informed choices.

They also say any costs will be driven down by competition.

Emma Harrison, of the Consumers' Association, said it was delighted by the announcement.

"Buying a property is usually the single most expensive purchase an individual will make in their lifetime and it is therefore essential that the business of buying and selling property is made as easy and transparent as possible."

Halifax Estate Agents also welcomed the announcement.

Managing director Jane Pridgeon said: "What should be remembered is that the home information pack is designed to make sales go through faster and reduce the number of sales that fall through."

Better housing

The government has also resurrected plans to limit the Right to Buy scheme, under which people can buy local authority housing.

It wants to increase the minimum period of tenancy required to be extended from two to five years to prevent abuses.

Other proposals include a new licensing regime for private landlords to improve the quality of rented accommodation.

Landlords would need a licence in areas of low housing demand or where there are problems with bad tenants.

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