That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to establish a statutory procedure whereby when a Seller of a property places the property on the market, a set of legal documents (the “Seller’s Legal Pack”) shall be compiled and advertised with the property and made available to potential buyers, such documents ensuring that buyers have key information relating to the property and ensuring the conveyancing process is more efficient.
First, I must declare an interest in that I am a licensed auctioneer and a member of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers. The legislation I am introducing today, the Seller's Legal Pack for Property Buyers Bill 2021, will reduce conveyancing transaction times and, as a result, streamline the costs associated with that, help to cut out gazumping and gazundering, allow for more certain and transparent transactions for property and afford protection to sellers and, more crucially, the consumer. The chief executive officer of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers approached me some time ago expressing the wish that legislation be brought forward to give effect to measures that arose from the institute's research and borne out in research dating back as far as 2005 when we had the auctioneering and estate agency review group, which expressed the wish at that time that buyers and sellers be better informed about the conveyancing process to enable sellers to take a greater role in the sale and conveyancing of their properties.
The research by the institute showed that 81% of estate agents presiding over the sale of property found it to be either frustrating or very frustrating in terms of the delay, ultimately for the consumer. This delay adds costs in conveyancing in that so often it is only when a property is sale agreed that the assembly, in terms of the documentation that is required to give effect to the sale, begins. This measure would prescribe in advance that a statutory process must be followed by all property service professionals, that is, before they would place a property on the market, they would be bound to ensure that all the necessary documentation would be in place, thereby ensuring for the seller, the efficiency of the process and, for the consumer who is seeking to buy, certainty in terms of the transparency of the process, and that what we see is what we are getting and what is being bought is as it alleges to be. Over the years, we have seen young buyers' mortgage approvals elapse while lengthy conveyancing takes place where, for example, an unforeseen planning permission or some such documentation is not put in place.
I pay tribute to Pat Davitt and the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers for having the courage to bring forward this proposal, which ultimately is a consumer measure. Property professionals are often criticised. This is one area where they are seeking to put the consumer first. Everybody will benefit. Taking the average sale, currently it takes 15 weeks to deal with conveyancing and, perhaps, a further six weeks to effect the sale. There is no reason for any party or individual in the House to do anything other than support this legislation. As a non-aligned Member of the House for now, the only facility open to me to progress this legislation is to enter it into the weekly lottery of Private Members' legislation in order that it can move to Second Stage. As I said, this is a win-win for sellers, consumers as the ultimate purchasers, the legal professional, auctioneers and estate agents and their oversight in terms of regulation. It has been welcomed in its embryonic stage by the legal profession, engineers, valuers, estate agents and regulators. I very much hope that Government and Opposition alike will grab this opportunity with both hands to give this positive development the momentum it requires and take the word of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, which has put this forward through me, and give effect to these small but very effective improvements for what can be a complex and lengthy process.