Prepare for 2018 – a year of property change

The end of the year is traditionally a time to look back, but in the fast-evolving world of property, all eyes are focused on a period of transformation coming up in 2018, writes Graham Norwood.

There are set to be big changes in how we let and sell homes in the next 12 months and there will be an impact on tenants, owner-occupiers and buy-to-let investors alike.

First, let’s look at how we buy and sell property.

The government will shortly close a formal consultation period during which it has asked estate agents, developers, conveyancers and mortgage companies how they would like to change the current model for buying and selling. The aim, in the words of the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, is to make the process “cheaper, faster and less stressful”.

Expect new laws next year in a bid to outlaw gazumping – that’s when a seller accepts one offer, then goes on to accept a later and higher offer from a rival purchaser, leaving the original buyer high and dry. So new rules are likely to ‘lock in’ vendors to a binding contract once they accept an offer – as happens now in Scotland – with buyers and sellers being able to withdraw late in the process only in the most exceptional circumstances.

Sellers may also be asked to create a ‘log book’ on a home (containing building consents, warranties and details of running costs) to give purchasers greater confidence when they consider making an offer. And when an offer is made and accepted and the transaction is underway, expect more digital activity such as allowing online access to the paperwork by buyers and sellers alike – this gives them more awareness of how a deal is progressing.

Secondly, there will be even bigger change in the private rental sector – now accounting for well over 35 percent of London households.

Lettings agents’ fees levied on tenants will be effectively outlawed in 2018 while there is much speculation that the agents themselves will have to reach higher standards than before when setting up business.

There is also likely to be a nationwide registration scheme for landlords – rather like the one being introduced by London mayor Sadiq Khan – will be announced in the new year. In theory this should help achieve higher property standards than before.

Expect change, too, for those who buy homes under current leasehold rules: some buyers, especially of new-build houses with this tenure, are being hit by large annual increases in ground rents. The government has pledged to end what it sees as an abuse.

With all that in prospect, enjoy a quiet festive period – because the following 12 months will be busy and exciting as London’s property market reinvents itself once again.

“The following 12 months will be busy and exciting as London’s property market reinvents itself once again”