New property listings rules: What should an estate agent be telling you?

New guidance tells estate agents what must be included in property listings - here is how it affects buyers and sellers

Estate agent showing viewers round property
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As house prices continue to slide, you may be thinking about buying. And thanks to new rules, homebuyers could get access to more information on property listings to help speed up sales and stop transactions collapsing.

Trading Standards has issued new guidance today for estate agents to follow on what information must be included in property listings.

Estate agents are already required to include the price of a property as well as council tax information and whether a home is leasehold or freehold.

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This is known as material information that buyers must be aware of to help them make a decision whether to view and make an offer on a property.

The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) has published further rules today on other “material information” that should be included such as broadband speeds and parking restrictions.

Agents have been ordered to ensure this information is included in listings on their own website as well as through property portals such as OnTheMarket, Rightmove and Zoopla.

Here is what you should ask your agent.

What is material information?

A lack of upfront information is often blamed for sales falling-through as buyers pull out during the legal or conveyancing process if they discover issues such as right of way restrictions or flood risks.

The industry hopes that by disclosing this information earlier, buyers can make an informed decision about even viewing a property or what to offer to save them time and legal fees if they decide it isn’t worth it.

This may mean sellers need to instruct a conveyancer earlier in the process to provide a legal pack but they would then be motivated to address issues to ensure there are no complications in their sale.

Providing more information upfront should also mean sales go through faster and there is less risk of a transaction collapsing.

“Too many consumers suffer emotionally and financially because important information crops up late in the process and the transaction falls through,” says James Munro, senior manager of the NTSELAT.

What information should be included on property listings?

Critics highlight that agents are already required to highlight material information under Consumer Protection Regulations, which doesn’t happen across the board.

The Trading Standards guidance adds more specifics so agents and buyers know what to expect.

Under part A of the rules, which was launched last year, all listings must include the price, council tax band and tenure.

The latest part B and C rules introduced this week introduce further requirements that buyers should see in listings.

Buyers should be informed about the physical characteristics of a property, such as whether it is a house or flat and the materials used in the structure.

Listings should also include details of parking restrictions as well as broadband and mobile signal and electricity and water supply.

The property advert should also highlight any issues with building safety such as, unsafe cladding, asbestos, risk of collapse and planning permissions, building restrictions, flood and coastal erosion risk.

“Buying or renting a property is one of the most expensive and important decisions a consumer can make,” says Lesley Horton, deputy ombudsman at The Property Ombudsman:

 “Availability of good quality information earlier in the process will benefit consumers and should support the reduction of fall-throughs.”

Marc Shoffman

Marc Shoffman is an award-winning freelance journalist specialising in business, personal finance and property. His work has appeared in print and online publications ranging from FT Business to The Times, Mail on Sunday and The i newspaper. He also co-presents the In For A Penny financial planning podcast.