Many people shop online – for everything from holidays to groceries. But would a click-happy shopper feel comfortable buying a house online? According to the website clicktopurchaseproperty.com, a company that lets you buy and sell entirely online, an increasing number of people are. Neil Singer, the site’s founder, says that his patented “online platform” has created a legal way to sell properties through private treaty contracts and live auctions.
So, how does it work? A seller places the clicktopurchase symbol next to their estate agent’s online listing of the property. Legal information packages and the seller’s survey, if one has been carried out, is made available for prospective buyers to download. Anyone wanting to buy the property fills in an online verification form, which includes a money-laundering section that is vetted by the proposed buyer’s solicitor. Once the buyer is cleared, they can submit an offer for the house.
The prospective buyer can, before making a bid, carry out a survey of the house, or in some cases, make their bid conditional on a survey or conditional on the finance being in place. Once an offer is made and accepted, a legally binding sales contract is generated. Singer says that there are opportunities for a buyer to stop the process at any point and that it is not possible to “accidentally click on a property and buy it”. He says that the immediate exchange of contracts removes the risk of gazumping. There are some instances when contracts can be rescinded, however. For example, if a buyer cannot complete because of lack of mortgage finance, then they would pay the seller a penalty fee. This is normally set at 0.005 per cent – for example, £5,000 on a £1 million purchase price. The seller can alter the level of penalty fee.
Similarly, buyers can rescind an offer if a survey reveals serious faults with the property and, if necessary, use the website’s “dispute resolution process”. Singer says that since he launched the company last year it has sold 27 properties online, with prices from £120,000 to £5,5 million. “Why should the industry be any different?” he says. The more information you make available to the buyer and the easier you make their experience, the faster online property trading will become the norm.”
A number of large, well-established estate agencies have already signed up to use the clicktopurchaseproperty platform, including Christie & Co, John Miles & Company, Dutch & Dutch and Teacher Marks.
Singer says that Heward & Heward and Bidwells, the Harrogate residential agents, were also trying out the platform
He says that clicktopurchase is increasingly being used to sell commercial properties as well as private homes, and that C.B. Richard Ellis Investors, an institutional fund manager, had last month sold its first property online.