Would you buy a house online in the way you might a car or any other commodity? It’s a question that is beginning to tax the world of traditional estate agents. Among those who believe that this will soon be the norm is Neil Singer, a property consultant, agent and founder of clicktopurchase® or CTP.
This is a platform, or app, which allows you to buy and sell a property with a simple click of a computer mouse. It’s a little like an online eBay but for buildings.
It is notable in that it creates an instant binding contract. As soon as a buyer makes an offer via CTP and it is accepted by a seller or their agent, an electronic online contract note is generated.
In the case of buyers who need to find a mortgage, a conditional contract is drawn up, which is rescinded if the sale falls through.
The system is not unlike buying property at auction, where if the hammer falls on your bid, you have entered a legally binding contract to buy.
However, CTP is not like Homes Under The Hammer- style auctions that take place at hotels or in a hall. It can be used to sell a single property and it avoids all the expense of hiring such a venue.
To date, Mr Singer’s company Singer Vielle has used CTP to sell only commercial property, for which it was designed. Deals worth some £65million have been completed on behalf of investors, banks and receivers.
Now, however, Mr Singer is eyeing the residential market and he would like to interest others in his app, which can be hired by estate agents for their websites for a relatively modest fee.
So far, he has had little success in the UK, where he says he has met with a certain amount of protectionism. He has been luckier in Ireland, where vast amounts of distressed property have been sold by the British auctioneer Allsop since 2011.
Its last sale in Dublin in October achieved a 92 per cent success rate, realising sales worth in excess of €12million (£10m).
Allsop claims it is now the market leader in Ireland in property auctions and this prompted Mr Singer to visit Irish agents and question why they were letting so much business slip through their hands.
The result was a deal with the largest independent estate agency, Lisney, which now offers CTP on residential deals on its website.
Mr Singer said: “Buying a house is regarded as a highly stressful experience. If one thinks of the various pitfalls, one can understand why. In the UK, if a buyer agrees to purchase a seller’s house, there is an exchange of letters. This is not legally binding and fails to tie either side into a firm commitment.”
“Yet, having agreed a transaction, the estate agent places the property ‘under offer’ all this means is that there is an intention between the parties but no certainty. “It is the lack of certainty that brings all the frustrations.”
Also, Mr Singer claims, a CTP contract prevents gazumping and so-called chipping, where buyers try to reduce their offer suddenly at the point of exchange.
However, estate agent Paul Brice of Move Revolution is not convinced that CTP will make very much difference to the emotional aspects of buying and selling homes. He said: “The sale of a property is usually a stressful experience due to emotional and financial commitments you may have to a property.
“Whether you’re using CTP or the traditional style, that won’t change.
“Estate agents have been handling these issues for generations and though some are definitely stuck in the past, experience tells us that it’s a required service.”