/ Home & Energy

Why is homebuying such a headache?


Buying and selling a home is stressful. It can be a long and uncertain process full of pitfalls. But with homebuying or selling being cited as one of the top consumer concerns by younger people, is it more demanding than it needs to be?

Buying a home is a big decision at any age, but it’s probably the most significant purchase a younger person can make. It can be a roller-coaster of emotions: hope, anticipation, disappointment, anger, sadness, and hopefully, at the end, joy.

Last summer, we heard from frustrated homebuyer, Polly Freeman, about her terrible experience of the home buying and selling process, and a number of you identified with Polly’s story.

Home headaches

In many ways, it isn’t surprising that it’s such a stressful life event. Homes are expensive and the stakes are high. More than just bricks and mortar, you are investing in your dreams for the future.

But with half (49%) of 18 to 34 year olds ranking homebuying and selling as one of their top three consumer concerns, does it really have to be this way?

Consumer Agenda Housing

Which? research has shown some of the challenges homebuyers and sellers face. Three in ten (28%) house purchases fall through and it takes on average four to five months to complete a purchase. That’s four to five months of mental anguish.

If your purchase collapses, you could face being out of pocket by an average of £2,200, with nothing to show for it. For first-time buyers who’ve spent years saving deposits, that is a huge blow to accept.

Time for a review

Everyone has heard nightmare stories about long purchasing chains collapsing after months of negotiations, unreasonable price-hikes at the last minute before contracts are exchanged, or dealing with professionals who demand generous fees but do little in return.

No one would design the system in its current guise. So, it’s time to fix the flaws that leave too many people buying or selling a home angry and frustrated.

That’s why we’re calling on the next government to review the home buying and selling process and make it better for consumers.

In particular, we want the government to consider how to make the conveyancing process simpler and how to help consumers make more informed choices about the professionals they use when buying or selling a house.

So, how would you rate the current homebuying and selling process? How do you think the processes could be improved?


In an earlier Conversation I reported that an estate agent was using a guide price range for many of the properties on its books and a friend had their offer near the bottom of the range declined, even though there were no other offers. I don’t know if this practice is common but it is certainly not helpful to buyers.


Many properties can be difficult to value when there have not been similar ones recently sold in the area, and even “common” properties will be valued in relation to others that have sold – in other words houses will sell for what someone is prepared to pay. It is the sellers prerogative to get the best price he/she can for their property – why would they do otherwise? It is there biggest asset in which they have invested a lot of capital and, probably, labour. If an estate agent puts a guide price range on a property it may be they hope, as in an auction, to attract viewers leading to higher offers. Nothing wrong with that; no one is forced to accept any offer that has been made.


Most vendors advertise at an optimistic price and wait to see what happens, sometimes waiting a long time. I believe that it should be illegal to advertise a guide price range and then refuse to accept an offer in that range. In the case I refer to the vendor did not say they wanted to wait a month or two to see if better offers turned up.


Why should it be illegal to advertise your own property at any particular price you choose and turn down an offer? That is your freedom of choice – it’s your property. Legality should only enter in to this when contracts are involved – as it does. Auctions use guide prices but often items sell above – the value is what someone is prepared to pay. If the guide price is lower than the expected value then you’ll expect by tempting people along the value will be recognised and an appropriate offer forthcoming. If not, then the seller might have to reconsider the valuation. Pricing can be about tempting people to look. I’d rather we tackled real illegality – retailers abusing the Consumer Rights Act for example.


It’s not illegal Malcolm but buying a house is enough of a challenge without some standardisation of practices. An auction is completely different.


If you are buying on a tight budget, good practice is to start with an offer below, but not too far below, the asking price.

Then the real price negotiations can begin.

Estate agents, who earn a fee if a sale is agreed, have a strong incentive to help steer any such negotiations towards an outcome that both buyer and seller will be reasonably happy to accept.

When you see houses being offered for sale at obviously inflated asking prices, there may well be a back story as to why the asking price is high. Any buyer looking for an easy and good value purchase may be well advised to steer well clear of any such properties.

David Harwood says:
10 May 2017

Solicitors are greatly to blame, they take there own sweet time and put the blame on others.

Wyn Baker says:
10 May 2017

I feel that if buyers have proof of finance/ mortgage offer when making the offer, this should be mandatory. Once offer accepted a non refundable deposit of, say, £1,000 should be paid by buyer. Only refundable if structural damage or suchlike is discovered.. Once paid, sale agreed and if seller gives back word, then substantial compensation is due to buyer! There you go!

Blod says:
10 May 2017

A lot of young people are not willing to start at the bottom of the housing ladder. They want large modern detached houses with all mod cons, and still want new cars, foreign holidays, and life as it was before they decided to buy a house. In my day it meant buying a small starter home, taking cheap uk holidays, or staying home to do DIY, no eating out, new cars or any extravagance for a good few years. If you were able to take on an extra job too, you did it. AND the mortgage rate was at 15 percent! We just put up with it to get on the ladder.
We started small and WORKED our way up to bigger houses. There was no bank of mum and Dad either. You saved your earnings for a deposit by sacrificing other things. Now we are told that WE are the selfish generation! Ha!


These days some people seem to have a much greater sense of “entitlement”. In my day we seemed to have more of an ethos of having to work for what you wanted. maybe it was the lack of the easy credit we have today.


I would class myself as one of the old school but would like to point out that in real terms, many goods and services are much cheaper than they used to be. It’s risky to over-stretch yourself with a mortgage but if you are fortunate, the larger house might prove to be a good investment. As Malcolm says, credit is easy to obtain and I get the impression that younger people are happier to take risks.


And maybe we have more of a thought that “we only live once”? Is that a product of worldwide uncertainty, terrorism and the nuclear threats?

david foulstone says:
15 May 2017

The trouble is that there is no “bottom of the housing ladder”.
Since the Thatcher block on Council house building, and restriction on local council’s control on the type of houses being built, the major property developers have concentrated on the lucrative middle income market and let the lower income house seekers go to hell. Don’t blame the young people. Blame the present Conservative government’s support for its middle & higher income supporters, and resultant highest ever level of personal debt among young people in living memory.