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PrimeResi Quarterly Journal

The handbook of the luxury property industry

Click on the cover to find out more

PRQ8

Current issue: Winter 2016/7

Next issue: due for publication in April 2017

Paper Fail: ‘If tax doesn’t kill the market, red tape will’

“If tax doesn’t kill the market, red tape will,” growls Alan Page, as a deal becomes mired in an absurd paperwork swamp. As the rather derisory offer for our...

“If tax doesn’t kill the market, red tape will,” growls Alan Page, as a deal becomes mired in an absurd paperwork swamp.

As the rather derisory offer for our house stutters somewhat lifelessly towards a still very unpredictable conclusion, it’s no longer Osborne’s rip-off tax-take that’s likely to kill it. It’s the unbelievable volume of red tape.

Like most things, property has become mired in a bog of meaningless paperwork designed, apparently, to protect a feckless population from its own common sense.

Obtaining a mortgage is now a Kafkaesque farce (or should that be nightmare). Even successful city types with bonus-pots to die for face a wall of inane enquiries utterly irrelevant to their ability to maintain the monthly repayments. These are people who on a daily basis probably invest multiple millions, but are not trusted to know their own position well enough to borrow even a relatively small percentage of a property’s value.

Things may have been in need of a slight tightening after the “crash”, but this is murderous strangulation.

When it comes to the property itself, the level of paperwork sought by ever more zealous lawyers is bordering on the insane.

I would not be in the least surprised to be asked to guarantee my buyer’s happiness in the house.

Asked for a warranty on the whole heating system (bear in mind that this is a small, two bed house) I simply replied – yes, I guarantee that it has one.

I’ve heard of insulating a property, but now it seems the buyer must be insulated too – from every known risk, every known potential problem, every known unknowable.

We have supplied planning permissions, building regs certification, electrical safety certification, gas safety certification… and still the requirements keep coming in.

“Did you have Conservation Area permission to replace the roof?”. Well, you pointless box-ticking robot, I’ve given you a ten year roof guarantee and, if we hadn’t replaced it, the thing would probably have collapsed on your buyer’s head. So, what would you prefer? I bit of A4 paper, or a rather beautiful new roof?

In truth, our transaction is not remotely complex or fraught with too many problems. There is absolutely nothing that a conversation face-to-face between myself and the buyer could not iron out.

But no, that’s simply not the “done thing”. So we’ll keep bouncing bits of digital paperwork around the global servers of Google until some sort of conclusion is finally reached.

What that will be I have absolutely no idea. And it certainly doesn’t come with a guarantee.

kafka groven

Image by Harald Groven: Author Franz Kafka and sociologist and founder of bureacuracy research Max Weber (CC by SA 2.0)

Catch up on all the latest from the Doer Upper (a.k.a. Alan Page) at his blog here, or follow him on Twitter @beachcomberpage

The views of contributors are not necessarily those of PrimeResi or its publishers.

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