Finance

Buying a house should be fairer: ‘People are played off against each other’

That is what Hans André de la Porte of the Home Ownership Association says. The homeowners’ club has long been angry about the way many real estate agents do their job.

Higher, higher, higher

“Buying a house feels like kicking a soccer ball in the dark in the dark, with a realtor on the side just yelling, ‘Higher, higher, higher’.”

He outlines a number of scenarios that sound familiar to home buyers. For example, it happens all the time that an accepted bid is still canceled because a higher bid has been received after approval. Or the selling broker says that the bids are close together and does ‘merry another round of bidding’.

Also a frequently heard complaint is that the whole process is broken because a deal is made between befriended brokers. “People have the feeling that they are being played off against each other,” says the VEH spokesperson.

bidding book

To prevent this kind of practice, the Ministry of the Interior is working on a set of new rules for the brokerage. If it is up to Minister Ollongren, a transparent bidding book must be kept in the future.

This will state exactly when the bids were received, for what price and under what conditions. Both the winner of the bid and the losers must be able to see this afterwards, in order to check whether everything went properly.

For example, you can check exactly whether the broker was telling the truth when he called at a certain time to say that a ‘significantly higher offer has been made’.

Real estate association NVM thinks a public bidding book is fine, but otherwise reacts resigned to the plans. “Making the bids transparent is not the solution to the problem. The pressure on the housing market is the problem,” says Rob Wassenaar, who is also a real estate agent.

“It especially helps to provide a little more transparency for buyers and to remove some dissatisfaction. But nothing more than that.” According to Wassenaar, a buyer simply does not benefit much if he sees afterwards that he has made the third or fourth bid.

wrongly accused

“The games we are accused of, it will probably happen, but it is certainly not a common occurrence,” he continues. He therefore calls a public bidding book ‘a step to satisfy the buyer’s curiosity’. “But you can’t solve the problem with it.”

That attitude, according to André de la Porte, is precisely the problem. “Brokers say: ‘It is not up to us, but up to the market’. It is up to you! You are the director. That is an important role. You have to do that with integrity. And that is what the complaints are about.”

Time consuming

Before such a fair bidding system is really there, we will have to go for a while. For the time being, the minister is leaving it to the sector to come up with a reliable system, which must then be certified by an independent party.

Step two would be to also give those certifying companies some sort of quality mark, via the accreditation board. That club then checks whether the company that does the certification is sound and independent. If all that does not work enough, it could still be laid down in legislation.

And that’s not all that needs to change. The brokers must also come up with an improvement plan, in which they make clear agreements about what is and is not allowed when selling a house. This should ensure that it is clear in advance how the bidding process will proceed and that the rules are not adjusted halfway through the game.

In order to maintain this, the sector must also set up a disciplinary system. An idea that the VEH welcomes in any case. “Brokers who do not follow the rules should be dealt with,” said André de la Porte.

Additional rules

In addition to the public bidding book and stricter rules for real estate agents, the cabinet also wants to impose additional rules to protect consumers against the madness in the housing market.

For example, the ministry wants to investigate whether it is possible to lay down in law that a reservation of building inspection and a reservation of financing are included in the purchase contract.

These reservations ensure that you can get rid of the sale if the house turns out to be in a bad state or if the financing does not come through. It’s common for buyers to drop these caveats in hopes of increasing their chances of buying the home.

The minister also wants to get rid of the system whereby new offers are first distributed to clients of the brokers and only then end up on sites such as Funda. Because of the high demand, you are often too late when you see a house on Funda. “This implicitly makes having a purchasing agent a condition for access to the housing market. I find that undesirable,” writes Ollongren.

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