Brisbane's sales market

Home buyers drowning in paperwork

Last night I met with a buyer to take an offer on an apartment. I sat at his kitchen table and dug out the contract – all 51 pages of it. And I fondly remembered the contract I signed on my first home unit, with its 4 double-spaced pages. We’ve written before about the insanity of this current sales process and many of you have shared your concerns and frustrations. So why is it still getting more complex?

This week we learned the federal government is going to implement new disclosure requirements around energy efficiency for homes. It may be very worthwhile but if it’s another 2 pages in a pile it won’t be achieve a cracker. In recent months the laws changed to require new body corp disclosure and this has taken our 20-something page contract to the new 40+ special editions we’re now producing. But how can any buyer be expected to digest even a tiny part of 51 pages of information, warnings, disclosures, data and by-laws in a short meeting with a real estate agent?

Buyers’ eyes glaze over. Once they know they have protections through finance and other contract conditions they don’t care too much about the rest. “The solicitors will tell me if it’s all okay.” This mountain of paperwork plays no role in consumer protection if buyers are not informed before they make the purchasing decision.

If you don’t fix things until they’re broke – then can we humbly suggest that at 50+ pages for a contract our sales contract system in Queensland is well and truly stuffed. One idea is a mandatory Seller Disclosure, all the property’s details available when a property first goes on the market, and checked (and hopefully read) before a buyer makes an offer. This approach has now been seriously discussed for more than 18 months, but it’s just one solution.

How do you provide useful consumer protection in an efficient way? We’d love your ideas.