The Agency is now seeking the industry’s views on its proposed changes which, subject to comments received, could see the existing network of 13 organisations across England replaced with a single Agent in time for April 2012. The proposals exclude arrangements for London.
The HCA believes that such a move would result in an improved service to housing providers and potential homebuyers through greater consistency, while significantly reducing the annual bill for providing the core HomeBuy Agent service via economies of scale and reduced back office costs. Contractual obligations would require a single Agent to offer a locally tailored service, including running the popular first time buyer events, bolstered by the local knowledge of councils and the HCA’s own area teams.
Richard Hill, director of programmes at the HCA, said: “The current network of Homebuy Agents delivers an important service to housing providers and potential buyers; our aim is to build on that, improving the service where we can while securing greater value for money for the taxpayer.
“We have looked at a number of options and believe that moving to a single Agent is the best. There are significant benefits, not least in making the buyers ‘journey’ from initial enquiry to sales completion smoother and more consistent, and we now want to hear the views of our partners.”
In developing proposals for the future shape of the HomeBuy Agent service, the HCA considered the benefits of a single Agent across four primary criteria:
Consumer service – with improvements through a single applications process, consistency in information and branding, and easier mobility;
Value for money – reducing costs through economies of scale, greater purchasing power and reduced back office costs;
Local focus – through a national perspective combined with the local knowledge of individual providers, councils and the HCA’s own area-based delivery teams; and
Support to providers – reducing their administration costs and providing more streamlined access to the Homebuy Agent service.
A further benefit has been indentified in taking a national approach to assessing indicative mortgage levels required by buyers. Maximising buyer contributions in a sustainable way, could increase capacity across the sector with the HCA estimating that an additional 5% contributed by the purchaser, could generate an additional £200m of sales receipts for providers, to be reinvested in more new supply.
The HCA anticipates that the new single Agent could be a housing association or local authority, like members of the current network, or a private sector organisation.
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