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A Little Less Conversation

Ritchie Clapson, co-founder of propertyCEO, comments

By the time you read this, there’s a chance I’ll be breezing along a windswept and deserted highway in northern climes. I am someone who enjoys a good road trip, and this time, a group of us are tackling the North Coast 500, a scenic jaunt across the northernmost tip of Scotland. I’ve done the John O’Groats to Land’s End trip a few times before, but this one promises to be somewhat more stunning in the scenery department, assuming that the weather holds. But it is Scotland, so I’m not exactly holding my breath.

What will be the highlight? Well, as for the piece of road I’m most looking forward to driving, that’s easy. The A836 at Tongue is a legendary piece of tarmac, partly financed using European money, and it lays claim to being one of the best roads in Europe. I may even slip a little Elvis number onto the playlist as I wend my way along its curves.

Now, preparation is vital for a road trip, and luckily, one of my fellow drivers will be my business partner, who’s so prepared it’s off the scale. A few weeks ago, he sent me the proposed itinerary. He also told me that he’d written out the address, opening hours, and distances between every potential fuel stop on our 520-mile route, which I thought was complete overkill until I realised there were only eight petrol stations on his list, which underlines the importance of being prepared. Getting caught short in the fuel department in the middle of nowhere will never make for a great road trip.

Now, if decent planning is the secret to a successful road trip, it looks like the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has decided that it’s also one of the key things we’ll be needing if we’re to start building enough new homes in this country. Of course, the CMA isn’t a regular commentator on the housing market; its job is to strengthen business competition and ensure that anti-competitive practices are reduced – essentially a cartel-buster. However, in February 2023, it undertook a year-long housebuilding market study to understand why too few homes were being built. And now, one year later, its report is out.

Before we get to the CMA’s key findings on planning, it’s worth mentioning that it also looked at a few other issues. The first involved private estate management charges, where the owners of newly built homes have to pay fees to private ‘estate managers’ – something that applied to 80% of new homes built by the eleven largest housebuilders in 2021/22. These charges are often high and unclear to homeowners, and many aren’t able to simply switch providers. In some cases, homeowners have experienced shoddy work or unsatisfactory maintenance and face administration charges that can make up more than half the overall bill. The CMA’s recommendation to the government is that enhanced consumer protections be introduced for homeowners on existing privately managed estates, including the right to switch to a more competitive management company. 

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