BUYING YOUR HOME ONLINE
Buying goods and services online has become a safe and secure way of getting what we need without leaving the comfort of our homes. This is due in no small part to the Consumer Rights Directive for purchases made from businesses within the EU.
But, would you buy your dream home online? Consider whether you would be prepared to part with a huge sum of money to secure the home of your dreams with one click of the mouse? More particularly SHOULD you do so and is it safe to do so?
The contract entered into and signed by sellers and purchasers in this jurisdiction is a standard contract developed by the Law Society. This standard contract strikes a balance between the rights and responsibilities of a seller and the rights and responsibilities of a buyer. For example, a buyer will normally give a booking deposit to an estate agent. The estate agent holds that money in trust for the buyer until the contract is signed. This means that if the sale does not go ahead the disappointed buyer gets his or her money back in full. Furthermore, the proposed buyer has an opportunity to engage a solicitor. The solicitor will go through the title of the property to make sure the proposed buyer is getting a clean title. If the title is defective and the proposed buyer decides not to proceed, he or she is entitled to the full amount of his/her deposit back.
In many online auctions the standard contract is being varied to the benefit of the online vendor and to the disadvantage of the prospective buyer. Examples of these are:
The prospective buyer is bound by the contract when he or she clicks to buy whether or not he or she has taken legal advice on the contract or on the title to the property.
A 10% deposit is required to secure the property in the online auction and is stated to be non refundable.
The deposit is not held in trust for the buyer and is handed over to the vendor.
The buyer is compelled to nominate an individual in the online auction firm to sigh the contract on his or her behalf.
The Law Society has raised the matter with the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA). The PSRA is the body which regulates auctioneers and estate agents.
For the moment, as at April 2018, any prospective buyer in an online auction ought to proceed with extreme caution.
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