Gazumping could be banned as part of Government plans to make buying and selling a home “cheaper, faster and less stressful”.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has called for evidence from mortgage lenders, solicitors and estate agents as ministers consider proposals aimed at streamlining the process of buying a property.
Although around one million homes are bought and sold in England every year, a quarter of sales fall through.
Mr Javid said the Government was looking for views on:
:: Gazumping – when a seller accepts a higher offer after already a agreeing to a sale
:: Confidence – schemes like “lock-in agreements” could build trust in the housing chain
:: Innovation – Putting more data online could speed up the house-buying process, which is “too slow” and expensive
:: Information – encouraging buyers and sellers to pull together evidence so homes are sale ready.
Mr Javid said: “We want to help everyone have a good quality home they can afford, and improving the process of buying and selling is part of delivering that.
“Buying a home is one of life’s largest investments, so if it goes wrong it can be costly.
“That’s why we’re determined to take action to make the process cheaper, faster and less stressful.
“This can help save people money and time so they can focus on what matters – finding their dream home.
“I want to hear from the industry on what more we can do to tackle this issue.”
The Government also published a survey of 2,000 people which showed 69% of sellers and 62% of buyers report stress and worry as a result of delays.
Nearly half (46%) of sellers had concerns about buyers changing their minds after making an offer and almost a quarter (24%) would use a different estate agent if they had to go through the process again.
Almost a third (32%) of sellers and 28% of buyers were unhappy with the other party’s solicitor, the Department for Communities and Local Government said.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey described the proposals as “feeble” and said they showed ministers do not understand the scale of the problems facing buyers.
He said: “This smacks of a political diversion from the hard facts of the Tories’ housing record..
“Home ownership is at a 30-year low and the number of younger homeowners is in freefall, but ministers can only come up with a ‘call for evidence’ on improving the home-buying process.
Alex Neill from consumer group Which? said: “The current home-buying process is outdated and flawed.
“The Government must put consumers first, ensuring that estate agents deliver a better service for both home-buyers and sellers and that the conveyancing process is simplified.”
The call for evidence will run for eight weeks from Sunday.