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Private Treaty

This is the normal way that residential property is sold in the UK. The alternatives being sales by tender or at an auction. As estate agents we will agree an asking price with our client. This will reflect our opinion of the market value and the ideal time-scale in which the client wishes to move. This figure will be widely publicised in the marketing and advertising.

But the private treaty negotiations are just that, private negotiations. We must relay all offers to our clients, promptly and impartially, but these are not made public. Other terms and conditions may be attached – for example, over various fixtures, fittings, timing or whatever – but all aspects of the negotiations are kept private and confidential.

Traditionally, when contracts are exchanged following a sale by private treaty, the sale price should still remain private. The estate agent might give a broad indication “the house was sold at very close to the asking price” and, occasionally, the actual sale price will be publicised but that should only happen where both parties have given their prior agreement.

That said, since April 2000, the Lord Chancellor has agreed that the sale price will be recorded by the Land Registry (LR) (q.v.) in the public section of the registry. The information is then in the public domain. Anybody, not just the title holders, may obtain a copy of any LR entry for a nominal fee. The LR also uses all the price data for statistical purposes and publishes information on a regular basis broken down by region, county, council, authority and even local postal codes.

The LR says it will not record the sale price where it believes the figure may not be a fair indication of the actual market value – perhaps because it was associated with a part-exchange (q.v.) transaction and is only the capital difference, or it may include other exceptional adjustments. Conveyancers are expected to warn the LR if a price on their return is unrepresentative when it will either be qualified or omitted from the records.

This means that where the parties are keen to keep the sale price secret it can still be done. Reportedly, the LR is not proposing to make an issue over returns where the sale price was, for whatever reason, not included. It is not an omission which would legally allow the Registrar to refuse registration of the sale.

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