Study will establish whether there is fair competition between estate agents

The Office of Fair Trading is to launch an inquiry in to the house-buying process, designed to see if there is a better way to sell homes.

The market study will look at whether there is effective competition between estate agents, whether there are barriers to entry to new web-based agents, and whether changes needed to be made to regulations around home sales.

The study was launched as the government announced proposed changes to Home Information Packs (HIPs) which it said would make the much-criticised packs easier to use.

The OFT said it was writing to interested parties about the study to help further define the scope of it before it commences at the start of next year.

John Fingleton, OFT Chief Executive, said he wanted to engage with consumers and the industry to get a clear idea of the “most salient issues” to investigate. He said: “We want to ensure that consumers are served well when buying or selling a home and are supported by an effective, competitive and innovative market.

It will not have any particular focus on the new build market.

The communities department welcomed the study, which it said would inform the development of Hips.

The OFT said it will contact key parties directly. Interested parties can submit written views, by 16 January 2009 to: