CEO of The Guild of Property Professionals, Iain McKenzie, recently spoke to Russell Quirk, Co-Founder of ProperPR and outspoken voice in the sector about his views the around the relationship between estate agents and conveyancers and what he thinks could make it better.
“Conveyancing was initiated as process by Henry VIII and in my opinion it hasn’t changed since. Since its inception, conveyancing, which is the conveying of a property from one person to another, has stayed largely the same. I won’t deny that the process has become more complex because of course we now have more search information to be concerned about, liaising on mortgages, AML, politically exposed people and so forth. However, what conveyancers have done is just stick to the same archaic process, adding things on so that is becoming more cumbersome and more protracted, and still insisting on doing everything consecutively,” says Quirk.
“I’m sure every agent can relate to the scenario where they sell a property, get a lawyer instructed by way of memorandum of sale, property information questionnaire goes out by post three of four days later from the seller’s lawyer to the seller, eventually that goes back five or six days later. Then a contract might be issued, then the buyer’s lawyer issued the same standard 56 enquiries they issue on every single purchase, which takes a couple of weeks to be bounced back. In the meantime, nothing else happens in the way of search for instance being initiated because the lawyer decides on the buyer’s side that they don’t to go ahead with the search until there is a mortgage offer, which can’t happen until there is a valuation, which will take three of four weeks for the mortgage forms and survey fee to be paid. Essentially what we end up with is a consecutive archaic draconian process, that takes a long time,” adds Quirk.
He continues, “based on the research my firm has done regarding transaction times, there are figures out there showing that typically offer to completion in certain places, which can of course be a result of searches taking a while to come back from local authorities, can take around six months for a transaction to go through. Pre-Covid it was about four months, which is still not acceptable in my opinion. As a result of Covid, we had the issue of conveyancers that didn’t staff up, even though they could see the market getting busier and busier. So, operationally we saw conveyancers regressing to where they were many years back, moaning about process and not seeking ways to circumvent or innovate, with many blaming the agent for the delays because they didn’t provide upfront information. The process as it currently stands is ripe for change and disruption.”
McKenzie says that while he believes the process is dated and needs to change, agents are not entirely blameless and have their part to play to some degree. “I believe that the process is too linear, and more than one aspect should be done at the same time by the conveyancer. However, agents should manage their clients’ expectations and disappointment by clearing the runway and ensuring all the information they provide to the conveyancer is correct. For example, 60% of memorandums of sale are inaccurate, often not having the right initials or names, there are no chain details on them or upfront information. To help speed the process, agents could also look at instructing their conveyancer at the time of instruction. Moreover, agents should be explaining to their clients that they are client, and they must tell their lawyer what to do,” he adds. “It is important that agents have as much knowledge about the conveyancing process as possible, so that they can take control of their conveyancing chain themselves.”
Quirk says that he believes a solution to the conveyancing process is to bring the process into estate agency. “I think that agents should bring a licenced conveyancer into their business under the employ of the agency. That conveyancer would then be obligated to be much more in tune with the estate agent and understand their processes. They would also be visible and accessible to consumers and would form part of the sales progression team. It seems crazy that you have an estate agent and a conveyancer that have the same goal but have to have two separate entities at logger heads to do the same thing. It is like two footballers running towards the same goal arguing with each other, rather than working together. Having an in-house conveyancer could be a service that agents could use in their agency to help consumers and attract more business packing the conveyancing under one roof. I am not saying we should do away with conveyancers, but rather an integration between conveyancing and estate agents working together for a common purpose,” he comments.
To listen to more of what was said, visit The Guild’s podcast The Home Stretch.