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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Conveyancers want to cut delays - by getting estate agents on a course

The Conveyancing Association is launching a training course for estate agents, as the debate swirls over whether a shortage of conveyancers is leading to long delays in transactions. 

The course, made up of three modules, has been designed to “aid agents ... in understanding the workings of the conveyancing process and helping them work with all parties within a property chain in order to reduce fall throughs and get sales to exchange faster” according to a statement from the association.

Delegates will “gain a true understanding of the legal process and gain tips on where they can genuinely make a difference” with the objective that agents will be able to i”dentify basic conveyancing principles and will be able to speak knowledgeably and support clients in developing a much smoother process.”

There have been several claims in recent days that slow conveyancing has led to problems with sales.

Yesterday we reported that the Haart agency chain claimed delays were causing problems; last week the Property Codes Compliance Board, the regulator for the Search Code of Practice, accused some councils of “performing woefully;” SearchFlow echoed the criticism, saying the variation in service levels from local authorities was simply “unacceptable.”

The CA says the course is open to both new starters and more experienced professionals who want to know what is happening in the conveyancer’s office and want to understand both the terminology used and the process taken.

Within the three modules, delegates will cover the role of the parties in the process; contractual liabilities; registration; tenure; caveat emptor, rights or easements; restrictions; covenants, overriding interests; and lender requirements.

Lloyd Davies, operations director at the Conveyancing Association, says a recent survey by the association found that one in five defined the home-moving process as an ‘absolute nightmare, while 61 per cent of agents said they’d experienced difficulties obtaining information. 

Conveyancers said they struggled with the lack of agents’ understanding about their role. 

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    How about Conveyancers go on an estate agency course to understand most agents are very aware of the processes and can help speed up transactions?
    I'm sick of hearing stories of this ilk... Wherever I've worked and without fail the delays are down to Conveyancers being stretched at best and inept at worst. No idea of customer service, no idea of communication and and attitude of arrogance and working completely to their own agendas and timescales. Not just one rotten apple but consistent bad service from small local solicitors to the horrors of the robots in the factory bucket shops.
    Yes I'm angry because it's us agents who conduct a daily battle to move matters along all of which takes up a great deal of time. It is agents who provide the service and skills to hold sales together and conveyancers who in 95% of cases create problems by not understanding that the process involves people and not tick boxes. Most of the work is conducted by junior clerks and only at the end of the transaction is it checked by a more experienced staff member.Put Conveyancers on a course to instruct them how to run a customer centred business.. A Conveyancing transaction in principle is simple ... Understanding people isn't...It is good agents who run the show and it's time conveyancers realised this, showed more respect and generally got their act together... Prove me wrong if you can !

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    So basically when the person who does know what they are doing looks at the file at the last minute they say, oh you haven't asked for this or got an answer to that, which is why the proposed date for exchange gets put back, upsets everyone and causes chains to collapse.

     
    Rob  Davies

    So it's always the conveyancers fault and never the agents? From my experience, I'd say that was inaccurate and unfair. It's true that some are slow, cumbersome and inept, but not all.

    I think your rant against the conveyancing profession - and your belief that agents do all the key work while conveyancers just tick boxes - is harsh in the extreme.

    "No idea of customer service, no idea of communication and and attitude of arrogance and working completely to their own agendas and timescales"

    To be fair, this is something that could also be aimed at certain agents. I understand your anger, but I think some of it's misplaced. Maybe it's not the norm, but I have worked with conveyancers who are professional and efficient. I've also worked with ones that aren't. But again the same can be said for estate agents. I've worked with good ones, average ones and really, really bad ones.

     
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    Dear Graham, your reply demonstrates precisely why agents need to take courses. Whilst agents are dancing down the road with their 1 - 2 % commission, the solicitors and conveyances are left with the indemnity claims when something goes wrong.

    Agents seem only to care about getting the transaction through as quickly as possible to collect their big pay checks. Agents role should be to manage clients' expectations.

    The solicitor and conveyancer role it to ensure that the legalities are correct. So if the client wants to complete a transaction in an unrealistic time scale, that is trumped by making sure that title is legal and correct.

    Yes, some firms are over burdened and not working efficiently. But I assure you all firms are concerned about making sure that transactions complete without any legal come back, or problems for the client.

    Agents and lawyers need to work as a team, and that can be done. But agents needs to stop blaming lawyers, and making themselves out to to be the only ones who have the interest of the client at heart. When agents can tell the difference between a conveyance and a covenant, then they they can take over the lawyers job. Until such time agents should know their place.

     
  • Rob Hailstone

    First blood to the agents! This could get messy.

  • Matt Faizey

    Spot on Graham. Absolutely.

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    "The CA says the course is open to both new starters and more experienced professionals who want to know what is happening in the conveyancer’s office"

    Please note the course lasts about 10 minutes as not much happens in a solicitors conveyancing department. ..lol!!!

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    Solicitors & Conveyancers to be paid ONLY IF the sale completes.
    That'll make them more customer focussed & speed things up !

  • Paul Collier

    Well spoken Graham - you have really hit the nail on the head. We employ somebody full time just to deal with progression (like many good agents do) but she spends most of her time dealing with inept conveyancers and picking up the pieces after they have made a mess. They really ought to put their own house in order before looking outside. Having said that there some very enlightened conveyancing firms that really are trying to make a difference.

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    Well said, progressing ones own deals is hoighly satisfying and I have a raft of great Solicitors who like us agents and know we can hold the sale together and move it along.

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    A Conveyancing transaction in principle is simple.....

    And therein lies the problem, Graham. Do you honestly think that Land Law, which stems from centuries of doctrines, statutes and cases, is simple? I'd be very keen to listen to you go into depth about how this is such a simple area of law. Then we have the contractual area of law that coincides with Land Law. Are you an expert in this simple area of law as well?

    I think the point that the CA are trying to make is that agents do not appreciate this and possibly do not appreciate why a transaction is taking so long. Your knee jerk reaction simply proves their point exactly and is rather embarrassing if I'm honest. In my experience agents seem to believe everything can be indemnified. I have even had agents ask if we can indemnify a major works bill for a flat of £48,000 recently. I have also had agents ask if we can indemnify the fact the the seller does not hold legal title to the property. The list is completely endless about things that you could learn from such a course.

    I sincerely wish that all we had to do was manage people as you say. Our jobs would be a lot easier if that was the case.

    Terence Dicks

    We are not talking about Land Law here. We are aware that certain aspects of Conveyancing are not without problems, but when a straightforward sale/purchase is cocked up by Conveyancers being totally inept, it is somewhat frustrating. To be told that a Transfer document has not been sent for example, or that Search monies have not been requested from their client,or even that the client has not been asked to sign Contracts!! The list is unfortunately unending, and to hear the sheer arrogance of Conveyancers telling estate agents they need to go on a course is slightly annoying.

     
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    Dear Estate Agents

    How wrong.

    We DO NOT blame you in the slightest for the slow speed of house sales/purchases. The spotlight must in fact be on the Conveyancer – as the quality among them ranges wildly.

    It is wrong to even mention estate agents in a discussion about home moving delays. You do a crucial job getting the sale to offer, but it is when some conveyancers take over that your great efforts are then so often wasted/tarnished, as so many conveyancers take over and exhibit appalling and insufficient legal skills to even be allowed to offer a fee charging service to the public, and so cause delay, or worse yet, abortion of the whole deal. This is because of their inability to spot (let alone solve) legal issues, a lack of understanding of even the basics of conveyancing procedure, an inability to make instant decisions because the only one qualified to do so in their office (an actual solicitor) only walks by once a week to ‘sign off’ files.

    Sadly, when the downturn hit in 2007, conveyancing firms made many of their own staff redundant, and those ex-employees had to retrain out of the legal market, as no one was hiring as the downturn was lasting and lasting (5 years I fact). Certainly no new conveyancers were therefore entering the market either. But when transactions started to rise again, conveyancers thought the best way to keep economical was to hire cheap employees without any legal training – yet devilishly they would still charge the public the same price – and over time they promised themselves they would train these employees in-house. Sadly, the more they recruited with rising transaction levels, the one thing they forgot to do, and now have no time to do, was…..to train the employees. As a result, there are conveyancing businesses whose teams are dominated by conveyancers who are not actual Solicitors, or Legal Executives, or even a law degree, in fact, almost nil legal training.

    Low standards have therefore swept the conveyancing market. The public have a difficult job in weeding out who is good. Mediocre businesses know that repeat business is unlikely, and so they employ very persuasive marketeers to continuously bring in new work…to attend high footfall public events, to offer huge financial payments to buy the referral, to seek bulk work contracts etc. And yet, the end user suffers – the public, who are none the wiser of who is doing their legal work, as the public understandably think ‘I have a lawyer’.

    Consequently, to reduce the wrong conveyancer becoming part of the conveyancing chain and risking your hard work to date, you CAN HELP, PLEASE:

    1. When a member of the public seeks a recommendation for a conveyancer, please consider the quality of who you are recommending. One way is right now, just put their name into Google and add the word ‘review’. Scary reading, as you recommend them, and it tarnishes you too.
    2. Even dynamic conveyancers pay referral fees
    3. Please promote this from your chosen conveyancer: we offer our clients there very own named conveyancer who stays the same start to finish. Who makes instant decisions, who freely offers their own personal email and direct telephone number. We make our whole conveyancing team publicly accountable and accessible, with no hiding behind an anonymous website.

    Let’s get those property deals exchanged.

    Kind regards
    TRETHOWANS RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY TEAM - http://www.trethowans.com/site/services_for_you/property/

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    Apart from the bit about referral fees, I agree with every word.

     
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    @ Mr Whittingham

    Your response to my comment is rude and patronising-and therefore not constructive
    I will assume you are a conveyancer
    You know exactly what I am referring to and your attempt to paint good estate agents as ignorant and naive, in such tones, demonstrates one of the problems we face very succinctly-arrogance and attitude.
    Of course some transactions are complicated.But the majority of transactions are very very straightforward-there is no need or reason for the conveyancing process to be made out to be that difficult other than an attempt at misplaced self validation
    It is ineffective communication and urgency and inexperienced conveyancers who very often cause problems and problems that 9/10 we as communicators sort out.
    So i say again,look within and direct your comments to where they may strike a relevant chord and everyone can move on more quickly.

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    @ Tim Higham
    Well done on spotting the self promotional opportunity-i agree with your comment though

  • Algarve  Investor

    Conveyancers seem a popular target of abuse from estate agents. I think, in some cases, they are scapegoated far too easily. It's not always the fault of a conveyancer for a slow transaction.

    I have heard many horror stories about solicitors taking far too long to process stuff and push it through, but I can't believe that is the case with every single conveyancer. They do a hard, thankless task and probably get criticised a little too easily for it. Estate agents should know all about getting a bashing when it's not totally warranted, so I'm surprised by some of the comments here and just how strained the relationship between agents and conveyancers is. Given how vital a role both play in house sales, that's quite worrying. Both sides seem keen to blame the other, so I'm no clearer who is actually at fault here.

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    Conveyancers are from Mars and estate agents are from Venus. I have been in this business for 50 years and have lived on both planets.
    Agents who do not carefully select the conveyancers used by their sellers particularly are asking for trouble. There are good lawyers out there and it is the agents duty to their client, their own staff and to whoever looks after their bank balances to ensure their clients, the seller, use a conveyancer of the agents choice not the man in the pub who their client spoke to last night or the cheap and miserable lot available on-line.
    The CA initiative is well intentioned but the best training I have ever delivered in this field involves the active participation of both planets. Lets better understand each others needs and how we can work together in the spirit of partnership to provide the home mover with the service they deserve and think they are paying for. Finally lets remember that conveyancers are judged by all others involved in the transaction by three criteria, communication, communication and communication.

  • Rob Hailstone

    I agree with most of what you say Phil. However, ultimately they are judged (in particular) by their buyer client who wants own a home they can live in happily, without any issues arising during their ownership and that they can sell on without legal issues (not resolved when they bought) causing unnecessary delays.

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    @ Graham Coton

    Thank you.

    Just to pick up on your comment, "the majority of transactions are very very straightforward".

    If only. It would certainly remove the transactional stress from the conveyancer if that were remotely true. Sadly the majority of work in any conveyancer’s cabinet is not straightforward. And that is a recent phenomena, since the downturn in 2007 I would say.

    If they are straightforward in anyone’s cabinet, the conveyancer better have their files checked by a senior colleague, and quick.

    In London – leasehold deals dominate, and so frequently defective leases are not spotted when the seller bought, absence of Council consents for the conversion/build, alterations without landlord/Council consent, or service charge issues that slow things down. The list goes on.

    Out of City – aside from the above, so much of the complexity is either down to mistakes made by the seller’s own conveyancer missing things when they bought, as it is due to that same conveyancer badly reporting to the seller. Badly reporting? For example, the seller may well have created the issues during their ownership because their own lawyer never told them (e.g) that they have covenants in their freehold preventing extensions without covenantee/neighbour consent, and that has to be resolved. Or they failed to obtain Council consent.

    Even because of the attitude of conveyancers being slow, not understanding the issues etc, a deal can be far from straightforward.

    Typical conveyancer mistakes first time around are so often:
    1. Defective legal access
    2. Missing title to part of the garden
    3. Absence of Council consents

    BUT having said all the above – they can appear straightforward IF you have an expert conveyancer who knows what to instantly do to get that prompt solution. Now, if those conveyancers were “very very” commonplace, then you COULD say "the majority of transactions are very very straightforward". Unfortunately, I cannot see that happening.

  • Terence Dicks

    We have good Conveyancing firms in our area, and believe me, we have some clowns!! The good ones we attempt to get all our clients to use, but because they are not the cheapest some will not. All the firms we try to use are on a No sale No fee basis of business, whereas many of the cheaper will charge all the way along, regardless of whether the sale/purchase goes through. Therefore they are not quite so cheap if the sale/purchase falls.

    Rob  Davies

    Exactly. There are good, bad and really terrible, just like it is in most professions. That doesn't make it right, but I think some of the anger in the comments here is a little extreme. I don't think it's right to be completely dismissive of what a conveyancer does or to simply say their work is simple and straightforward when that is patently not the case.

     
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    Graham takes the point of view of a very experienced agent with a deep knowledge of property matters. That isn't always representative of the agent dealing with the post agreement, pre-signing period of the sale. I have often seen "junior" staff ringing a conveyancer to ask "how's it going?" and then not really grasping the answer. It is frustrating for the agent not to be able to contact the conveyancer to either provide assistance or just to be get informed, but often it is nothing more than agents commission chasing because of pressure from above. I've know several managers who delegate sales chasing when they should really be utilizing their own knowledge and experience to help matters. Shouting across an office "why hasn't this exchanged yet" is a good example. Conveyancers need to understand when agents can be a useful tool to get certain things done, such as phoning a Local Authority and sitting on hold for half an hour, but unless the agent has a proper grasp of what can actually delay the process, the conversation may not be terrible productive.

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    Tim Higham gives a good response as a conveyancer. If all parties would only use real high street solicitors rather than remote cheap bucket shop conveyancing factories hundreds of miles away, things would improve immediately. Too many corporate estate agents such as Countrywide force their staff to try every trick in the book to tie their clients up with their in-house conveyancing factory 'teams'. My local solicitor charges £100 extra if his oppo is such a 'team' due to the communication & other delays involved. So yes agents CAN help .... by encouraging clients to use a real solicitor.

  • Richard White

    I spoke to a conveyancer yesterday who did not know anything about HMRCs new 18 month rule on refunding the 3% uplifted Stamp Duty, should the person sell their previous main res within those time scales. All a bit scary really.

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    Having read all 23 comments to date I am of the opinion that most have real merit.
    However, in nearly 40 years in mainly residential agency before retiring it is my belief that the real cause of most delay is caused by the fact the the majority of solicitors/conveyancers are only REactive and not PROactive.

  • Anonymous Coward

    One of the things I can't stand is ONE inept solicitor in a chain of say 4 or 5 properties.

    "What do you mean that they forgot to get the searches? Everyone agreed that we're supposed to be moving next week!"

    "What do you mean that they haven't signed the transfer document? Everyone agreed that we're supposed to be moving next week!"

    "What do you mean an indemnity policy for the driveway? The house was built in the 50's and had a garage when it was built!"

    "What do you mean an indemnity policy for the through lounge? It was done 26 years and 3 owners ago. The council can only enforce for 7 years and if there was a problem it would have fallen down years ago."

    It is the STUPID stuff that bothers me the most.

  • Rob Hailstone

    You may have just scored an own goal Anonymous Coward. Pretty sure that:

    "What do you mean an indemnity policy for the through lounge? It was done 26 years and 3 owners ago. The council can only enforce for 7 years and if there was a problem it would have fallen down years ago."

    is not correct. Checking it out.

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    Good and bad points on both sides and yes you get some awful conveyancers but there are just as many awful agents. Don't see anything point in slagging each other off.

    One of my favourites of the job though has to be when a client instructs you over the phone, you take down details and then they say "we've all agreed to complete on xdate". Fabulous well done that client!!! Even before the files are opened, documents checked, the clients are setting themselves up for a fall but you can guarantee it will be 'our fault' when the unrealistic timescale has not be met!!

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    I am an experienced property Solicitor dealing mostly with commercial and agricultural property but some residential conveyancing for established clients. One of my clients instructed me at the beginning of November last year in connection with the cash purchase of a flat in our local town. He did not want to carry out any searches but obviously did want to check that the leasehold situation was correct and that the leasehold setup was being properly managed.

    He told me he had a tenant lined up and would like to complete before Christmas.

    The estate agents recommended the Seller to their own tame conveyancing service in a factory. It took 6 weeks for the contract to be issued and this was eventually sent without the LPE1 or the LPE 2 or any suggestion that any attempt had been made to get these filled in by the management company, even though this is a standard requirement on any leasehold sale.

    After a considerable amount of chasing on my part we have eventually now got the documentation that we need and we are set up for simultaneous exchange and completion today but I am still awaiting confirmation from the Seller's conveyancers they have signed paperwork ready to proceed and with a mortgage undertaking in an acceptable form which I have requested at least twice.

    This has been as straightforward a leasehold transaction as it is possible to be and yet it has taken almost 4 months, due to a combination of delays by the seller himself and a lack of any proactivity on the part of the seller’s conveyancers.

    The sales progresser for the estate agent concerned has privately admitted to me that if she had the choice she would never recommend the factory conveyancers that she in fact has to use because they are the chosen vehicle for recommendation to all their seller clients.

    I rest my case.

    Clare Butcher

    Hi all.
    I have to say that my experience of both conveyancers and agents is mixed. I am a solicitor, by the way. Some conveyancers are very proactive and take a really keen interest in meeting a client's expectations and some are not. Likewise some agents really push matters through for a client and work in tandem with the proactive conveyancer to muddle through any issues that there. Some do not.

    The truth is that conveyancing is not a simple process. Some may try to make so by saying to the client that it can be pushed through as quickly and painlessly as possible. However, in the end, whoever has said to the client that it will be "straight forward if you use 'our panel conveyancer" or "you will get a better service from us than you will from any conveyancer that the estate agent has recommended you to use" are just asking for trouble, really. The client starts out with all the highest of expectations and is disappointed when it does not go the way they were told it would sometimes.

    Don't we think it is time that we really faced up to the fact that we really do not know whether a matter will run smoothly through to a conclusion? Some cases (not many) will go like this. However, in the main there will be a defective lease to vary or a extension which has been knocked down without the consent of the freeholder to deal with around every corner.

    May be it is time we stopped blaming each other and stood shoulder to shoulder to help each other through these difficult cases. If the recommendation of the CA can help us achieve that, I am all for it!

     
  • Iain  White

    Firstly the system is antiquated and poor and needs legislative overhaul, technology has not as yet disrupted this space and needs to badly, in my view the lengthy uncertain process is the main factor beyond even cost of keeping transactional volumes low. Their are good agents but let's be fair there are poor agents, there are good solicitors but let's be fair there are bad ones. Modernise the whole system from top to bottom. Agents so often set deals up badly from the start this needs eradicating and standardising. Solicitors often go slow, take in too many cases, forget to do simple things that cause delay and even sales to collapse where technology could work flow this so much better.

    My friend you are playing the blame game, lets play the find a solution game the reward is massive and the Past cant be changed, the question is do we have the skill, desire and force of opinion to change the future.

  • David Bennett

    Bring back HIPs. Let's be honest, agents shot themselves in the foot by making money out of it and the very clients they should have been looking out for, ended up paying for the legals, twice. A sales chain is only as strong as its weakest link and yet so often an inexperienced colleague is left to do the sales chasing. The system revolves around getting the deal through or you don't get paid!

  • icon

    So does anyone want to see the training? It's really good :-) Even includes the SDLT changes, CPRs and Mortgage Credit Directive changes .... go on ... you know you want to.

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    They may want to cut delays but could they start protecting us from hackers and fraud.

    I was very worried about this after reading countless news articles about people losing money and conveyancers not protecting their clients properly, even though it’s their job. Crazy eh! People losing thousands and the conveyancer pretty much ignoring the issue.

    I found the https://safemovescheme.co.uk website by searching on google and recommended it to my conveyancer. Although reluctant they signed up and at least now I have a secure method of checking my conveyancer's bank account details and can also communicate with them in a secure manner.

    I would never recommend a conveyancer that couldn’t explain how they protect their clients.

    Have you been a victim or are worried about this.

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