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Major estate agencies in secret project to try to end delays in chains

Estate Agent Today understands several major national agencies and some smaller operators are involved in a project to understand why transaction chains are generally getting slower and more complicated. 

The project is believed to be taking place in south Wales and to have the involvement of conveyancers and some search organisations as well as agencies.

“The idea is to get more thorough information on how chains operate. There’s a general belief that they’re getting longer and more difficult, with the consumer paying the price with fall-throughs and delays” Estate Agent Today has been told by Paul Creffield, Group Operating Director at Countrywide, which is one of the agencies participating in the project.


“The key is to identify the weakest link” explains Creffield, who says the project is looking at the quality, quantity and timeliness of data proved by buyers and sellers themselves, by their conveyancers, and by mortgage lenders and search organisations.

There are no details yet on when the project will report its findings.

The hush-hush exercise is the latest in a series of initiatives across the industry to tie up with the government’s increasingly strident calls for more transparency, simplicity and reliability in the house buying and moving process.

The previous Housing Secretary Sajid Javid, in one of his last policy statements before being promoted to Home Secretary, outlined proposals for improving the process including encouraging the use of voluntary reservation agreements to help prevent sales falling through, setting a timeline for local authority searches so buyers get the information they need within 10 days, requiring managing agents and freeholders to provide up-to-date lease information for a set fee and to an agreed timetable, and publishing ‘How to Buy’ and ‘How to Sell’ guides to better inform the public. 

However as yet these are intentions rather than law.

The conveyancing industry regulator, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, recently came out in support of the broad sweep of sentiment expressed by government and consumer groups that house moving should be less stressful. 

In parallel, HM Land Registry has been involved in far-reaching reforms of its processes as part of a high-profile digitisation programme.

Last month the first-ever ‘digital mortgage’ deed was lodged at the Registry for a property at Rotherhithe in London. Coventry Building Society and Enact Conveyancing filed the document which did not require a witness to watch as it was signed and did not require the home owner to write a conventional ink signature. 

The Registry has also been outspoken in recent months concerning the quantity and particularly the quality of information it receives from conveyancers.

“The south Wales exercise plays alongside all these initiatives and follows the publication of the results of the government’s Call for Evidence on improving buying and selling. The consumer is the person paying the price at the moment” says Creffield.

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    The irony is that the weakest link is typically the volume / cash bung receiving conveyancer some national estate agents align with.

    Fix their own house/choice of business partner, and they won't have enough delays to be worried.


    My thoughts exactly. In my many years experience the delays are primarily from bulk conveyancers employing inexperienced staff and unable to cope with the sheer volume. They also have difficulty dealing with anything other than straightforward freehold. The other main cause of delays is leasehold flats which desperately needs reform.

  • Rob Hailstone

    Why not start with informative and complete chain sheets?

    Back in the day, I was at the top of a chain (over ten properties long) selling a property for a deceased estate. Nothing appeared to be happening . I spent a week chasing down to the end of the chain only to find out I was acting for the FTB who was struggling obtaining a mortgage. A complete and utter waste of time, but there was no way I would have known I was in the chain twice.

    In addition, if you have a complete chain sheet, you can see where the strongest and weakest links might be. Forewarned is forearmed!

  • David Bennett

    Why is this 'secret'? It isn't now!

  • Peter Ambrose

    Love the directness Tim! Makes a great change from the usual mealy mouthed nonsense that we usually see from "industry commentators" ( who need a telescope to see the front line from their comfy armchairs)
    Rob - as ever - you are bang on about going the extra mile - no substitute for experience!l
    We do need to exercise a little caution because from our direct experience it seems to be the smaller firms that do the panel work that are actually worse, because they don't have the case management or people in place to manage the capacity their bosses typically sign up for.
    But yes - the issues are frequently with Conveyancers that don't know what they are doing which is a difficult problem to fix quickly..


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