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Do online agents expect conveyancers to do their work for them?

A member of a legal information and networking organisation says an online estate agency expects him to do some work in a transaction that the agent themselves should be doing.

In a newsletter from the Bold Legal Group (BLG) a legal firm member writes that he received the following email from an online agent:

Your above client is purchasing my vendors property at ……


Please can I request a copy of his certified photo ID, proof of address and proof of AIP/funds?

I have copied your client into the email so he can respond confirming that he agrees for you to do this.

This information is needed so that I am compliant with AML regulations set by HMRC.

Thank you.

To rub salt into the wound, perhaps, the conveyancer says he had already received a notification of sale on the property concerned “so the agent seems to have gone ahead regardless of not having dealt with the ID/money laundering requirements.”

So far there have been two responses to the issue, kindly shared with Estate Agent Today by the BLG. 

One said: "I’m not sure that’s the right question: shouldn’t it be, “Should we help our clients”?  Asked that way, I think the answer is obvious (subject to getting the client’s consent, of course)." 

The other said: "On the one hand, I have arrangements with a couple of local agents … in which we tend to accept each other's certified copy ID (but only in exceptional/rare occasions). On the other hand, I am keen not to fall into any trap where our own due diligence exposes us to third-party liability where it is explicitly or implicitly relied upon by another firm, of any nature. On a separate issue, I have now been asked by two different online estate agents to take possession of seller's keys and hand over to a buyer at completion! My response has always been that we are not insured nor regulated to do so, so the answer is a polite ‘no’.”

This is not the first time that onliners have been accused of failing to perform the routine tasks normally expected of agents in a transaction.

Estate Agent Today has been made aware of bricks-and-mortar estate agents who have felt obliged to progress-chase conveyancers and sellers in different parts of a chain in order to ensure the transaction would proceed - they do not have confidence that an online agent would do it on their own vendor’s behalf.

Likewise, a buying agent has told EAT that “transaction times can double” if there is an online agent in a chain, because neither the vendor nor any other party to a transaction at that part of the chain is chased by the agent to progress the sale.

Ex conveyancer Rob Hailstone, chief executive and founder of the BLG, says that the majority of his members prefer dealing with bricks-and-mortar estate agents because they are more pro-active when it comes to resolving problems and chain chasing.

  • Georgina  Cox

    This highlights another area in which the pure online model is flawed. The consumer believes that sales progression is included and the advertising suggests it is but we all know that sadly it isn’t. I can speak with experience on this having bought a property through a large online agency. I was not asked for any ID and was only contacted twice through the whole transaction once to try and sell me a a mortgage and the other to try and sell a survey! And don’t get me started on how I eventually got the keys. As an experienced agent and conveyancing solicitor these flaws are what I addressed in my business model. I am just surprised that it has taken so long for the major flaws to become newsworthy. A hybrid of traditional and online can provide the online element many consumers now want but with the skill of traditional agents and other agents and solicitors in the chain do not need to dread seeing a faceless online in the transaction

  • icon

    They do NOT do sales progression at all. I have said it on this forum and others. When going through an interview process with one and i ended the interview when they said there was no sales progression," just give lip service to the clients as it will happen anyway" (That was from the MD of a well knows listing firm).

  • Andrew Stanton CEO Proptech-PR    Proptech Real Estate Influencer

    The most common gripe that agents have - 'I have an online agent in my chain and they do zero sales control/progression' and I personally know of a situation where it took 8 days for an online agent to verify the position of their buyer, even though their vendor had been sstc for 2-weeks before they made an offer through a traditional agent. Qualifying buyers and keeping the sale together, is about 80% of the work of a good agent, cash flow depends on completions - unless of course you get paid at point of listing - in which case - cash flow depends on listing - the defining difference between online upfront fees and no-sale, no-fee.


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