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By James Dearsley

Co-Founder, Unissu


PropTech Today: ‘Don't blame us, we are not the problem - you are’

I had a wry smile when I read the article on Monday from the conveyancers complaining about people getting off their backs. It was quite fun.

The comments were also interesting. There is a serious disconnect between both sides and it is not going to resolve itself. Each side is blaming each other.

I am sorry to say that this issue is not going to go away anytime soon, quite simply because no one is managing expectations. 


    • Conveyancers need time to do what they have always done. 
    • Estate agents don’t have time, and perhaps don’t have the visibility to rest their impatience and frustration at the process taking so long.

It is that simple. That is the frustration. No expectation management and no visibility in understanding the process from both sides.

One comment from Tim stated: “Meanwhile IT this and that nonsense is floated about as some kind of solution or 'tips for speeding up conveyancing', which in the hands of a mediocre conveyancer does nothing.”

I might add a mediocre estate agent doesn’t help either, if you view it from the other perspective -  but let's not digress.

Technology can help if systems are there to help and I know a lot of work from the government is trying to push through reforms to help conveyancers do their job, particularly around searches BUT let's look at it with today in mind.

Technology may not help completely with the process itself but it can help, I believe, with managing expectations and clearly pointing out where flaws in the process (or conveyancer) exist.

If we can offer transparency to all sides, it may lessen the frustration and may allow the agent to manage the buyers and sellers to make for a more fluid transaction with less chance of falling through.

It may also keep the agents off the back of the conveyancers. But I can’t promise.

Let me explain.

Many, many firms focus on the quick wins of improving the transaction experience - I might even suggest the UK leads the way here given the sheer volume of companies that exist.

The ability for people to search for their next house. The ability to view the chosen few and then how to make the offer process more efficient.

Anybody can really get involved there. It is simple to understand, and easy to develop for.

Post-offer acceptance, it gets super complicated and more difficult for people outside of industry to understand what the hell is going on.

And this is the problem. When you put insecurity into the equation, it breeds frustration and concern into a transaction. Then everyone gets jumpy, estate agents get nervous of deals falling through and they put the pressure (and the blame) on conveyancers.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned the speeches I give and brought in my example of how iBuyers give ‘certainty’ to transactions.

This current argument - and it is just that - speaks to a second trend I mention. Transparency.

When I give these speeches, I generally try to make the companies I then showcase relevant to the audience I am speaking to. Yesterday, it was a Canadian conference and so the majority of companies were either Canadian or American.

The slide below shows some of the firms from yesterday's presentation. You can see the iBuyers there with the American and Canadian slant. Then there are those that give transparency in the transaction process.

You will note they are only British firms. That is because we have leading firms that are helping the process. We should be embracing firms like these to help streamline this difficult time to aid both sides of the market.

ViewMyChain I have followed almost since inception and it has done a great job. YourKeys has exploded onto the scene and made some great PR around its ability to streamline transactions to just seven days - particularly in the new build sector.

Just this week, I received an email from Emma Vigus, a long-term acquaintance of mine who stepped into the role of managing director of legal tech startup mio, “the estate agent’s sales progression platform”.

Emma, previously the chief commercial officer of TMGroup, the firm behind mio, is making great strides to help this emotional argument between both sides of the transaction.

Emma emailed to announce they had just launched the residential property chain view API which will, for the first time, mean that all parties involved in a sale or purchase can benefit from a single view of the chain.

The new API apparently “provides a sophisticated yet simple way for any third-party to integrate with mio and receive a well-designed, GDPR-compliant view of the chain”.

Just to stress, other developed nations just don’t have this sort of ability to offer transparency to both sides.

The conversation yesterday fell to issues they are having in the US around the multi-billion title insurance farce that they have to deal with (in 2006 it was already worth $18 billion, just to give you some idea of how ridiculous it is! Nowadays, people are paying up to $2,000 for this insurance in some states). Any innovation in this area has to fight with a sector that has developed around the transaction just to ensure safe title.

Emma shared a video of how mio is now working, which you can view here or at the bottom of this article.

Imagine this kind of transparency in your transactions.

We may not be perfect but we don’t have to keep p****ng each other off. Just realise we are all in imperfect times. Most people don’t have all the answers.

Taking on Tim’s point from earlier, technology isn’t going to solve the problem of a mediocre conveyancer, but neither is it going to solve the issues of a mediocre estate agent either.

At least with systems like mio, View my Chain and others, everyone should know where they stand – including the customers, which should make it an easier and less stressful process.

Work together people. Stop arguing. Embrace some transparency.

*James Dearsley is a leading PropTech influencer and commentator, and is co-founder of PropTech platform UnissuYou can follow James on Twitter here.

  • Matthew Gardiner Legge

    As a great believer in Prop and in fact anything 'tech' I might suggest that conveyancers might start with making a little more use of the 'telephone machine' as opposed to 'waiting for a reply to a letter I sent on the xth of Jungust.' Docusign, technology that has been around for some considerable time, is something hugely underused and we are now using a company called Thirdfort for AML and proof of fund checks. To me it's all magic stuff but it makes life so much easier.

  • icon

    I thought the main issue was financial. Solicitors / conveyancers are usually not paid on a sale completing, but on a "time" spent working basis. "Sorry you're sale didn't complete, but here's my invoice for your kind attention". They therefore have no particular incentive to speed things along and pick up the "telephone machine". Estate agents, however, are usually only paid on results i.e. completion.

    If you make a conveyancers livelihood dependent on results i.e. sales completing, I suspect you'll get a much quicker "sales" process, with far less fall-throughs. Good luck trying to convince the conveyancers though !

  • Mike  Stainsby

    That is a really interesting article. Visibility and transparency are great to help show what is going on in a chain and will highlight roadblocks that exist BUT if everyone isn't using it cracks start to show. The actual problem is the process followed by agents, buyers and sellers alike drawn from the 1950's and shoe horned into the modern world. We recommend that sellers 'Get Legally Prepared' - familiarise themselves with crucial sales documents, Boiler service agreements, FENSA certificate, Solar Panel agreements etc (that can scupper a sale if not found) and buy their Searches at the point they instruct an Estate Agent. Environmental, Flood, Chancel, Energy & Infrastructure, Radon, Ground reports are PROPERTY specific NOT person specific. So if sellers wait for the property to go on the market, a buyer to be found, sales memo to be sent, signed instructions to be sent and received, contract requested, contract received, ID/AML checks completed satisfactorily, funds taken on account, cleared funds confirmed and then the Searches and reports ordered to find Harrogate LA take 70 days.....your not moving in for Christmas and may even miss the SDLT deadline. Shouting at your conveyancers and contacting them more and more is not a plan. Please get in touch if this resonates with any agent that is starting to wake up in a cold sweat worrying about their 6 or 7 figured pipeline.


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