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By James Dearsley

Co-Founder, Unissu


PropTech Today: What can 80 conveyancers teach PropTech?

“It appears conveyancers either aren’t too concerned with PropTech right now, or they don’t yet have all the information needed to make firmer decisions around what it means to their firm."

So states the head of sales at OneSearch, Lidia Quinlan, towards the end of what appears to be a somewhat biased piece of research, based on survey responses from 80 different conveyancers.

Before I comment on that particular statement, let me reflect on the findings of the report as I think they tell a particular narrative that we could all gain from understanding…


Key findings of the report:

• When respondents were asked to prioritise eight options on what they looked for in a search provider, surprisingly, cost came in fourth place, with most instead ranking data accuracy, quick turnaround times, and an easy-to-use ordering platform as more important. Lead generation was the lowest ranked option.

• When considering issues facing conveyancers, cybercrime/ID theft was identified as the biggest concern with 83% of respondents stating they are either ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’. Some 80% responded similarly regarding money laundering/corruption.

• Fewer were as concerned about the AI/PropTech ‘knowledge’ gap, with only 17.3% suggesting that they are ‘very concerned’ about this issue.

• A growing number of lawyers (28%) are now using search providers’ technology to generate client quotes.

• Environmental reports and drainage and water search reports both topped the list of products ordered via their search providers (confirmed by 95%). AML, ID checks and indemnity policies are ordered by more than a third (37.5%) of respondents.

• The survey identified enthusiasm for webinars, with three quarters of respondents finding them useful to maintain continuing competency, and 21% also likely to attend seminars or roadshows on hot topics.

To be clear, the survey looked at attitudes towards search providers and perception of value-added services. It also explored continuing competency behaviours and gauged sentiment towards industry hot topics, such as cybercrime, anti-money laundering and PropTech.

Now, let me be sceptical about this report: the top ranked priorities were exactly what OneSearch, the largest local search data company in the UK, are pushing at the minute. 24hr turnarounds on their reports.

That being said for a moment, let's draw a comparison with the role of agents. Fees are always much debated. For years, this discussion has permeated through many a boardroom. Many discussions between negotiator and manager about an instruction being secured because fees have been dropped. At the point of a deal being agreed, the final negotiation point is the fees.

Stop dropping fees. Stop negotiating on fees. If anything, increase your fees. Align them with your clients’ expectations. We get you more, you pay more. We deserve it.

A mindset change is needed. This is both within the sector itself as well as our customers. As we know, 3%, 4%, or 5% of nothing is still nothing. Concentrate on what the customer wants most of all. They want their house sold or let at the best price to the best possible people, at the best price and in the smoothest way possible.

They want the stress removed, they want to be reassured everything will be okay and they want their property marketed beautifully.

They want to be proud that they are selling their house and that Sheila, their estate agent, nay, estate consultant, nay move consultant (you get the picture, estate agent is a difficult term to be proud of for some) has made the process amazing and was worth every penny of the commission they agreed. 

There are more important things than fees, regardless of whether we’re talking about conveyancing, estate agency or otherwise. As soon as you realise this, you will find yourself at the start of your future. If you deny it, you’re simply going to keep negotiating and eventually be forced to kiss goodbye to your organisation.

As for the general theme that conveyancers aren’t that worried about PropTech: that’s just daft.

Some 17.3% were very concerned about the knowledge gap of PropTech and AI. That is fair enough given most of the solutions that are listed in this report already fall under the PropTech umbrella.

Most of the aspects to speed up conveyancing, including searches, portals for case management, ID verification, and platforms for all to access, are all examples of PropTech. This seems to have been lost on the report here.

PropTech isn’t just the fancy stuff, the futuristic stuff and the technology that no one really understands. It is the run of the mill software that makes things happen. It is the enabler to make business happen more efficiently, more quickly, and more accurately.

PropTech has been around for years, it will be around for years to come. PropTech has a natural symbiosis with the property, financial, and legal sectors and will continue to do so.

I believe that this report underpins many of the values of OneSearch and is, therefore, fundamentally biased. It does, however, provide a key reminder about customers’ attitudes to paying for a service.

At least there was a reason to read it, after all.

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

  • Catherine Noble Hyland

    Thank you for taking the time to read our report. I’d like to confirm that the report was impartial and was conducted in the spirit of speaking directly to conveyancers about what matters to them most regarding their search provider.

    Regarding the topic of PropTech, the respondents scored this as a lower concern than other industry issues, such as cybercrime and money laundering. Of course PropTech is increasingly integral to many solutions within the search industry but there is a knowledge gap there. Perhaps this could be a good opportunity for us to collaborate and build content to help conveyancers gain the knowledge they need in this area? It would be good to discuss further.

  • Andrew Stanton CEO Proptech-PR    Proptech Real Estate Influencer

    Where to begin with this young James? So many strands let us have a go at addressing them. Solicitors are risk averse, status quo for them is not so much a rock group as a way of slowly engaging with the world, let us carry on as before and not do anything that will frighten the horses.

    Adoption of any new practice is slow, and whilst the whole of the conveyancing infrastructure is undergoing a quiet seismic shift, with the young blood building legal practices on and around tech to facilitate the paper pushing exercise of transferring title, there are equal numbers doing a King Canute and sitting at the seas edge saying the tide is not coming in, as it pools around their ankles.

    Lidia Quinlan would do well to take some time to visit some of the more enlightened legal practices who are not kicking proptech into the long grass, in ten years these companies will be the leaders in the field and companies proud of their paper driven processes will I am afraid go the way of Blockbuster video stores.

    On the topic of cyber crime being high on the agenda of concern, a recent law society report stated that 85% of legal firms in the UK did not have a basic and robust anti-money-laundering system in place. They do well to be worried. The irony - and young James Dearsley will support me on this hopefully, technology could remedy this.

    It could safeguard companies in the legal sector, but this would require a change of mindset, the employment of people within legal practices who could engender the culture change required and introduce the technology required, as most c-suite people simply do not have the time or knowledge to bring such change.

    On the matter of fees, I am an analyst and consultant, and the first thing agents say is 'I can not put my fees up because of the competition.' I always say forget the competition focus on the customer. If she or he is super happy, what you charge is irrelevant.

    People spend money when they are happy with the service or product, if you build your business around the client, not what you think they want, but really around what they want, you can charge a going rate, which should be the cost of running your business plus a healthy margin for profit.


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