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Slow conveyancers should suffer financial penalties, says PropTech man

The head of a PropTech platform wants financial penalties on conveyancers if transactions miss deadlines.

“The only way to accelerate the current legal process is to impose financial penalties on lawyers to keep a 10 week exchange target at the forefront of their minds” explains Silas J Lees, chief executive of PropTech service WiggyWam. 

The service has a stated aim of re-establishing the seller’s pack - this concept fell into disrepute after an abortive trial period over a decade ago. 


Known then as the Home Information Pack, this was a bundle of documentation which under the Housing Act 2004 had to be compiled before a property in England or Wales could be put on the market. It was repealed in 2012 by the Conservative-LibDem coalition after sharp criticism by estate agents who claimed it slowed marketing.

Now WiggyWam - a platform which claims to provide leads, listings, personal development training, instant tenancy referencing and video conferencing for agents - says it wants the packs back. It insists they would speed up deals and cut fall throughs.

The issue has gained prominence in recent weeks as transactions have slowed because of extreme workloads on conveyancing services and others involved in transactions; the stamp duty holiday has led to a surge in buying activity.

The WiggyWam platform says it is also offering a no-questions-asked refund on-the-spot refund to customers unhappy with its services.

Agents who sign up at a one-off cost of £197 before the end of this month are being given four months free access to the full service; thereafter, they must pay a standard subscription of £397 per month.

Then according to the company: “Twelve months after initial sign-up, if the agent isn’t entirely happy and satisfied with WiggyWam’s offering, they will be given a 100 per cent refund on the monthly subscription costs paid. This will be granted on the spot with no questions asked.”

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    When I saw this headline I thought it was 1st April!
    This is one of the silliest ideas I have ever heard. The idea shows a real ignorance of the process.

    The problems facing conveyancing have their genesis in the tendency of politicians to call for easier conveyancing, while at the same time passing legislation pulling the process in the opposite direction.

    There are sensible things that can be done to speed the process, but prosecuting professionals isn't one of them.

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    One way to get free advertising!!

  • Melanie Swann

    This makes my blood boil and displays a complete lack of understanding of how the conveyancing transaction progresses. 10 week exchanges would be good, yes and exchange can be achieved in less than 10 weeks where there is no chain no-one pulling out at the last minute, the Government introducing new schemes that the conveyancers need to understand - immediately- and implement to include acting as unpaid tax collectors. All the inefficient Home Information Packs in the world will not speed up the conveyancing transaction and anyone who really understands that all cases are not the same, will agree

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    Financial penalties against law firms is never going to happen and nor should it. Lots of things can be done to improve the process by focusing on small and specific things working on a marginal gains theory. This is not one of them.

  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    Totally inflammatory and lacks understanding.
    I am all for the concept of more up front data to make the job more straightforward for the conveyancer, but change and greater efficiencies will come from Estate Agents collaboration not the conveyancers.
    All the while conveyancers are being harassed and being the ones to chase up administrative tasks that should have been completed during marketing, they cannot get on with the lawyering effectively.
    I appreciate that the rhetoric above is designed to garner favour from the Estate Agent community, but they are the ones that need educating and understanding the needs to change their behaviours.
    Stop the blame culture and drive understanding.
    We offer everything for free to drive change within estate agents, not sure why any agent would want to pay for it.

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    Its yet another example of ''News'' but its really part of their FREE ''eye-catching'' marketing campaign

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    This is not wholly wrong, as much of the control of process is in the hands of conveyancers. However, with estate agents taking the lion's share of the legal fee in most cases, leaving the conveyancing companies a pittance on which to recruit the lowest possible level of competence to get them through, what we end up with is a lot of people who are not competent to make decisions about key elements of the process having to wait for the small handful of competent people who have far too much to do, to get round to troubleshooting the technical or risk issues that arise on any transaction. There are far more of these today than there were even 5 years ago - compared with 10 or 20 years ago the job has morphed out of all recognition. Risk has increased substantially, but returns have reduced as estate agents and panel managers have become greedier and greedier, whilst simultaneously wanting better service. These things are not reconcilable unfortunately, and fees in the hands of those taking the risk will need to rise if firms are to employ better qualified, better trained and - just better - staff, to handle cases day to day.


    You speak total sense Isobel. Fees do need to rise and that goes for agents too as not all are enjoying high fees and instead drastically cutting fees to get clients and barely surviving.

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    Solicitors shouldn't take on the work in the first place unless they can complete the work in a timely fashion. 10 weeks is plenty of time. Some things really bug me though - waiting for the mortgage offer to arrive before applying for searches that then take weeks to arrive. All UK searches should be electronic and free at point of source and paid for only if the move happens. That way solicitors apply for them as soon as the sales memos arrive, raise enquiries quicker and hey presto! sales might end up being a bit quicker.

    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    Searches should not be the excuse any more. We offer them Direct to home mover who can buy them as a vendor when they go to the market or as a buyer the same day a purchase is agreed.
    There will always be a delay when the ordering process is left to the conveyancer as they are unable to take client funds until they have completed ID/AML, unable to complete ID/AML until they are fully instructed etc etc. Point home movers to Property Searches Direct. We even have conveyancers referring to us to speed up the ordering process as no one is set up like we are at Property Searches Direct. Open 24/7 365 to support transactions.


    Some might say that we are already penalised by the ludicrously low fees charged for conveyancing relative to the fees of others in the process!


    It needs balancing out, but that shouldn't be done by bringing other's fees down, but by raising conveyancing fees to the right level so staff can be trained or recruited to carry out the work. After all, Its not the buyer and seller who set your fees. Some people will always go for the cheaper option and others for the best service.

  • Trevor Cooper

    Can anyone with a company name like WiggyWam be taken seriously?


    Google, Zoopla, Twitter, Ewemoov the list goes on.

    Algarve  Investor

    None of those are anywhere near as bad or as silly as WiggyWam.

    Zoopla, Google, Twitter, etc, might not mean much, but they have become distinctive names which roll off the tongue. WiggyWam just sounds a bit ridiculous, to be honest - used deliberately to try and make them stand out and be provocative. But it just doesn't have the same impact.


    Algarve, think the key word here is 'become' they were all stupid names just like this one but they now roll off the tongue as you say. They are memorable. Personally I couldn't care less what someone decides to call themselves it is what they do, how well they do it, whether I want or need it that matter to me.

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    The system here is so slow it is beyond extreme for this day and age and for this country. We can not blame the EU for this. This is a UK shambolic mess all based around property purchases which most western countries do in 2-3 weeks, the UK does in 2-3 months.
    Maybe conveyancing solicitors need a lawyer to take certain organizations to court and level the playing field.

    Matthew Gardiner Legge

    Agreed, see my rant below...

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    People agree the process is too slow. Using a stick rather than a carrot builds in a blame culture when it is often difficult to identify the cause or causes of a delay. Up front information displayed to potential buyers before they offer, on a system such as our PIP Vaults will help conveyancing times and reduce fall thoughs. Accepting change and flexiblity will be rewarded.

  • Matthew Gardiner Legge

    I think it's a great idea. I believe we have been cornered into a mindset in this country that property conveyancing involves some kind of mysterious wizardry that estate agents must keep their inquisitous noses well away from. If a freehold house has 'clean title' and is not falling down, as a cash buyer, why can't I just buy it in a few days? Rather I am told with a wry smile that, "it isn't as simple as that". I spent a few years selling properties in Spain (yes, I HAVE heard ALL the stories - get an approved lawyer) where often, an agreement is signed on the day with a 10% deposit, a few extra days to ensure all the main stuff is well, then payment for completion. A little too simple probably and yes, we have leases, easements, compliance etc etc but it would help if conveyancers spent a little more time responding to enquiries by picking up the phone and talking to each other rather than waiting endless days days for "letters responding to enquiries". Ahh, enough, don't start me! I need to go and chivvy up a solicitor over a complicated lease situation that's been holding up a sale for several weeks.


    You are quite correct, Matt, it’s not as simple as that. Frankly you don’t know what you talking about. It’s the conveyancer who carries the entirety of the massive risk involved in a property transaction. It’s the conveyancer who gets sued - not you. The Agents fire off the memo and think “that’s that”; well, it’s not!

    Matthew Gardiner Legge

    DA, after 35 years in the business I DO know what I am talking about and as one of the previous contributors pointed out, other countries do not have such elongated timescales for exchange to completion so why is it just the UK? It is not acceptable that sales can and do fall apart through the sheer frustration of lawyers waiting for fairly minor documents - I'm talking about the likes of applicance/building guarantees etc. Buyers lose, sellers lose, agents lose, lawyers still get paid. Something in the system needs to change and my guess is tech is starting to make those changes. Let's see. Don't get me wrong DA ALawyer, there are many great and competent lawyers and conveyancers out there and I am sure you are one of the very best.

  • Iain Harrison

    Not the worst ideas in the world, but until the conveyancing companies accept that they are a part of the problem then nothing will change...they take on too many files for the number of people they employ, they pay them poorly for that workload, they are poorly trained and unable to cope, but then the firms blame everyone else for why it takes so long. Many of these conveyancing firms seem to operate a 'stack it high, sell it cheap' mentality, grab as many files as possible and stuff the client who is paying them, the attitude is that it will take as long as it takes...that's from the top, not the individuals who work at these firms...


    It is those at the top then who should be penalised as its the conveyancers 'at the bottom' bearing the brunt of the anger and blame and for very little.


    Mr H’s post appears to be referring to ‘factory’ conveyancers. Well, it’s you agents that too often feed them the work, for your “referral fee”. It’s wrong to generalise, staring that conveyancers ‘pile it high’ etc. It is true that conveyancers need to spend appropriate time on a case; Agents can assist in this regard by not pestering and by not trying to get involved - at all -in the legal aspects. And please, no daft phone calls as month-end nears “has it exchanged yet?”

    • N W
    • 03 March 2021 12:01 PM

    i don't disagree other than the fact we have as many problems with full legal practices and they are generally charging higher fees (albeit it doesn't cover as it might once have done the fees that could and should have been charged) This fee war in conveyancing has actually now been going on for 15/20 years


    DA ALawyer,
    Unfortunately, I think you are part of the problem that needs to be addressed. You are coming across very negative and one sided in this discussion. I am guessing you are one of the old brigade who don't like change.
    "Well, it’s you agents that too often feed them the work, for your “referral fee”.

    Firstly, sorry but no one is forcing you to take on the work. It is your decision.

    "Agents can assist in this regard by not pestering and by not trying to get involved - at all -in the legal aspects" Sorry 'pestering' how about trying to help our clients move - it is the client who wants these questions answered after all!

    "And please, no daft phone calls as month-end nears “has it exchanged yet?” Says it all really and confirms my assumption that you are one of those who exasperates this problem.

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    I can see why the intro caused the reaction it did but in a small way it makes sense, however agents are just as much part of the problem. Maybe if the reverse was the case in that conveyancers are rewarded for completing sooner it could help? Most of what i have read of late echoes what Isobel Brookfield says above. There are abviously serious problems that need addressing to support conveyancers that might have a knock on effect on these processes.

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    This outburst by the firm, which does not merit naming, further emphasizes the need for rapid Regulation of the industry. I include Estate Agents primarily of course but also the type of parasitic organisation which has thrown up this ridiculous and offensive suggestion. Regulate all parties. BAN referral fees - such fees are used by Agents as a cash cow, and to feed the awful Conveyancing Factories which provide the poor or slow service often complained of.

    Iain Harrison

    I agree, we should ban referral fees, and also modernise the conveyancing industry because no sale should take more than 10 weeks to reach a point when it should be in a position to exchange. Whether it be a conveyancing 'factory' or a traditional solicitor the delays are intolerable and shouldn't be allowed, the amount of waiting and blaming the other side that happens is ridiculous, wasting client's time because the industry is still operating in the dark ages...

    • N W
    • 03 March 2021 11:54 AM

    Having spent four days trying to get a response out of a lawyer (not a conveyancing shed as you put it) as to why they were not ready to exchange contracts (our clients solicitors also having the same problem where the buyers solicitors refuse to speak with anyone and even got very up tight at the fact that my clients solicitors had dared to call them on the phone and chastised them.......) then I think much of the legal process also needs a root and branch review. The penny just having dropped with my buyers that perhaps, despite it being a multi million pound deal, that they weren't quite as important as they first thought they were to their solictors.... Of course its easy to point fingers and there are good and bad in all professions for sure but there also needs to be a reality check that the process as it is, is struggling (even before the stamp duty embargo) and that too many are hiding behind a wall of letters and emails and not being proactive enough in their clients best interests. There are I am pleased to say some very forward thinking and proactive lawyers out there and I thank them for being so minded. They give us hope that things can get better

    Matthew Gardiner Legge

    I agree DA ALAwyer. When I recommend, it's because I know the job will be done properly. I have never been offered a referral fee. Blame the corporates for the rise in conveyancing factories. I think I'm right in remembering the deal with one company I worked for was roughly client pays £1,000 to Crap & Co (large well know corporate estate agent), conveyancer got £250. Absurd!

  • Jamie Russell

    Whilst understanding the frustrations demonstrated by this article, it only goes to evidence the lack of understanding as to the main reasons contributing to and influencing extended transaction periods.
    Some 10 years ago, the market demanded a transition from an ‘Hours Charged for Work Done’ model to an all-inclusive ‘Fixed Fee’ model.
    Senior management within law firms, with little or no conveyancing experience, set their fees based on a simple survey of competitor pricing, without considering and seriously underestimating the time required per transaction.
    Further impacted by the modern-day paranoia where all stakeholders in the transaction wish to be updated on almost a daily basis, time required, and as such cost per transaction has increased by some 50%, whilst fees have continued to reduce.
    The legal markets response to fee reduction over the past 10 years, has been to employ lower paid, unqualified paralegals on this work and as such reduce their cost of sale to accommodate the lower fees.
    Unfortunately this has resulted in the quality of advice clients receive suffering, the ability of the legal advisor to consider more technical nuances reduce, and the enquiries process turning into a legal game of ping-pong with both parties using little more than pro-forma based documentation.
    In a further effort to improve profitability, management have merely increased individual caseloads, with conveyancers expected to carry excessive caseloads, requiring over a 1,000 hours of work, that is expected to be done during a 2 to 3 month period, when they only attend 300 to 450 hours.
    For all but the most commercially focused conveyancing businesses, fixed fees have exposed the wider legal market’s inability to scope work accurately and moreover recognise the need for effective systems and processes, experience and legal knowledge.
    Quite simply, until their regulators and work providers grasp this issue and consider capacity versus resource, all the Prop Tech in the world will do little to remedy the conveyancing time, quality, and service issues continually raised on this and other forums.

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    As we all know technology does not speed up transactions it is all down to the quality of staff.

    There is a firm in the area I practice who claim to have the best tech available, and indeed I am told their case management system is second to none. Yet to deal with them is like pulling teeth and a horrendous conveyancing experience.

    Clearly all the money they invested in technology has left them with little to put into the most important resource, experienced, able, competent staff.


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