Buying and selling a house is often referenced as being one of the most stressful life experiences that we can go through as adults.
Many sales go through smoothly but for others, things can go wrong - leading to delays, upset, misery, fall-through and unhappy clients.
While there is a general appreciation of the need for speed in the conveyancing process, it is surely underestimated just how important a factor it can be in ensuring a successful sale.
Not only does a protracted sale distract your estate agent staff from getting on with the day job, it also opens up the risk of the buyer or vendor changing their mind.
Speeding up the process is key to successful property sales, and the good news is that it doesn’t have to take as long as the industry average of 126 days from sale-agreed to exchange and completion. There can be many reasons why a sale takes longer than is ideal - but equally, there are ways to speed it up.
As an industry, we need to radically rethink some of our processes and norms. For example, often, searches aren’t ordered until far too late in the process because people are scared about wasting money if the transaction doesn’t proceed.
This cautious approach can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We advocate ordering searches immediately upon a sale being agreed, potentially removing around four weeks of wasted time.
It’s beneficial to our industry to consider these problems - and just because the process has worked a certain way for years, that shouldn’t prove to be a barrier to change.
Lack of effective communication can also be a considerable obstacle to a successful sale. Conveyancing is often a complex process, we all know that, but by keeping all parties informed of the state of play, you can considerably reduce the looping trails of chasing emails and phone calls.
A lack of dedicated resource to sales progression can also lead to delays. Finding sales staff pouring over reams of paperwork and juggling various issues and counter-issues is not an unfamiliar sight in your average estate agency.
It’s an element that is fraught with complication and stress and really needs dedicated, trained resource. Some agents recognise this and employ sales progressors or outsource it to organisations like ASAP but this is by no means universal.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to speed, though, is acceptance. Customers have been conditioned to accept the fact that buying and selling a house is a stressful event: they’ve been told by the media that it is, as above, one of life’s great stresses, and have prepared themselves to expect the worst. They expect lawyers and estate agents not to be talking to each other, they expect problems and they expect delays.
So with no sign of the process being simplified anytime soon, and with customer’s expecting to be in it for the long-haul, estate agents really have the opportunity to impress when they take steps to speed up the process.
It’s about streamlining, being proactive, understanding needs and dedicating resource as appropriate. That’s why outsourced sales progression is a route that many estate agents are now considering - delivering benefits not only for customers, but for employees, and the bottom line too.
The fact is, the benefits of speeding up the process are tangible. While fall-through rates can languish at anything up to 35%, our experience shows that if you reduce the time it takes to complete the conveyancing process, you can get those fall-through rates down to little over 10%.
Speed is important, and it has become a taboo topic because slowness has been accepted in this industry. It is encouraging to see sales progression specialists and tech solutions beginning to make inroads into the sector to improve service.
Just as you should always address the elephant in the room, we need to have a conversation about why things aren’t being done better. What’s to lose?
*Richard Megson is co-founder of Assured Sale & Progression Ltd.