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By Nat Daniels

CEO, Angels Media


Property Natter - why conveyancers should charge more for a better service

The ongoing debate about how to boost agent and conveyancer relations, and improve the homebuying system for all, continues to rage, with too much tit for tat about who is to blame for delays, fall-throughs and other issues.

It might not be a popular opinion, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that conveyancers should actually charge more for the service they offer.

In many cases, the conveyancing process is too antiquated – bogged down by paper-based and complex processes - and takes too long to do. Recent reports suggest it’s getting longer, as a conveyancing logjam – not helped one bit by Covid and the stamp duty holiday leading to record levels of transactions - means that those who are looking to move this year and have yet to act will need to do so in the coming weeks.


According to Rightmove, it is currently taking, on average, 150 days to complete a purchase after agreeing on a sale, some 50 days longer than at this time in 2019, pre-pandemic.

As a result, those hoping to complete a deal in time to carve the turkey in their new home would need to come to market in the next few weeks to give themselves the best shot of sourcing a buyer and getting the transaction over the line before 2022 is done with.

The portal says that there are currently over half a million homes sold subject to contract, a huge number that is 44% higher than it was at this time in 2019. What’s more, it’s 39% higher than the pre-pandemic five-year average

Conveyancers, too, would have axes to grind with certain aspects of agency, so there are frustrations on both sides which have regularly been aired under stories on EAT and elsewhere.

There’s a definite argument that the conveyancing process, in most cases, hasn’t changed for many years and really hasn’t kept pace with tech. Given the growing influence of PropTech, it seems strange that this hasn’t fed into the conveyancing process itself, which still has far too many manual and paper-based elements to it.

There has been some attempted disruption with e-conveyancing and efforts to digitise the process to a greater degree, but this hasn’t really taken off fully or gone mainstream.

Real opportunities abound for a digitised, streamlined, efficient conveyancing process that reduces the burden on all sides. At the same time, what conveyancers do is far from easy. Much like agents, they are an easy punching bag and an easy target, but they perform an absolutely vital function. The work is specialised and complex and requires years of training.

A professional service like that should come at a price. In the same way that people are happy to pay for a professional survey or a professional mortgage broker, they should also be willing to pay for good-quality conveyancers.

Again, like with agents, driving up fees should help to increase the quality of the service, as people pay for a really fantastic experience.

We’re not talking astronomical sums that take the mickey, but fair and justified prices that reflect the work, effort and long hours that go into being a conveyancer.

There will be some who argue that they charge fees that are too high already, and for far too slow a service, but in most cases I don’t think that’s fair. Just as agents should charge fees more in line with Australia and the US, where being an agent is given real professional kudos, conveyancers should feel happy to charge the right market rate for a premium service.

The ultimate solution, in my opinion, is that both sellers and buyers ought to come to the market as ‘buyer/seller ready’ to make the jobs of both agents and conveyancers a lot easier. If we can cut out some of the chasing up and chasing down required in the early stages of a property transaction, it makes sense that things will move quicker. This is especially the case in long and complicated chains.

To me, it makes absolutely no sense for a property to come to the market blind. Buyers could spend hundreds if not thousands on fees only to find that either the property is not mortgageable or indeed the seller themselves are not able to get a mortgage for their onward purchase.

By contrast, if both parties/properties came to the market ready, the fall-through rate (currently around 33%, give or take) would dramatically decrease, in turn massively improving the whole process.

You’re never going to get rid of fall-throughs completely, but they could be much lower and we could get rid of this culture where fall-throughs are simply tolerated and accepted.

We could also look to get rid of deeply unpopular and controversial, but perfectly legal, practices such as gazundering and gazumping, which simply help to create a dysfunctional housing market.

Some great work is being done on upfront information by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, led by the unflappable James Munro, although opinion is divided on whether they’re now going too far with the possibility of including mobile signal and broadband speeds as standard on property listings.

The team at Gazeal, led by former agent Bryan Mansell, are also doing some excellent work on improving upfront information and popularising the use of reservation agreements.

From a conveyancing perspective, Rob Hailstone’s Bold Legal Group, Beth Rudolf from the Conveyancing Association and other key stakeholders in the industry are doing their bit to modernise and improve the homebuying and selling process and improve relations between agents and conveyancers.

Last month, property day firm tmgroup sought views on how agents and conveyancers can work together better ahead of a panel session it was hosting on the subject and found that referral fees, lack of trust and too much email were identified as the main barriers to greater collaboration between conveyancers and estate agents.

It was suggested that fewer emails and more lunches could help boost agent and conveyancer relations.

Something certainly needs to be done, and it seems certain that tech will play a role somewhere.

In the meantime, all attempts to improve relations and improve the whole process are very welcome in my book.

NAEA Propertymark conference back in town

On Thursday, some of my colleagues and I attended the NAEA Propertymark conference, in Bishopgate, London. As ever, a great chance to network and chat to property people, while some great talks from some great speakers were included within the event. This included the aforementioned Beth Rudolf and James Munro, as well as industry influences such as Chris Watkin, Jerry Lyons and Amanda O'Brien.

Former ARLA man David Cox, now Rightmove's Legal and Compliance Director, was also there, as was Propertymark's CEO Nathan Emerson. Property royalty Phil Spencer spoke, too, and a special partnership between Spencer and Propertymark was announced on the day.

Meanwhile, the two keynote speakers on the day were Dr Andy Cope, a Doctor of Happiness, who talked about the art of being brilliant, while Sarah Furness from Well Be It looked at what agents could learn about keeping cool under pressure.

A great day, and here's to doing it all next year.

Until next time…

*Nat Daniels is CEO of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.


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