Working relationships between estate agents and conveyancers can be mutually beneficial with the referral of work between parties.
However, they are missing a trick by framing their working relationships purely in terms of profit and failing to utilise these relationships to their full potential.
There is still much to grow upon when it comes to learning about each other’s business practices and culture to improve working relationships and dispel myths and prejudices.
One of the areas mostly affected by disjointed communication is client satisfaction. To those working within the legal sector, the annual Legal Ombudsman figures on conveyancing complaints will not come as a surprise – 23 per cent of overall figures. Nearly one in four complaints to the Ombudsman is about conveyancing.
We cannot get away from the experiences of many estate agents who say they were ignored by a conveyancer, with no commitment to keeping them in the loop. This is certainly not appropriate in today’s world.
Any conveyancer should put the communication with estate agents and clients at the top of their agenda. If this aspect of the process is neglected, it will only complicate and lengthen the conveyancing process, making any case more difficult and costly to run. Also, potentially, lead to a complaint being lodged with the Ombudsman.
This is where technology comes to play. Conveyancers need to give agents the tools to keep on top of their clients’ cases via integrated online platforms, for real time 24-7 access. The same applies to clients. The adoption of a simple technological innovation can make a huge difference in the communication between an agent and a conveyancer. Real time updates will also assist agents in managing the expectations of the client.
It is often repeated that on average cases take six to eight weeks to complete. I can honestly say that I see these cases very rarely across the profession. Cases involving non-traditional models such as shared equity, Right to Buy or where managing agents of leasehold properties are involved can take far longer to complete.
Conveyancers have for years been lobbying for managing agents to agree to a timeframe when it comes to providing leasehold documentation. This is only one of many areas where estate agents and conveyancers could work together as delays in completion on leasehold properties form a significant chunk of complaints made.
Agents have a vital role in the process to manage the expectations around when a completion might be possible. Conveyancers in return need to give estate agents the tools to do their jobs to their best of their abilities.
All parties within the conveyancing process have a role to play and estate agents should not be excluded. Disjointed communication only leads to client frustration and subsequent complaints. It is important that all parties understand each other’s business and processes to assist in managing our respective clients’ expectations.
I welcome the opportunity to explain the challenges we face when carrying out our due diligence checks and the difficulties we experience throughout the conveyancing process which are often challenging and cause delays which frustrate all parties.
This can often assist all parties to identify issues earlier and resolve problems before they start to cause delays in the process. At the end of the day both the estate agent and conveyancer have the same objective and that is to complete the transaction as quickly as possible, provide a stress free journey for our mutual client and receive payment for our professional services.
Delays are not beneficial to anyone and impact significantly on profitability and cause stress to all concerned.
Agents and conveyancers have a golden opportunity to develop joint resources to benefit both parties, reducing delays and preventing high costs.
The 21st Century conveyancing process needs to be one of efficiency and improved communication to better the client journey. The benefit that such a relationship can deliver in terms of efficiencies and reduced complaints makes a partnership between agents and conveyancers that goes beyond the bottom line a must.
*Linda Kirk is Conveyancing Partner at national law firm Stephensons