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Agent and conveyancer relationships must go beyond the bottom line

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

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    The mindset of groaning when a conveyancer telephones a conveyancer has to stop.

    Why? Because Agents can be a real asset to a conveyancers work, but more particularly, conveyancers need to realise that Estate Agents do not get paid until the conveyancer exchanges contracts, so having handed the baton to the conveyancer with all their weeks of hard work, wouldn't you expect them to be worried the conveyancer may prove mediocre (e.g going too slow, poorly trained in conveyancing, a case handler unable to make decisions without sign-off) and so drop the baton and scupper the deal.

    Having written about this very thing - http://www.trethowans.com/site/people/profile/tim.higham - it is crucial that conveyancers go back to chasing deals through.

    We have now set a target of 4 weeks maximum to exchange of contracts on all transactions now, as quite simply put, it can be done....or we wouldn't attempt it.

    We save so much time: 1. we don't charge more for being instructed at the same time the estate agent is (so we can prepare, and study the deeds for likely issues), in fact we don't charge our time at all if sellers change their mind and don't accept any offers. 2. we apply as early as possible for leasehold management packs 3. we recruit standalone highly trained lawyers who make instant conveyancing decisions 4. we aim to despatch contract papers the same day as instructed and 5. we so often return around buyer enquiries by return of email.

    As for communication with Agents, it is fundamental, they are a real benefit to the role of the conveyancer.

    We constantly cc agents to emails to the other lawyers - giving them a weekly update on top too - enabling them to know in full detail - not silly tick box online updates which even a tradesman selling a certain software package once said to me "the agents love the tick boxes; tells them nothing, but they don't call you"...which made me furious, as we want everyone to be informed in detail, not 'applied for searches 'tick', sent out contracts 'tick'. Instead real detail agents can paste or forward to their own clients. We even get emails from the parties in the chain saying they have seen our email and complaining their own lawyers don't update like we do, and can we help them!?

    But never rushing, just, expertly prompt. Clients get exchanges, agents get paid...and oh, so do we.

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    The mindset of groaning when an ESTATE AGENT telephones a conveyancer has to stop.

    (Conveyancers rarely call each other)



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