Estate agents have for decades battled the UK’s frustratingly opaque and slow conveyancing system.
But according to a proptech platform due to launch later this month, the days of the ‘black hole’ that property transactions disappear into after an offer has been accepted is about to have a very bright light shone into it.
Simon Bath, who two years ago set up a conveyancing legal firm but soon realised the system was “broken”, is about to launch When You Move, an integrated online platform that enables solicitors to keep their introducing agent and broker clients up-to-date with the latest progress on each transaction going through the system.
“I’m staggered by the process works at the moment – 80% of a sales progressors’ job is to make phone calls to a solicitor who often doesn’t pick up or returns calls enough,” he says.
“The level of frustration grows as all the parties try to find out what’s going on.
“But we’ve seen that, by using the technology in our own conveyancing business, if you can automate that comms piece then that problem disappears. And the phone stops ringing off the hook all the time.”
“We realised the tech had to be focussed on the estate agents and brokers who will use our system because right now I believe most of them have little confidence in the panel system that exists now,” he says.
“The way the system has worked until now has been a smoke screen of technology that has not really assisted the introducer or the client.
“An agent I know recently asked for an Excel spreadsheet of how all his transactions were progressing and it took four weeks to get to him – that she be instant, surely?”
Simon says that rather than tackling problems like this, the conveyancing industry has been busy racing to the bottom as solicitors have competed on fees to ensure they are on ‘page one’ of a panel’s listings.
To solve this, When You Move will offer agents a list of four or five hand-picked solicitor firms whose internal systems have been meshed via an API with its platform, but who are paid a proper fee for the work they do.
Agents are also able to retain or increase their referral fee, Simon claims, because Whey You Move is all tech and fewer people so it takes a smaller slice of the conveyancing fee cake than the current panel providers do because its costs are lower.
“Consumers get a mobile app to track the progress of the sale or purchase, agents get a web app and quoting engine and solicitors like us because they don’t have to use ‘another system’ to use When You Move,” says Simon.
When You Move prompts solicitors to update the system every three days with a progress report on each transaction and this is then sent automatically to the estate agent involved, reassuring agents that the solicitor is ‘on it’.
“Most solicitors can be terrible at being proactive and some of them think it’s beneath them, so we automate that for them by building in a trigger within the platform,” says Simon.
“It means the solicitor doesn’t have to think about that comms piece. we take all that away.”