How long can you shake the champagne bottle before it explodes with such ferocity that you can’t catch any of the fizz in a glass? It’s a great metaphor to reflect the current sales market, where the pressure to exchange and complete is building to such a degree that we’re in danger of everything going flat, rather than toasting sales success. Plus, there are two other factors also in play, which are adding to the situation.
The Stamp Duty holiday extension has, to use the agent’s favourite, ‘kicked the can down the road’ and created not one but two deadlines (in June and September) by which home movers have to complete. There’s also the ‘Stamp Duty cliff edge’, (or taper) with the potential for chains to collapse if those involved don’t think they’re going to exchange or complete in time, and therefore pull out of the sale.
Completion times increasing
A scramble to complete is guaranteed, with new buying activity fuelled further by the introduction of the Government-guaranteed 5% deposit mortgages. If GetAgent.co.uk’s figures are an accurate guide, it is now taking more than six weeks longer to complete a sale now than it was last year, when comparing the period between January and July 2020 to July and December 2020. In fact, buyers could be waiting almost 300 days for their purchase to go legally cross the finish line.
It’s now taking more than six weeks longer to complete a sale now than it was last year, for the period between Jan and July 2020 to July and December 2020.
So who is to blame for the bottleneck and what is being done to ensure 300 days does not become 400? Surprisingly, there is more emphasis on getting buyers and sellers engaged before they’ve even started the home moving process, and less back stabbing and bitching among mortgage lenders, conveyancers and agents.
Buyer – and seller – beware
As a supplier of sales progression software, Mio is perfectly placed to comment on the conveyancing and progression pinch points. “Although there is room for significant improvement between all parties in a transaction, the bottleneck can’t be blamed entirely on a lack of communication between agents, conveyancers and mortgage lenders,” says the company’s Emma Vigus.
Home movers aren’t solely responsible for the hold ups but in the majority of cases, they can play a far more active role in driving their transaction through to completion. Emma Vigus, Managing Director, Mio.
Emma acknowledges that buyers and sellers would benefit from a better understanding of the process, with encouragement to effectively manage their own transactions – a somewhat reoccurring theme.
“Home movers aren’t solely responsible for the hold ups but in the majority of cases, they can play a far more active role in driving their transaction through to completion by having all of their paperwork completed up-front. That’s why Mio has recently published a guide to the home moving process that agents and conveyancers can give to their clients.”
Similarly, Babek Ismayil at OneDome feels the home moving public could take more responsibility. “Most people make between two and four property purchases in their lifetime, so they are not always familiar with the finer details of the process. That can be one of the main reasons for delays – sometimes without the consumer realising it. Good sales progressors and case administrators will explain that the transaction is as slow as the slowest person involved.”
People are not always familiar with the finer details of the process, so good sales progressors will explain that the transaction is as slow as the slowest person involved. Babek Ismayil, Founder & CEO, One Dome.
OneDome’s solution to speeding up the process is to introduce a more transparent and collaborative approach to conveyancing. Its new HomeBuying platform is going through its final tests with agents, conveyancers and mortgage brokers right now – designed with driving transaction times down and a degree or mover selfmanagement firmly in mind. The new platform will also give sales progressors direct communication channels to solicitors and lenders, as well as provide coordination between various parties and automate certain tasks.
Not always the top dog
Babek may have hit a raw nerve for many agents when he mentions being able to speak to the lead broker, lender or solicitor. Being passed from pillar to post, without speaking to the person actually in charge of the file, is extremely frustrating – there is no doubt the lack of information does hold back progress.
Muve’s approach is to reposition who is responsible for providing updates to sales progressors, without any loss of detail or gravitas. “The key thing for law firms is to build high quality alternatives to the need to speak to the lawyer,” says the conveyancing firm’s David Jabbari.
The key thing for law firms is to build high quality alternatives to the need to speak to the lawyer – it is not in anyone’s interest for the lawyers to be taken away from their work. David Jabbari, Founder & CEO, Muve.
Its approach is to make highly trained account managers available via Muve’s personalised account management: “It is not in anyone’s interest for the lawyers to be taken away from their work unless they alone can answer a question,” adds David.
Preloading rather than playing catch up
Emma’s earlier comment on the difference it makes when a seller is prepared ahead of a sale is a sentiment taken very seriously over at Iamproperty.
Its launch of Movebutler encourages agents to get vendors sale-ready before a buyer is even found, with solicitor options presented at the start of the onboarding journey and three different legal pack options to ensure that clients are legally-prepared earlier in the process.
Ben Ridgway says this level of preparation can save two to three weeks of time, on top of a three-week average saving when an agent has spent time using Movebutler’s platform for pre-enquiries.
Head starts can happen now
Tom Gilbert at Sort Move also agrees that discussing conveyancing much earlier in the sales journey is essential for speed. “It’s possible that three to four weeks can be shaved off the process when documents are prepared and completed up front – there is no ‘waiting’ time for the client to fill in their paperwork after a buyer is found.”
Three to four weeks can be shaved off the process when documents are prepared and completed up front – there is no ‘waiting’ time for the client to fill in their paperwork. Tom Gilbert, Estate Agency Services, Sort Move.
Complementary news is already filtering in from The Law Society, who is set to pilot a scheme that will see the introduction of TA6 Part 1. This will be a new version of the vital form that is currently only collated once an offer has been accepted. The trial will see TA6 Part 1 completed upfront at a much earlier stage of the conveyancing process – with buyers able to make more accurate property evaluations during their search phase as a result.
Sort Move’s Fast Start for Sellers product is also part of the wider ‘conveyancing upfront’ picture and is available now. This bespoke client onboarding portal allows the seller to complete all of their necessary conveyancing paperwork, AML and ID checks at the time they list their house on the market.
Tom also details Sort Move’s solution to searches, which have threatened to derail many a home move: “Our Buyers’ Protection product provides insurance that covers the up-front costs associated with a purchase.” Crucially this covers the cost of searches, allowing them to be ordered at the soonest possible opportunity, with a degree of financial recompense should anything else happen further down the line.
Leader of the new pack
When you dovetail legal preloading with additional features, such as Iamproperty’s property reports – highly detailed documents designed to help buyers eliminate unsuitable properties early on – there are echoes of HIPs. “Our property reports are an evolution of HIPs,” comments Ben. “Anything that provides more information earlier in the process and ensures all parties have full information the better – especially if it means less chance of delays later in the process” he adds.
Iamproperty is also looking to introduce BASPI (Buying and Selling Property Information), which is an improved version of the current Law Society PIQ (Property Information Questionnaire) to help inject extra pace into transactions. “This will come in two parts – a mixture of material facts required to advertise properties under CPR regulations and the information provided at the start of the vendor process for the PIQ,” adds Ben.
Anything that provides more information earlier in the process and ensures all parties have full information, the better – if it means less chance of delays later in the process. Ben Ridgway, Managing Director, Iamproperty.
The upsides are threefold: the seller completes one set of information at the point of listing, avoiding duplicate questions in the PIQ; fall-throughs will be reduced by being more transparent at the listing stage, and solicitors can spot and resolve issues before too much legal progress has been made. As Ben at Iamproperty points out, sales progression is becoming slicker and perhaps more hands off. “A key selling point of Movebutler is that movers will have more visibility and control of their transaction – they can access their own dashboard and track progress themselves.” Embracing proptech and automation is commendable in cutting conveyancing times but at what expense?
Technology should support people
Ironically, it is one of proptech’s leading ambassadors who comes out in support of the human sales progressor. “The problem is not the people but the lack of connectivity between them,” says Coadjute’s Steve Dawkins. “The best technology supports what people want to do and with a purchase as important as a house, most buyers and sellers want to deal with a real human property professional.”
The best technology supports what people want to do and with a purchase as important as a house, most buyers and sellers want to deal with a real human property professional. Steve Dawkins, CRO, Coadjute.
Steve believes Coadjute’s roll out – a network that sits behind an agent’s existing CRM and CMS systems, rather than replacing existing software – will allow sales progressors to deliver a higher quality of service, rather than set them on the path to redundancy.
“Coadjute connects all parties and databases involved in a transaction, so sales progressors have accurate information across the transactional spectrum available instantly. This enables deals to be progressed, as time is not wasted gathering missing information. From a commercial perspective, more time will be created for fee-earning activity and doing what the agent does best.”
Coadjute’s open network unites agents with brokers, mortgage lenders and conveyancers so there is what Steve calls, “one single source of truth about the property transaction”. Property data, messages, documents, digital identities, digital signatures and in due course, digital cash can all be transmitted across a secure network – eradicating the top three irks among agents: duplicate data, endless chasing and the need to adopt yet another new IT system.
Cheers to proptech
It’s reassuring to know that the conveyancing and sales progression process is clearly the focus of intense development, delivered via proptech, by a cohort of suppliers. There’s very little elasticity in the system, illustrated by the current bottleneck causing such frayed tempers that the trade publication Today’s Conveyancer has appealed to all sides with a ‘Call for Kindness’ campaign!
With change, these pressures will subside and beyond today’s artificial boom, the conveyancing and sales progression process will finally begin to flow and the cork is likely to pop more easily from those celebratory bottles of champagne.