Should agents and conveyancers encourage improved communication between all property professionals?

Should agents and conveyancers encourage improved communication between all property professionals?

A recent joint memorandum made by various sections of the Northern Irish property professionals has indicated that improved communication is important to ensure a smooth and swift home buying experience.

The Joint Memorandum on improving communications between professions states: “The Law Society of Northern Ireland, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (NI) and the National Association of Estate Agents (NI) have agreed the following in the interests of facilitating the smooth operation of the residential property market in Northern Ireland and the related necessary formal contractual and financial arrangements between Vendors and Purchasers and their Lenders.”

With agents blaming conveyancers for overly long exchange times, it seems that many issues continue to resonate on both sides. For the sake of a peaceful and calm home buying experience, should both sides be working together to improve the experience?

Many have argued that a major reason for slow and inefficient work spans from a poor electronic system.

Peter Ambrose, founder of The Partnership, a conveyancing organisation that works closely with estate agents, has said in a recent blog: “No doubt you’ve worked with someone with a rose-tinted view of the good old days when client details were on card indexes.

“Sadly, for more lawyers than you’d imagine, many of them continue to struggle in this pre-computerised world with paper files and no case management systems whatsoever.

“Analysis of recent cases found that each, on average, involved about 130 documents plus 300 messages and emails with clients, agents and other lawyers.

“Yet the vast majority of law firms are still not scanning documents centrally and so that even if they do use a case management system, their lawyers waste hours looking through their paperwork manually. Sometimes, and it is rare, lawyers take it upon themselves to scan documents themselves.

“And you wonder why it takes so long to find out what on earth is going on?”

Our recent article found that The Dot Button, which was created by one of the founders of buy-to-let mortgage lender Landbay, enables investors to finance and acquire properties online, similar to the way they would buy a book.

In spite of these speculative technological breakthroughs, many are still critical of the everyday systems used by conveyancers, arguing that they are intentionally outdated and that people are too stubborn to join the world of technical efficiency.

Those defending conveyancers will argue that any task involving “130 plus documents and 300 emails” is always going to be time consuming, regardless of the way you read and retrieve this information.

If this is just for one transaction, a busy conveyancer is likely to be swamped in a quagmire of legal documents. Although a more streamlined technical system could improve the way this data is handled and stored, receiving, analysing and responding to data at different times is always going to create a delay caused by the unpredictable and constantly changing outpouring of documentation.

Rob Hailstone, founder of The Bold Group, an association of independent conveyancing businesses has said: “When trying to explain the conveyancing process to a layman I have always said that exchanging a chain of eight properties is like putting eight medium sized jigsaws together (i.e. the pre exchange process) in order for those eight medium sized jigsaws to make one large jigsaw (i.e. when all of the parties are actually ready to exchange).

“Back in the 70s and 80s those medium sized jigsaws could contain, say 50 or so pieces each.

“However, those individual jigsaws can now contain over 100 pieces each, and it only takes one small piece to be missing to hold the whole chain up.

“Over the last 20 years, more and more responsibility and tasks have been placed on the conveyancer.

“As a result, many of the good experienced ones have retired or moved on. Those that are left struggle, especially when interrupted a number of times a day by clients, brokers, and agents.”

Unfortunately, conveyancers have and continue to take the brunt of the blame for delays in the home buying process. Historical Surveys from 2013, by the conveyancing Association, found that 47% of the 1500 people surveyed believed that better communication was integral and would have sped up the process considerably.

Similar surveys in 2018, by Property Platform, revealed that of the 2000 people surveyed 38% did not trust estate agent referrals and 36% found the “the legal processing of their property transaction” the most dissatisfying part of buying and selling a home.

In a world where conveyancers are constantly being blamed for slow home buying processes, isn’t it time to start following the Northern Irish example and begin to agree on a clear communication process as opposed to a flawed channel of bickering and blame?




Martin Parrin

Martin is a Senior Content Writer for Today’s Conveyancer, Today’s Wills and Probate, Today’s Legal Cyber Risk and Today's Family Lawyer

Having qualified as a teacher, Martin previously worked as a Secondary English Teacher that responsible for Head of Communications.

After recently returning to the North West from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, Martin has left teaching to start a career in writing and pursue his lifelong passion with the written word.


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  • Absolutely, there should be, though it should be helpful not the usual blame-game. Electronic systems do not speed up the conveyancing process, it is practitioners who are too busy because of fees which are too low. There are also unrealistic ideas of how long a transaction takes and there is too little communication about the length of the chain, the position of the parties and when they wish to move. This is largely promulgated by agents who generally have no idea of the process, why certain things have to happen or how long they take. In my nearly 50 years of dealing with residential property work, the standards of the way the work is done has dropped through the floor. There is a horrible blame culture and very aggressive activities by many, including outright lying.

    • David

      Conveyancing is a supply chain but conveyancers’s only approach to supply chain management is to find someone to blame

      Fifty years ago I was involved in consumer research on the service. Six thousand movers responded to a questionnaire asking (inter alia) why it took so long to get to exchange . They were given many tick boxes for the expected main causes but the second most frequent answer was under “Other – please specify” It was “other side’s solicitor slow”. Last year the government repeated the exercise and found that this belief had moved up to number one.

      This client perception can only come from their own conveyancers.

      Conveyancing needs radical rethinking. As part of this we need to transfer the core processing function from conveyancers to professional transaction managers and have everyone’s work done through electronic systems with metadata which is open data available to enable comparison sites to publish objective information on promptness

  • Communication is starting to improve. I have been a conveyancer for over 50 years. 7 years ago I made suggestions to local estate agents on how the process could be improved to make it more efficient. As it would involve them in a little more work, none of them took this up so don’t go blaming conveyancers for delays when the majority of them are all for improvement and efficiency.

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