Conveyancers call on Government to license estate agents and make offers legally binding

Conveyancers are calling for the licensing of estate agents, together with a requirement to pass a fit and proper test before they can trade.

However, the housing lawyers have rejected any ban on referral fees.

They are also asking for offers to be made legally binding, with financial penalties should either side withdraw from the transaction.

Trade body the Conveyancing Association has made the proposals in its response to the Government’s ‘call for evidence’ to improve the house buying and selling process.

It is also calling for greater digitalisation, including electronic signatures recognised by the Land Registry.

Additionally, it wants to see search data made available online.

Other suggestions include the establishment of a property log for each individual property in the UK; purchasers to have mortgages approved in principle before they can make an offer; and for sellers to provide much more information up-front.

The CA does not want to see referral fees banned, saying “they often provide transparency and deliver enhanced service levels due to the agreements in place”.

The call for evidence was due to close yesterday.


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  1. Rob Hailstone

    Just to be clear, whilst doing some sterling work, the Conveyancing Association is not the ‘trade body’ for all conveyancers. Their member’s number about sixty:

    1. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

      Yes – to be crystal clear – the Conveyancing Association represents a tiny minority of companies.

      Whilst they rightly claim a large volume of transactions carried out by their members, it is safe to say that it is those very members that contribute to the attrocious performance of the industry with transaction times continuing to get worse every year.

      It is this low-cost, often outsourced, model, that feeds the voracious panel manager marketing hype of “greater efficiency”.  Anyone that believes the nonsense description about panel managed firms offering better service needs to talk to their negotiators and progressors on the front line.  They’ll tell them the truth of shocking service levels and deals killed by the very people who pretend to represent us.

      Looking forward to 2018 when we start whistleblowing about the realities of panel work and it’s detrimental affect on consumers.

  2. ArthurHouse02

    Firstly Conveyancing Association,get your own house in order before calling out others. The slow meandering process of conveyancing is what brings most frustration to the sales progression process. Solicitors not returning phone calls, sitting on enquiries, writing letters when emails would do, refusing to use that old school thing, the telephone. As for referral fees, if your business is good enough, you dont need them. I refer to the same solicitors i referred to before referral fees, the security of my sale is more important than a hundred quid. Referral fees are how rubbish firms keep up with the competition.

    1. Bless You

      Agreed. Selling houses is fairly straight forward. Legal system and bad attitudes to customer service is where all the work goes in our job. Doing what solicitors are being paid to do.


      Trouble is if you make offers legally binding estate agents will be getting sued every day by buyers looking for someone to blame for their mistake.

      And what happens if you buy a house which after survey has subsidence?

      Its the mortgage and legal system that needs to speeding up.

      Searches taking 6 weeks is a joke. Should be a 2 second job now we have the tinternet.

  3. TwitterSalisPropNews53

    Offers to be made legally binding is a red herring, as chain collapses, searches, survey and non-disclosures by sellers will always – like now – allow an escape from an offer.

    Referral fee ban – of course few argue for the ban, as enormous sums trade hands, especially by those mediocre conveyancers, often volume outfits, who cannot trade on their name/quality.

    Greater digitalisation – again, a red herring, as give a mediocre conveyancer bells and whistles IT, and you still have a mediocre conveyancer, now with flashy redundant IT. Instead improve the human conveyancer using any IT. Get them to even use the current instant IT we all have – email!

    The call for evidence will lead to almost no change – sadly – as the task at hand is too great -i.e regulation of who can offer conveyancing by actual annual accreditation, like Lexcel, and banning referral fee (i.e all financial payment of any kind to any estate agent). Until you stop the fact that a legal firm can badge even their cleaner as a conveyancer, nothing of significance will change….save with digitalisation, like abolition of the Land Certificates…only a higher risk of fraud – the last thing we need at a time when email hacking and bogus law firms are rife.



  4. Mark Connelly

    Nice to see that the lawyers have their very own Purple Bricks to deal with.

  5. Fairfax87

    So Peter, are you are saying that leading CA firms like Shoosmiths contribute to the attrocious performance of the industry with transaction times continuing to get worse every year ?   Nonsense.   I can give you an example where a newly launched panel managed service has transformed the pipeline conversion of a well respected Estate Agency business this year, precisely because its been put into the hands of very proficient, and organised firms who want to work WITH Estate Agents.

    Whether you are big or small, High St or direct,you will find good firms and bad firms… so please stop your sweeping generalisations.

    1. Garret2

      Hi Fairfax87 – Please do give us that example.

    2. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

      Dear Fairfax87

      ( It would be nice to know if you were in agency and from what position you are commenting from?)

      You are absolutely right that there are good and bad firms – direct and indirect, and I am not making generalisations about anyone here.  The feedback from agents that we work with – and we’ve got a LOT of experience in this area) is that the performance of firms that are receiving low fees is poorer than those that are not.

      When you talk about “transformation” – from what to where – a little more detail would really help here, because it’s difficult to guage otherwise.  Going from “absolutely attrocious” to “pretty bad” could be seen as a transformation.   As Garret2 asks; let’s see that example – what was the performance before and after.

      Always looking for good news stories because right now, there aren’t many around.


  6. Woodentop

    Licensing of estate agents will make conveyancing smoother … rubbish. Referral fees should be banned, yes they are an income but when someone is being paid to refer, is the customer really getting the best recommendation? This has been misused within the FS sector for decades. Search data should be made available … however try telling that to the local council, who are the ones holding that one-up with searches, which frankly are still in the dark ages. Property log book …….. change the law first and then get conveyancers to accept the information in it … someone’s forgotten the HIP fiasco with conveyancers. The only good bit in the article is about mortgage in principle before offer, which any sound agent has been doing for years but as we all know the surveyor then puts their foot in it or as often later found the MIP is worthless and was issued by “licenced” mortgage adviser! So much for licensing being the answer.

  7. Rob Hailstone

    Well, hopefully over 1000 conveyancers responded to the Call for Evidence, and hopefully many agents and others did the same. It is one thing, both factions continually knocking each other in PIE, but quite another taking your time to send in well thought through suggestions.

    I began my conveyancing career back in the mid 70s, more unregistered land, no emails etc. However, on the whole, it was a quicker less stressful process and agents and conveyancers got on a lot better than they seem to now.

    Something (a number of things) have gone badly wrong in the last 40 years. Only by working together can we improve the process for all involved in it.

  8. JohnGell

    Lots of cold water being poured in these suggestions.

    Unconditional formal offers in Scotland are legally binding, and this works superbly well: Parties know where they are quickly, gazumping is impossible, and the requirement for a Home Report prior to marketing means offerors are offering on an informed basis.

    Time to adapt and change, I’d suggest.

  9. Sunbeam175

    If we adopted the Scottish system it would mean that prior to putting in an offer you would need to have a survey carried out. With the sealed bid system it could mean that multiple people all have to have a survey carried out with only one successful bidder. Lots of disgruntled buyers and guess who will get the blame. Is gazumping a bad thing (prior to anyone spending money), often we have an acceptable offer and then (whilst waiting for financials) we get higher offers, often thousands higher. We represent the vendor at the end of the day.

    i think there should be a ‘penalty’ system whereby if you pull out of a sale for reasons other than survey issues that you should have to reasonably reimburse the vendor and the upper chain for their losses. It’s all to easy to simply ‘change your mind’ costing other parties hundreds if not thousands of pounds and chains above collapsing causing a great deal of distress.


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