How can you reduce the time between sale agreed and exchange?

Some of the property industry’s leading experts have come together to discuss ways in which the homebuying process can be improved.

Participants included Peter Ambrose, MD from The Partnership, Jon Cooke, CEO of Nurtur Group, Jan Hytch, partner at Arnolds Keys LLP, and Beth Rudolph, co-chair of the Home Buying and Selling Group.

The discussion between the panellists, facilitated by UK property journalist, Christopher Watkin, who posed this question to the panellists, “With so many stakeholders and professions all working towards the same goal, why is the process taking so long?”

Rudolph pointed out that 34% of transactions – on average – fall-through, which leads to “wasted work by all of the stakeholders”.

During the discussion, organised by three key themes emerged.

  • delays obtaining the necessary information
  • inefficient communication
  • lack of transparency

Delays obtaining the necessary information

The time taken to gather all the information required to conduct the conveyancing process was raised as one of the main causes of delay.

Getting the information pack started at an earlier stage and appointing a conveyancer earlier on in the process were both posed as potential solutions to shorten the timeframe.

Rudolph added: “Certainly, at the Home Buying and Selling Group, we have pledges to try and get conveyancers instructed on day one of marketing to try and make sure they can review the information and identify anything that might be relevant to the material information.”

Hytch explained how her estate agency team are helping to get the process started faster; “I’m finding that we’re more and more getting the property information form, and we do it ourselves with the client to get the ball rolling – and we explain to them why we’re doing this, and they understand, and they appreciate the fact. We can as estate agents do a lot to get that groundwork done.”

“That has overcome so many niggles at an early stage, whilst people’s hearts and minds are still excited and engaged with this process.”

Upfront information

Conversation turned to upfront information as a potential solution for resolving some of the delays.

“There was a Propertymark survey that showed that 60% of estate agents were getting the upfront information, but nobody was asking for it.” Rudolph advised.

“If we made sure that the buyer had all the information upfront. They knew they were buying the right property for their intended use and enjoyment; they knew which lenders would lend on the property, then we wouldn’t have nearly so many fall throughs.”

The Buying and Selling Property Information (BASPI) dataset, designed to be the ‘one source of truth’ when it comes to upfront information about a property is completed at the point of marketing a property, and is planned to help cut down on the need for duplication of tasks and information gathering within the process, by making that data accessible to all stakeholders.

“The solutions are already out there. We need to embrace them” added Rudolph.

By obtaining and sharing upfront information, this would also enable the surveyors to create their report based on fact, rather than assumptions. Helping to minimise the on-average 21 days which such enquiries can add to the conveyancing process.

Cooke recommended that the key to speeding up transactions and smoothing the home buying process is all about helping the vendor to achieve their goal: “It’s not necessarily about the bricks and mortar, it’s about the actual consumer. By informing them that upfront information will help to achieve that outcome. It’s going to make that outcome happen.”

Communication and transparency

The consensus among the panellists was that communication and difficulty keeping track of progress were among the biggest problems faced by all parties, resulting in the need to chase the various parties up and down the chain for updates.

Hytch commented: “It’s absolutely mind-numbing to have to call your vendors week after week to say I’m afraid there’s no more news. I’m afraid the solicitors still haven’t got back to us. It makes you feel that you’re ineffectual in some cases, because you’re not able to extract the information.”

Better use of technology was posed as a potential solution. In addition, as the same information is used throughout the process, by the estate agent, the conveyancer, the mortgage broker, the valuer, and the lender, as identified by the Home Buying and Selling Group; this enhances the opportunity for technology to offer support.

Ambrose commented: “The fundamental problem is that people are trying to do too many cases, with either too little experience or too little tech.”

“I think if everyone were able to work in one platform, that would take days if not weeks off the process… From a technology point of view, CRMs are opening up. That means that data can flow. APIs are opening up. Therefore, that gives the opportunity for better communication for everybody, all the way through the process” advised Cooke.

Hytch echoed the need for greater use of technology, adding, “The origin of the data is with the estate agent. If you’ve got an entry point for software, it has to start with the CRMs that the estate agents use.”

The importance of updating clients and keeping them in the loop, even when there are delays was also raised as a way of ensuring clients remain satisfied and their expectations are managed. Therefore, helping to avoid fall-throughs.

A way forward

Watkin provided a summary of the findings of the discussion, before asking the panellists for their concluding thoughts and recommendations on how to help fix the home moving process.

“We’re trying to create a positive home moving process for all,” advised Rudolph.

“Now, to do that the conveyancers need to be asking for that material information upfront, the estate agent needs to be putting the information in their memorandum of sale and ensuring that what they’ve collected they do pass on to the conveyancers, but also to the mortgage broker.

“Because we want to make sure that the mortgage application goes to the right lender that will lend on that property. So, we need to share, and we need to collaborate, and we need to ensure that all the information is available upfront.”

A key theme throughout the discussion, ‘technology’ was again raised.

“My personal view is technology. I think we need to be less scared of it… I think chain view is really critical, and that’s a clever bit of tech. Something that doesn’t involve people. We need to take people out of the process. I think that’s the key,” said Ambrose.

“The ministry did identify that we need to deliver certainty and transparency, and chain view is really important to that” added Rudolph.

“If we could wind the clock forward a couple of years’ time and see the basis of a grid of information that’s shared between all parties, that we can log into and have a look, so that you can see the chain, you can see the progress… You can see we’ve got a problem three sales down the line… we will be in a lot better shape,” agreed Hytch.

“Bring back home information packs, digitally.” added Cooke.

By adopting these changes, can we look to see a faster, more efficient home moving process?

The results remain to be seen, though the foundations for many of these positive changes are already in place. The key now is for those of us involved in the home buying and selling process to embrace them.



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  1. Rob Hailstone

    Instruct a conveyancer upon marketing, get them to prepare a Property Transaction Pack (as exchange ready as is possible). Create a Property Logbook upon completion, ready for next time.

  2. Emmersons46

    If only it was so simple..


    1 Perhaps defining the word “delay” and stop using it when it’s not appropriate.

    2 Perhaps understanding that a request by an estate agent for a quick update every week isn’t a priority.

    3 Perhaps addressing issues as to Title before marketing the property.

    4 Perhaps recognising that AML isn’t just about getting some photo id and a bank statement.

    5 Perhaps not overestimating the importance and benefits of tech. One of the main issues is trying to get someone working in a tech focused conveyancing factory to understand and recognise what a legal problem looks like and why a legal solution is necessary.

    6 Perhaps licensing estate agents and introducing CPD for them.

    7 Perhaps banks employing more people to avoid 2-3 hour waits in a call for an answer.

    8 Perhaps recognising that focusing on speed is missing the point.

  3. #ImpressiveConveyancing

    Ensure deals fly through:
    1. Don’t refer someone to a factory style conveyancing company – nor a conveyancer you take a referral fee from
    2. Never refer to a conveyancer who does not have their lawyers’ emails and personal phone numbers promoted on their website
    3. Do all links in the chain have a mortgage approved in principle – Is an offer from someone with any of the above in their chain actually worth advising a seller to accept, as it could add weeks/months or maybe abort
    4. Don’t abandon the deal you put together the moment lawyers start – keep actively involved….as it’s your deal
    It’s all about the quality of the conveyancer – and if their client is prepared over their mortgage.  
    Upront information? Fancy I.T? Communication? Not really relevant – if I think of the 100 files I have at any given time. 1 – 4 are the main culprits.  
    Now, let’s get people exchanged and into their homes by Christmas.

    1. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

      This has to be the best comment from a lawyer EVER.

      “Upront (sic) information? Fancy I.T? Communication? Not really relevant”.

      This is the reason why the conveyancing process is so darned difficult.

      Entrenched, ill-informed attitudes.

      Our case rests.

  4. Cashe

    All the above suggestions and views seem to circulate endlessly, without ever looking like changing anything in practice. So how about the following:one conveyancer to deal with a whole chain – a proposal I`ve made before, and which was traduced without ever being investigated, presumably in a reaction of knee-jerk protectionism. The benefits; An end to inaccurate/ incomplete/conflicting information (or at least full accountability for it!) An end to conveyancers smearing each other as to why there`s a delay to the confusion of agents and clients An end to communication delays which are presently unavoidable An end to completion day nightmares Full chain view being given to clients and agents throughout the process    

    1. Rob Hailstone

      I don’t think your suggestion was simply traduced. But to put it simply, way too many conflicts of interest would arise. Regulators, lenders, PII companies etc, would not condone it.

  5. Robert_May

    How can you reduce the time between sale agreed and exchange?
    Be the only people in the transaction; be either the buyer or the vendor and try to avoid any need to be dependent on  anyone else, that’s when delays occur.  

  6. Cashe

    Rob, do you really feel able to say what all these various bodies would and would not allow if a dialogue were opened? I ask as, for instance, conveyancers are able to act on both sides of a chain link subject to safeguards, so why not the entire chain?

    As for conflicts of interest, well, let`s wargame that and see how many there actually are. I`d suggest very few. As for any that are identified, there`ll be a way to resolve them with discrete independent advice. Incidentally, nothing could be a bigger conflict than the age-old system which prevails involving the cosy referral relationship between conveyancers and agents (whether for money or `hospitality`).

    Finally, nice of you to put it `simply`, but I worked in conveyancing for thirty years and then for a short time for a regulator! No offence taken, though.


    1. Rob Hailstone

      Of course I can’t speak for them, but in my opinion, even if you got one on board, you would not get all of them, and the dialogue would take years and years.
      I also worked as a conveyancer for thirty years, and would not want to have acted for all of the parties in a chain of any decent length.
      I was trying to put it ‘simply’ Cashe in order to save time, not to imply you (or anyone else) are simple.

      Good luck with your quest. More chance of England winning the World Cup though.

  7. Mike Stainsby

    Fascinating article but little consensus on practical steps to improve the process. It is very apparent that the sectors are at odds over what is needed and how to bring it in. Sellers need to take more responsibility for gathering documents in readiness for the sale and then share them when required to do so. ‘Bring back HIP’s’ wow, most agents were dancing on their graves when they were scrapped and the industry has gone backward since.

    The reference to selling a car seemed highly relevant to me as you can gain instant information to millions in a few seconds. The solutions are out there BUT the industry just isn’t looking for them. Maybe as the market slows and Agents and Conveyancers look for differentiators they will be more interested. I remain hopeful, ready willing, and able.


    I’m selling my own flat at the moment. My buyer’s solicitor wrote to me and said they have (sic) ‘EVERYTHING’ they need.

    One week later after me chasing again, they sent the buyer the contract for witnessing and signature and request for it to be posted back.

    There two fundamental issues there, can you spot them?

    Answers on a hand delivered postcard addressed to the ‘Department of not knowing your ar$e from your elbow’… Closing date somewhere in the future as long as it’s not that day because they don’t work everyday as that day is a school inset day apparently.

  9. tim main

    All i can add to this is when i last sold a house i prepared as much of the paperwork before any marketing.  Shared it with potential buyers and agreed a 2 week exchange with the buyer.  Took 2 weeks and a day as the buyers solicitor tried to changed the terms agreed without the buyer knowing.  Discussing a much larger sale today and the discussion was about a 2 week exchange!  It really can.  Even if this sort of service was offered as a premium, and at an increased price, i am sure there are buyers and sellers who would be happy to pay extra for the certainty.

  10. GreenBay

    Good article BUT!

    As per Mike Stainsby above. HIPS would solve the upfront information and title issues. Not all agents were dancing on their graves. Perhaps Nick Salmon can come on here and say how the transaction process has improved since they were abolished.

    One conveyancer having responsibility for a chain? How about one conveyancer having responsibility for each transaction. They answer to the mortgage company or, like in the USA a title insurance company, who are only interested in ensuring the title is correct for if the property has to be repossessed or if a title issue happens after the transaction, they compensate the owner. This would probably halve the transaction time as a minimum.

    Make sellers legally responsible for describing their property. If they know it has subsidence, they have to declare it, this would save aborted sales and a lot of wasted time and professional fees.

    If we just looked at the transaction as being a transfer from one owner to a new owner, rather than a potential life long liability that means two solicitors have to have a legal argument over it, things would I believe become simpler and more straight forward.


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