Improving the home buying and selling process should begin with estate agents

Rob Hailstone

My neighbour is trying to move home, and he is having a nightmare time of it, despite a short chain and few mortgage issues for any of the parties involved.

He tells me his conveyancer had to wait over two weeks before they received any kind of documentation from his seller’s conveyancer and that the (Local Authority) search will take weeks to come back, if not longer. Knowing what I do for a living, he asked me why his seller was not better prepared to proceed when they accepted his offer. As an ex-HIP provider words (for once) failed me.

So, a simple question, to begin what I hope will be a healthy and constructive debate;

Why don’t estate agents suggest that their sellers instruct a conveyancer when they take a property on?

Even if the conveyancer only opens a file, it would be a start. If they went further and obtained the title deeds, plan and a completed PIQ, even better. Let alone ordering searches as well!

It’s not brain surgery or rocket science, and it need not cost much (if anything at all) and a simple change in procedure may help reduce transaction times, fall through rates and stress levels.

There are a number of companies that can provide some kind of ‘sellers pack’ software should that be required, but in all honesty no software is needed to compile a basic pack.

I began my conveyancing career back in the mid-70s, which, for all intents and purposes, was pre internet and pre-emails. Most properties had unregistered titles, contracts were often exchange by hand or post, and completions were always carried out face to face. And yet, transactions times were quicker, fall through rates fewer and stress levels at a manageable level. In nearly half a century we have gone backwards, not forwards, why?

I fully accept that seller’s packs are not a silver bullet, but they would, in many cases help. I therefore repeat my question;

Why don’t estate agents suggest that their sellers instruct a conveyancer when they take a property on?

The market will change and properties will not be flying off the shelf for ever. Now is surely the time to begin thinking about improving the process, not when it is too late to do so.


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  1. ComplianceGuy

    In my experience, there would be little use to the seller having their conveyancer obtain searches at the outset, as many purchasing conveyancers won’t accept searches obtained by others.

    Even when a purchase has been going through, searches obtained, and then falls through, the next buyer’s conveyancer seldom purchases the searches from purchaser number one.

    There’s also the issue of time. If searches are obtained at the outset but then marketing takes a while and it’s 3-6 months before a sale is agreed, I doubt the purchasing conveyancers would accept them.

    Definitely agree, however, regarding instructing conveyancers, getting title and PIQ in advance.

    1. Property Searches Direct

      A conveyancer is duty bound to do what is best for their client. IF a perfectly good and in date search pack is available and their client is happy to buy them or use them, no one can say they can’t. The Home Mover pays for the Searches and so they CAN and SHOULD dictate where they come from and how they are obtained.
      No where does it state that a search bought by a vendor cannot be used. The Search Code was set out to offer security and confidence to the buyer, vendor and lender.The only thing that needs to be seriously considered is the marketing price. IF the price is set to high and the vendor is going to ‘give it a go’ for three months at the worng price, then it is not wise to get searches ordered.IF however, the marketing price has been set to align with the market and there is confidence in its saleability, searches should be ordered. We offer vendors a 100% refund for search costs when a buyer is found who pays for the pack through us.This is our business model and we have never had a buyers conveyancer refuse them. It would only ever get friction when and if a conveyancer could have made money out of the searches…which is not a reason to refuse prefectly good reports that have been obtained.
      The biggest problem is conveyancers trying to suggest that they always know best and believing that there is a perfectly appropriate solution to speed things up. They just need to accept that some of the traditional ways are old hat and not fit for transactions today.
      If sales were agreed with fully completed protocol forms, a full set of fresh searches from legitimate sources and a wilingness by all parties to get the job done, where is the issue exactly?

      1. Tristan1010

        Agree with all of your points. If estate agents passed a vendor to a solicitor on instruction the solicitor could obtain title deeds, review the PIF and also produce a pre-sales report on what the vendor needed to get in place as the purchasers solicitor would require this e.g. building res if the PIF indicated an extension etc…

        Agree about the agent ordering the searches, but one issue here is that if the estate agent is one of the panel agents they would charge sellers circa £350 per search pack and take their cut when they can be obtained by solicitors for circa 145 – 200.

        Panel agents take huge cuts from the search fees and up to 50% of the solicitors fees as well as bottles of wine and nights out from solicitors (surely this should be the other way round for the solicitor completing the case and passing them nice big commission cheques).

        Solicitors also are not allowed to make money out of searches.

        A min- style HIP would front load any issues and also gain commitment from the sellers. Issue maybe if the property does take a while to sell and the lenders won’t accept the searches. Something needs to be done though as such an archaic paper chasing process so if it can be done on vendor instruction will shave weeks off the transaction times.


        1. Property Searches Direct

          Thanks Tristan, I am not suggestion estate agents order searches and make money. We advocate home movers ordering their own searches. Some Conveyancers can make money on Searches it depends on their regulatory body.
          Some conveyancers, in our experience, quote a cheap search pack that mostly contains screening products, only to have to order further reports when risk is flagged. This is not cost affective for the home mover in the long run and takes more time. It does however reduce their initial quote to look attractive.
          There is a load of education needed and a lot more willingness to adopt change.

          1. Tristan1010

            The problem you will have though is the large estate agents will not want to lose the revenue they gain from their panel solicitors ordering searches for purchases (and having to use the estate agents chose search provider who they have a referral agreement with). It would take millions from their conveyancing profits. All solicitors on panels like countrywide/connels/sequence have to use the estate agent’s chosen search provider where they charge £350 plus but the agent gets a large cut so the estate agents would not want to lose this revenue.
            As a panel solicitor you have to use the agent’s search provider which is not acting in the best interest of the client when you know you can order more comprehensive packs as you say at a much cheaper price for your client.
            Another big issue if purchasers order the searches is th emajority will want the guarantee of a mortgage offer before committing more expense. 

            1. Property Searches Direct

              It doesn’t make it the right thing to do though. As such, that is why we support primarily the independent agents who are less shackled to practices that don’t always benefit the client.
              Panel managers make a fortune and the conveyancer at the end of it makes less than even the agent. This is not good for the client or the industry.

              We look to support local collaborations of excellence in service delivery, understanding and transparency.

        2. Commentator91

          Good comments Tristan1010.  Regarding the ordering of a Search Pack upfront, the guys at Property Searches Direct put together a set of Searches (Local Authority, Water & Drainage, Environmental, Chancel Search etc) for under £290 in most cases, and this is usually more comprehensive a pack than most conveyancers order for their clients anyway. 
          The client orders and pays for the Searches online themselves with a credit card, so we as the agent need not get involved in ordering or paying for them in any way, if that was ever a fear/concern.
          It is a super efficient service and they are such a friendly bunch to deal with. They even ring our clients directly to double-check that they are ordering the correct searches – not too many or not too few! 
          The free Hazard Checker they provide on their website is a great resource too, to find out the potential hazards around the property. The client uses this to determine the required searches, but as agents we use this too, prior to a market appraisal, so we have a better understanding of the property and its surroundings – Radon, Land Stability, Flood Risk etc.

  2. Rob Hailstone

    Thank you ComplianceGuy, rather than try to reply individually to any comments or questions posted today the editor has kindly agreed that I can write a follow up article in response. I will do that shortly. Keep them coming:)

  3. smile please

    We do advise clients to instruct conveyancers on instruction but when they then speak to a conveyancer who wants between £300 – £500  on account to set up a file they prefer to wait until a buyer is found.

    Why don’t the conveyancing world look at their offering and realise it costs zero to email PIF or Fixtures and fittings form so why not open a file for free?

    Yet again conveyancers out of touch with modern moving.

    1. Anonymous Agent

      We have been told that it costs anything from £75 to £200 to open a file by so many solicitors who don’t want to do so unless they get paid for it.

      As agents most of us do loads of work upfront without any payment so I don’t see why solicitors can’t commit the time to at least open a file, it would surely give them the chance to win more business too.

      1. Commentator91

        …Agreed.  Plus, it secures the client for them. Why wouldn’t any business want to tie in a potential customer when they can?!

        Yes, I know that no contract has been signed necessarily between client and conveyancer, and maybe no money has been parted with, but in the clients mind surely most will think “I’ve got my solicitor sorted now, so one less thing to worry about”.

        In addition, if that client can then go online and order their full set of Searches (not just the Local Authority Search) for less than £290 in most cases, surely this is worthwhile us agents recommending!  Just point your clients to the website of Property Searches Direct, who are specialists in this field.

  4. flockfollower102

    Blimey, some sense being spoken! The fundamental point being made however is that conveyancing, as it is generally done in England, is not fit for purpose. As is stated in this article, transactions used to complete much more quickly and with less stress without all of the current technology we have. What happened to two weeks between exchanging and completing? It would seem that any version of a HIP is doomed, even though in our experience as agents, they led to faster completion times, fewer fall through and a lot less stress. They were provided on a NSNF basis so we had no issues with new instructions.

    However, I see little hope of the status quo ever changing. As an industry we have weak trade associations, no one trusts anyone to work together and there must be vested interests in keeping the system as it is. Do conveyancing firms and their employees really enjoy getting the weekly requests for updates that agents are required to do under ombudsman membership? Really, a broken system.

    A suggestion would be that either we go to a version of title insurance, meaning instead of two solicitors having an argument on a legal technicality, it can be dealt with sensibly by one entity, or as each conveyance is made, the title held at the land registry is updated with the pertinent information to demonstrate the legality of the title and conveyance, this information then being available for the next time the house is sold, leading to a much faster transaction.

    No political party is going to bring back any version of HIP or look to improve the system after the public mud throwing by certain parts of our industry to get hips taken away. I for one still think they were fundamentally a good thing, they just needed tweaking.

    1. Property Searches Direct

      change does not require party politics, it simply requires willingness to adopt new ways of practice. My business was developed to help estate agents change the way they engage clients with searcghes and protocol forms simply to speed up transactions. Where Vendors don’t buy their searches during marketing, buyers can buy them the day the sdale is agreed.Either way, these actions show committment and reduce fall throughs caused by delay or lack of confidence by either party.

      1. Commentator91

        And this is such a good point. By the purchasing of the Searches at an early stage (either by the vendor upon instruction, or the buyer upon the sale being agreed), it shows COMMITTMENT to the transaction. Isn’t this what us estate agents want to see for every home we sell?!
        Why not ask and recommend that your client purchases the Search Pack directly? You’ll judge their reaction and see how engaged they are, and how committed to the move! It’s a no brainer for our agency.

  5. David Clark

    These days you have to be careful about conveyancers, some are now turning work away because they are ‘snowed under’, some people are suspicious of your motives (**** conveyancer but I get a nice kick-back) and I agree with Smile Please that upfront charging puts some off (“we may not actually move”).

    If the whole process was set up better nobody would have to think about doing things in advance.

  6. S Foden

    Rob – you and I have been beating this drum for a number of years now and I know that you have an offering in this area.

    [Website address removed. Users may not use comments to promote a service or business] We have found that sellers are keen to complete the forms and upload other property specific information in readiness for a sale and we have found this pre-engagement has cut the initial transaction delays whilst sellers complete forms etc  significantly, whilst helping agents complete their own due diligence.

    The agent can open up a [name removed. Users may not use comments to promote a service or business] – sellers are automatically sent the forms for completion and can see when they have been completed and are available to view.

    As matters progress other property specific documents can be uploaded (EPC; office copies; contract; searches etc) and are available for download both by buyer and conveyancer without the usual mailbox restrictions.

    The model has been around for years in the auction sector and it remains a mystery why this his not utilised for every property transaction.  once this is accepted by industry the driving factor in transactions will then be agreeing dates for exchange and completion at the outset which all parties know they can achieve in the knowledge that the paperwork is there and in order.

    1. Ric

      Just needs to become law.


      Make it law to have a minimum set of documents accepted by lenders and solicitors to be able to market your property and then we have lift off.


      The system starts with legislation… you must is better than we prefer.


      Being the only agent in the village promoting sales ready packs against other agents say nah.. too much effort, relax and we will sort it later, lets find a buyer first is tough going… (perhaps I am just no good at getting my point across to these sellers, but I have found it hard going to get anyone to use a certain provider of this service so far…)

      1. Commentator91

        It can be tough, but you are hopefully being seen as the professional agent who gives the correct, and best, professional advice. 
        Speeding the sale to clients who are committed to the move is key, and all of the up front stuff you can organise with the client is going to pay dividends to you and to them later down the line.
        A shorter transaction due to a swifter exchange timescale is less stressful for the client, and better for your pipeline, sanity and cashflow!
        Get the forms completed asap after instruction, and searches ordered by the client directly, and a local conveyancer instructed (the conveyancer need not quote for searches, so if client is getting several quotes from conveyancers they all can quote without searches included and the client has a simpler job of seeing what each will charge for the ‘conveyance’ itself. Conveyancers prefer this too as they need not provide their quote with a ‘skinny search’ included just to keep the overall price down! Plus, it is less admin for the conveyancer as they don’t need to order and chase the searches, saving them time! It is a win-win-win for all!).

  7. Local Independent

    Guess what, we and many other agents DO recommend this, and do the PIF and other protocol TA forms for/with vendors where they are willing. Some vendors won’t do it, some will. Ironically as conveyancers can’t/won’t take some info from us as agents (if we have an answer to an inquiry etc) even if it’s “direct from vendor” – why will they accept these form us? You can’t have your cake and eat it.

    1. Commentator91

      Good work Local Independent. In addition, get those clients to order their searches directly. It makes such a difference to the time it can take to exchange. It’s simply a good business practise to get in to. Property searches direct are the friendliest of folk and get the job done PDQ!

  8. haveathink

    Why on earth does it take so long for searches to come back in this day and age? That is the crux of a lot of problems- inept local authorities many of whom think they are property developers these days.

    1. smile please

      Worse still, conveyancers not willing to raise enquires until searches are back. 
      Wasting further weeks, especially with leasehold. 

  9. JustaThought

    I have just accepted an offer for a house I am selling. It’s been on the market 10 weeks. At no time has the selling agent suggested to me that I instruct a conveyancer nor have they offered the fixtures and fittings and Property Information Form for me to complete. On accepting the offer I made the acceptance conditional upon the buyer submitting all searches within 2 weeks or the house will be placed back on the market.  I asked the agent to write this onto the memo of sale so that all parties involved are aware. The agent responded like he had never heard of this idea before.  Certainly did not sound like usual practice in their office.  This simple condition will not only ensure searches are submitted early but that the buyer has to complete the solicitors ‘instruction formalities’ (which can be lengthy now) very quickly.  The ‘urgency’ may even push this matter higher up the priority pile in the solicitors office. Why is this not standard practice when an offer is accepted? No tech needed as it costs nothing.  Agents – setting exchange deadlines is too far ahead and has little effect on buyers understanding. We have to make the necessity for speed from the parties at a much earlier point. This starts in the agents office.

  10. John Murray

    Totally agree and something I have trained out for a few years as well – however, the conveyancers often want cash up-front to do so and whilst we work for ‘free’ up until exchange/completion, so many others won’t do so. The whole system needs joining up, speeding up, use of e-sign (we use Yoti for our contracts – a game-changer), we all do AML checks when we gain the instructions, proof of address/proof of ID (we use IAMProperty) and would be great if one central register for this was in place per customer, all can then ‘tap into it’ and use the same items rather than the customer having to go through it often 3 x times (instruction, purchase with another agent and conveyancer) – totally inefficient system. Let’s join it all up.

  11. Bryan Mansell

    Rob, I am unsure as to why you are automatically assuming agents don’t recommend to sellers they need to instruct a conveyancer when they list. How do you know they don’t?

    1. MattMatt74

      I think Rob’s point is NOT that you aren’t recommending it, but that you just aren’t being successful in your promotion of it, it wasn’t personal!

      There is a quick fix for the slowness of transactions these days and that is for Sellers to start collating information as soon as the property is marketed…..Since no-one other than the EA’s get access to sellers at this point in the transaction it’s down to the EA’s to actively look to fix the problem.

      I own/run a national search company and I can tell you that 95% of searches are coming back within 10 working days of order and so searches (whilst they are often blamed for slowing transactions down) are not the problem (although there are some total horror stories out there at the moment Devon being one of them!).

      The problem is how quickly the initial contract package is issued by the sellers solicitors.

      1. Property Searches Direct

        I beleive you will find that Lichfield will not make building regs data available for many weeks. Please don’t suggest that everything is rosey with Searches because, in a number of areas, it isn’t. How are you getting on in Hackney?
        The trouble is too may search orders are being placed by conveyancers, when they are ready, rather than by home movers, when they are ready.

        1. MattMatt74

          I entered a caveat into my message by saying ‘….there are some total horror stories…’ I ALSO said that 95% of LA’s are operating at under 10 working days…..which they are.
          Perhaps you should go back and read my comment fully.

          1. Property Searches Direct

            Sorry Matt, having reviewed the NLIS data this morning 95% does not appear to be correct either. Just looking at the facts in front of me. We share that data on our site for all to see.
            Out of the 341 council areas:179 are taking longer than 10 working days, 84 are taking longer than 20 working days, 30 are taking longer than 30 working days, 11 are taking longer than 40 working days and 6 are taking longer than 50 working days.
            The worse offenders are Boston Borough Council at 62 working days, Dorset Council at 72 working days and Hackney at 174 working days (if you are lucky). 
            IF you are only working within the 162 council areas returning in 10 working days or less, you are fortunate indeed.

            1. MattMatt74

              We dont use NLIS, we go direct to all councils, so perhaps thats were the discrepancy has occured….have a good day

              1. Property Searches Direct

                My point is, you are not the market and many solicitors will still only order a council sourced search. Therein can SOMETIMES be the problem. To say in this forum that searches in 95% of cases come back in 10 days nationally is simply NOT the reality of the situation.

                1. MattMatt74

                  Well I beg to differ and stand by my original comments and statistics. This is not the platform to have an open arguement on and is not really the point of the thread.
                  As I said previously, have a good day.

    2. Ric

      Morning Bryan. 
      As you know I am WELL UP for a better system, more efficient, quicker, more commitment from each party… 
      I am finding it ****** hard to convince people the no brainer of what you offer! and it is a NO BRAINER… 
      If yours or another system became mandatory then the system improves for all instantly no exceptions. 
      Although I have just been told, if it is not law to breath (we just do it because it keeps us alive), then a mandatory system  for the house buying process is not required. no fecking idea how that comparison came about. 

  12. Nick Salmon, M.D. Property Industry Eye

    As several suppliers are posting on this thread may we remind you that comments must not promote a business.

    1. Property Searches Direct

      The whole point of debate is surely to come up with solutions? Otherwise what is the point of the article or the comments that ensue. How will the industry improve if forums like this refuse constructive suggestions by suppliers that are not conforming to tradition. We are not part of the establishment for very good reason. 
      If all comments need to restrict themselves to the status quo, where does any change come from?

  13. Simon Brown ESTAS

    Well done Rob, you’ve instigated some great feedback here. I’d actually go one stage further and make it law that a property cannot be put on the market until a conveyancer is appointed by the vendor.

    1. MattMatt74

      That would definitely solve the problem and really speed up transaction times…we can dream, cant we? 

  14. Woodentop

    We have always suggested vendors instruct a conveyancer at listing for decades. 1. They know what the costs are going to be and 2. the free consultation allows the conveyancer to advice on needs likely to arise. In the main vendors have always done this, only to be told,


    “thanks got your details but we are NOT permitted to waste your money at this stage under law society rules, come back when we can start the ball rolling, most of what we do now would need to be done again if it takes time to find a buyer”.


    Remember the HIPS fiasco and indemnity liabilities.


    Where you have a major problem instructing a conveyancer is the ‘going on’ at call centre conveyancers. No personal contact!!

    1. Richard Copus

      Scrollling back to the first comment from Compliance Guy, in auctions the seller’s solicitor always applies for the searches at the beginning and the buyer always pays the seller back for those searches on completion and there is never a question about it.  The only problem with private treaty sales is that most conveyancers consider the searches out of date after 3 months, although they are legally valid for 6.

      1. Woodentop

        But the difference is the auction is a final event, not subject to chains and other whims of the vendors/buyers that cause delays or abort, so you can’t claim auctions is really a true comparison as they only represent a very small fraction of sales.


        The issue has never been the ‘content’ of conveyancing, its the ability to gain instant accurate access. Conveyancing after all is paper shoving between parties and informing of liabilities. Convert everything to on-line (conveyancing in the main is so archaic in this) and there would be no concerns over ‘shelf life’, indemnity issues and time wasting. Mortgage Lenders and Surveyors in the main got their acts together years ago ready within 2 to 3 weeks. Its the conveyancing process that is so slow, compounded by their clients slow to respond to enquiries and length of chains, often getting an end sale dictating. As for liabilities … that’s the world of conveyancing to explain to their clients and for themselves doing the job right and will never be instant and dependent on how busy they are.


        There is more to completing the conveyancing that many seem to realise. Mortgage in principal is only valid subject to criteria and then fining a property which then is subject to survey. No conveyancer can proceed until ratified. HIPS proved that fell at the first hurdle unless the property completed within the first three months and no chain. I’m all for survey at listing but major pitfalls and conveyancing issues as most experienced people will know. Seeing as the survey is done and reported within 2 to 3 weeks …. surely not that big a problem? Its the bit after that takes weeks or months of paper shoving and there lies the problem.

  15. Cashe

    How about a new system? One conveyancer to act for the whole chain. Advantages:

    Whole chain updates easier to give/receive and timescales to predict

    Easier to identify hold-ups (which, of course, hold everyone up)

    Avoidance of completion day money transfer nightmares

    Easier exchange process with long chains

    End of the toxic, mutual-smearing relationship between conveyancers competing for business

    Reduction in time wasted on calls which achieve nothing and salary costs for staff who are employed to bat away enquiries

    I know that someone will yell “conflict of interest” as a knee-jerk reaction, but is it? In what circumstances is there a genuine conflict of interest; this isn`t – or should n`t be ! – litigation. Rob, please address this specifically in your follow-up, because it feels to me like a smokescreen for the overwhelming majority of residential property transactions. If this canard can be dealt with, then we`re on to how the conveyancer is chosen. I`ve ideas as to that, but I`m sure others have better ones. Let`s get to the point where we acccept the principle.

    Final word: if this produces a more efficient system with a happier consumer, then I reckon it may also produce more profit ( which is not the same as more gross income).


    1. Rob Hailstone

      Would need the buy in of lenders and PII companies at the very least Cashe.

    2. Woodentop

      Never going to happen. So many cases of Money Laundering and Conveyancers running off with the money. Conflict of interest is assuming that the conveyancer will give legal advice without influence of knowing others circumstances.

  16. Robert_May

    An industry that  gets >95% of its income on completion ought to be  checking the properties it lists to earn a NSNF % commission  has no reason  why the properties it is listing for sale  will not complete.


    To me it makes commercial sense and  is CPR compliance best practice to have available the [required by law] material information for applicants and buyers so I can’t quite work out what the obvious faction friction is.

    In the past 12 months  the industry has been moved from CPR MI being almost  completely ignored to the point where it is becoming understood practice to include lease details ( as it should be) on details and  digital listings.


    It seems fairly obvious to me that Agents can either cover the cost of  CPR compliance themselves ( some will choose to) or others can get their vendors to cover  the minimal costs involved.

    Personal experience of how much volume pressure conveyancers are facing, it has taken 2 months  to tentatively answer one question asked  of the agent at the time of viewing

    1. Woodentop

      I can write an encyclopedia on this subject as most agents can. The ‘market’ is antiquated in many respects but in a nutshell …
      1. Agents are not surveyors but market appraisers based on assumptions, often at odds with vendors.
      2. Some vendors can be a law to themselves and some are speculators and time wasters and we now live in a society of everything for free or nearly until they commit! Most do not like to be told they have a problem at listing and many in the industry is geared to ‘take on’ at all costs and handle the fallout later. Vendors are looking for confidence and not told they are poor drivers! 
      3. Only part of the conveyancing system is digitalised.
      4. Law requires reforms on so many matters but is only interested in the customer protection and there lies the problem for those that are involved.
      5. All assumes it can be done quickly. Chains are not instant and the allowance of one to pull out courses a crash.
      6. Liabilities and best practice abound at all stages.
      7. Many, not just a few sales are not striaghtforeward and will be subject to shelf life.
      8. on and on ………
      Now getting everything up front is an answer, but thats utopia and many things can’t happen without one being first. Like the runs on ladder. Some sales will be six steps, others twenty dependent on so many variables.
      If only all the parts that can be done upfront were instantly available on line, subject to survey would go a long way. But changes in law and liability are needed and its the liability bit that frightens everyone.

      1. Robert_May

        We are working with agents  who have innovated of the own accord and seized the initiative on this; contract ready listings might be a bit of a faff but the ‘at odds’ vendors and the  ‘withdrawn from market’ listings  become someone else’s frustrations and  what a waste of time that was.


        There is actually quite a momentum building on this where  3 connected  service collaborators are having intelligent  conversations on intricate detail such as  whose is going to host the data?  How will the database be structured etc so that information relevant to the stage of the process is available.


        CPR material information has been law for 10 years, 6 years ago James Munro said he was going to police them so  no law change is required to increase the momentum. Fear of not complying is one of the most powerful motivators in  a service industry like ours.


        There is now clear water between those who are innovating  and those who haven’t heard the starting gun because they are head down in the sand


  17. brokerofexcellence

    In the real world, its still the same amount of work involved, just moving the problem earlier in the transaction. If you have lawyers instructed pre-sale, whilst conveyancers are doing the initial work on that file they are not working on another matter, so really speaking, it won’t make much, if any at all, difference in speed. It is the same amount of work required on each transaction just moved around in order.

    Really, what needs an overhaul is mainly the technology available/allowed to be used to speed up the process of searches, but also, if we are honest, Conveyancers need to stop being the poor cousins of the legal industry. Charge more for the service, allowing firms to reinvest money by appointing more conveyancers and support staff. Conveyancing must be the only technical role I can think of where an individual has a case load of more than 150 cases at a time! For the money Conveyancers earn and the workload, I can’t imagine why they would want to specialise in property law rather than move in to more specialised fields of law that are more lucrative and more selective of the work they take on.

    1. Property Searches Direct

      A conveyancer will not start work until they have received full instructions from a client. IF their client receives a mountain of paperwork to fill out at the point of sale, there will be a delay. IF the client completes all paperwork during marketing of their property, there will be a time saving. On average it takes over two weeks for a solicitor to be instructed, let alone receive a contract pack, so IF that can be done during marketing, serious time can be saved. The same amount of work still needs to be done by the conveyancer, BUT, the client has been better prepared so as not to cause a delay to proceedings.

      1. brokerofexcellence

        Yes, I agree in theory the seller is better prepared, but ultimately the conveyancer is still then being detracted from other work whilst they are setting up a file. The other frustration here could mean that the workload of the conveyancer is actually increased as there will be a significant number of properties that come to market and never become SSTC. 

        1. Property Searches Direct

          Sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. Preparing a client and completing paperwork should NOT involve the conveyancer at all.  The conveyancer should be free to do the lawyering, not chase paperwork to open a file.  Estate Agents working more colaboratively with their preferred conveyancing solution should enable access to all protocol forms required by the chosen law firm ‘during marketing’ and urge their vendors to complete it whilst they have the time to do so.  By doing so, when a sale is agreed, the client and their paperwork is ‘oven ready’, they just need to sign terms of business and go through ID/AML.  This makes client engagement for the law firm about file progression and not about what a quote looks like.  I am suggesting that the Estate Agent or an outsourced service like ours, help clients to ‘Get Legally Prepared’, so that when they are SSTC everything is handed to the conveyancer to start their work. We are working very hard to remove administrative burdens unduly placed on conveyancers to enable them to be more effective. Some just need to admit that they can and should let go of some things.

          1. jan - byers

            The searches are a small part of the process.  Very often a person who puts a property on the market is not convinced that they will ell at the price they wish to sell at so they are not going to incur costs until they have a buyer.

            Most sales are held up by an incomplete chain not searches

            1. Property Searches Direct

              Hi Jan, I wasnt talking about searches….for once 🙂
              Having no confidence that a property will sell is down to poor estate agency and most likely incorrect pricing. Even we would suggest that no searches are ordered in those instances.

  18. Cashe

    Rob (Hailstone), that`s quite correct, of course, but until they`re asked…

    Here`s the running order;

    1 Decide that it could well be a good idea and, having identified any conflict issues – which will be fewer that one might think, I`d vouch – how to resolve them. Once that is satisfactorily dealt with…

    2 Work out an acceptable system as to how the conveyancer is chosen.Once that is resolved…

    3 Approach lenders and indemnity insurers. I am assuming that the regulatory bodies will have been involved before this stage. They may all have specific requirements, but they can`t in all conscience have a blanket objection to a plan which benefits everyone involved in this presently miserable process.

    I shall await your follow-up article with interest.



  19. Rob Hailstone

    Really apprerciate all of the comments. Will get something over to the editor in response early next week, in the hope he deems fit for publication.

  20. Woodentop

    Listening to the all for, its easy and those that have experience of when it isn’t that easy, this is my final thought on the subject and clearly the implications for utopia hasn’t been thought out with implementation and may just be why we are still in the situation today …. its a mess? The real problem is people involved in the process at all stages on a voluntary basis. You get the good, the bad and the ugly!
    Step 1 Prior to listing seems to be the area of concern for helping to speed up the conveyancing and putting that in the responsibility on the estate agent.  
    Some are suggesting that the certain conveyancing paper pushing items (already available with on-line instant access) should be made available. As the ones that cause delays are often instantly available, why should the agent and for that matter why should the conveyancer also spend time on a subject that will cost time and fee’s if a property never goes to sale? You can get that information when you need it and for those ‘shelf life’ issues they will be as required relevant to the point of completion.  
    Agents are not surveyors and that to me is the main bone of contention when things start to go wrong. Survey has a shelf life and there is nothing you can do about it. Therefore trying to get a vendor to pay up in the now ‘freebie world’ is a challenge when they are not motivated at point of listing. The only solution is to change legislation making it conditional and takes the arguing by an agent to tell the vendor what to do. But the shelf life!!! Maybe a solution is a pre-survey at a low fee that (a). will commit the vendor (b) hopefully pre-warn and iron out what could be lurking around the corner and its not principally aimed at the buyer but for the seller to get their home in order? Its not going to happen voluntarily.  
    Step 2. What time scale are we talking about to completion? What are people considering is acceptable? Chains will obviously cause delays and fall through may re-start the clock if shelf life’s are exceeded.  
    2 to 3 weeks a full survey and mortgage offer is the norm, obviously a delay may arise on survey if the vendor didn’t make the home fit for mortgage or saleable. This is where the second part of delay starts, pre-contract enquiries in the conveyancing. Well if they are available on-line and the system can stop using paper pushing/RoyalMail and get over legal liabilities … hooray. However, how do you get the conveyancer, buyer or seller to submit replies in a time fashion which currently averages 7 to 10 days by snail mail. This is where the digital age should be helping and the conveyancers often use email in many cases. Local conveyancers should always be used, you get to drop the paper on their desk if necessary. Not wait a week for them to reply and say something isn’t clear or needs more information causing further delay. Real time on-line responses is what is needed. Now try and get that through the current liability system! I’m fed up with call centres saying they are awaiting information that someone received weeks before and filed it away.  
    Step 3. Get those that refuse to implement digital information to comply = legislation required. Voluntary just means there will always be someone in the link to break the chain. But that information has to be legally acceptable. Now try selling that idea to all the parties that have until now put hurdles up on getting that done! (liabilities/indemnity issues). All Governments have looked at this issue over the decades and still not found a magic wand. HIPS were a prime example.  
    HIPS was a fiasco as it was at a time when systems for full conveyancing were not in place or acceptable. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have all the content same day and any outstanding enquiries could be submitted instantly? Remember vendors, et all hated a full survey up front. Conveyancers do conveyancing, not agents. Fix what went wrong with HIPS and all may be happier. It was sold as an aid to buyers (most never read it) and could help with the conveyancing but in the main left out many of the situations that are raised in pre-contract enquiries and never answered or allowed for speedy responses and that is the crux of the matter, conveyancing is slow ‘as is’. Conveyancing needs to evolve so that all the parties that are involved in the process of a property being sold can help, not do it for them.

    1. Robert_May

      I think there would be a huge benefit in understanding and aligning all the progress that has been made since the end of October when UPRN meant multiple, developed in parallel, systems that are all trying to achieve the same goal could be standardised.

      In the same way that no ‘by the agent for the agent’  anything has ever reached it’s full potential ‘by conveyancers for conveyancers’  projects  are already devouring themselves because there is competitive and tech envy between projects.

      The income and profit competition will sort itself out  once an industry standard is established and operational, the tech rivalry mustn’t get in the way of a common goal.


      Complying with legislation that exists and applies to all models of agency is the obvious starting point; non compliance is easily identified at a local level and competitive pressure between agents chasing instructions will soon force change on those not aware of or reluctant to comply with a long overdue evolution of the whole process  of transferring ownership of property between owners.




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