It is time for estate agents and lawyers to call a truce

There is industry-wide consensus that property sales take too long to complete. This has created a unified voice within the industry that is calling for (tech-enabled) solutions to improve on existing processes. This voice is being passionately harmonised by those of mainstream media and the  consumer.

One naturally assumes that in such instances of universal agreement, rapid, positive advancement is quick to arrive, but we are still waiting to see any real change in home buying, largely because few, if any, parties in agency and conveyancing have stepped up to call a truce between opposing factions and become the pioneers who drive this sector forward.

The lead cannot be taken by outsiders, only practicing conveyancing professionals. And when one party steps forward, everyone else will follow. But who is it going to be? Who is prepared to confront the perceived risk of innovation?

When you search through the past 500 years of technological and social advancement, it’s clear that successful innovation and change are always a direct result of taking risks.

More specifically, they are the result of a select group of people understanding, accepting, and confronting risk. To illustrate, we can look at Stephenson’s Rocket.

When Robert Stephenson designed his Rocket in 1829, it was not the first steam-powered locomotive, but it was the most profound example of re-examining an existing design to develop groundbreaking innovation. The changes Stephenson made to existing locomotives went on to form the foundation of all steam engine innovation for the next two centuries.

But when Stephenson first introduced his design, people thought he was barmy.  They said that, if his Rocket was pushed beyond anything more than human running speed, everyone on board would suffocate in the fumes. Stephenson understood the perceived risk, accepted it, and confronted it. In doing so, he proved it to be unfounded and birthed the global railway system.

Contemporary conveyancing is stuck in a rut; an industry that has barely changed since it was created by Henry VIII in the 1500s to facilitate his reformation of the church.

People on every side are calling for improvements. The broadsheets are asking why the sector isn’t advancing and the Home Buying and Selling Group is explicit in its want for new solutions, promising to work towards a pilot scheme “sometime in the future”.

But all of this waiting and scrambling around is unnecessary because the solution everyone is calling for is already available. It’s on the market and ready to be adopted and, in the majority of cases, can be done so without the perceived obstacles or frustrations which exist in the minds of those who resist change.

Let us not forget, it is the mutual client who suffers most as they’re ‘piggy-in-the-middle’ between the warring factions of agents and solicitors seeking to place blame at the other’s door. Unfortunately, they are powerless to affect change in an industry largely dedicated to preserving the status quo.

WiggyWam, has the ability to reduce the conveyancing process to much less than 10 weeks, but there are other companies working in the same area of innovation and, to be honest, at this point we don’t mind if conveyancers trial us or someone else or both! In fact, we welcome it. We just want to see more conveyancing firms take this vital step forward, confronting perceived risks head-on which may ultimately prove to all concerned that they are unfounded, thus paving the way for the next two centuries of conveyancing.

As it stands, the majority are simply accepting that conveyancing is rubbish – “it is what it is” –  and it reminds me of the bad old days of British Rail.  Decade after decade of late trains and soggy cheese sandwiches made it a national punchline, a lacklustre enterprise that we accepted as normal.

And because we have accepted that conveyancing, too, is a lacklustre enterprise,  archaic and slow, conveyancers and other legal professionals have started to severely undercharge for their services, underselling their importance as if bowing in apology for how shoddy the system around them is. The impact on the majority of conveyancing firms is low-profitability resulting in an inability to employ more competent staff to handle the volume of transactions they’re currently dealing with. This has its own impact on increasing the potential for high-risk transactions to go unnoticed.

Conveyancers deserve better, they deserve to earn a fair fee for the time and expertise required to navigate a sale through to completion. By actively pushing for the change everyone wants to see, early innovators will help conveyancing fees go up and, because of the improved process, consumers will be delighted to pay them before recommending to a friend.

The world needs more leaders who have access to their entrepreneurial spirit, can spot an opportunity and be first through the gate. Law firms are naturally conservative by nature, but with the significant benefits available from some very simple changes, history will no doubt record them as the winners, and everyone else as dinosaurs.

As I’ve said, choose who you want to team up with to take this vital step, WiggyWam or someone else: you could even trial three or four and see who’s best. It just needs to be done for the ultimate benefit of the client whilst paving the way for increased profitability, less stress and finally an end to the on-going war between agents and solicitors.

I will say, however, that if you choose WiggyWam, there’s little risk at all because we pledge a money-back guarantee if we don’t help cut the process down to 10 weeks or less. And our sole focus is on helping solicitors make more money whilst reducing their risks and smoothing out the home-selling journey for the ultimate benefit of all.

Who is going to join us and help take stand against a dissatisfying system?

Silas J. Lees is the CEO of WiggyWam.

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32 Comments

  1. mattfaizey

    Unless your system can get exchange ready in 8 weeks then you’re contributing to the unacceptable stress levels experienced by the public and movers.

    If your ‘tech’ is designed to sim, or exchange right at the last (within a week) moment then it’s not addressing the primary cause of angst and stress for the very individuals without whom we’d all be penniless.

    However,

    I suspect the handful of truly great property professionals out there respond to this latest releeasdt like all the many others;

    the current system is just fine, it’s the Muppets, idiots and imbeciles that practice within it that’s the problem.

    Let’s face it, conveyancers are bottom of the pyramid in terms of intellect and income. It’s hardly attracting the finest, most highly motivated and crusading individuals anymore.

    Exit uni with a degree and of all the law based professions and sectors conveyancing doesn’t make the list……

    Hard questions need asking why.

    We can have all the well meaning technology we want. Just because you give a monkey the finest tools however, it doesn’t enable the monkey to build a house.

    There are more fundamental problems that need addressing ahead of the never ending stream of pop-up promises from opportunity spotters.

    Make conveyancing a solidly standardised service with definable measurable outcomes for the consumer first. Then use tech to improve.

    Everybody out there knows the current standards of application are broadly awful.

    We need to fix this first.

     

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    1. Richard Hair

      The conveyancing process has been dumbed down to the lowest possible skill and service levels and lowest price option. Technology is all well and good but as you quite right point out it takes staff with reasonable levels of knowledge and experience to do the job properly and be able to handle the inevitable problems that arise during the process. The fact is that conveyancing costs are just too low to provide an acceptable service. We are know the real experts in their field, capable of exchanging in days not weeks when necessary but they do not provide the “kickbacks” and incentives that the bucket shops do. We are a very long way from the “old days” when “solicitors” charged 0.5% and provided a service to match.
      The conveyancing process is NOT complicated. Maybe it is time to banish some of the mystery from the process and explain how straightforward it should and could be

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      1. Davidevernden32

        Richard you have it about right, you get what you pay for, value for money is what we should be encouraging, are referral fees, part of the issue, it is in our interest to enable our local firms to provide the service level required to help improve the system

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    2. low-intellect-conveyancer

      You didn’t finish school, and you pack boxes for a living, and you have the cheek to say that conveyancers have low intellect?

      Let’s face it, you haven’t a clue about the reality of dealing with property law or the conveyancing process, and you wouldn’t last a day doing it.

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      1. mattfaizey

        You’ve proven many people right. Unsure why you imagine I didn’t finish school? I mean it’s fair to say I wasn’t sober for the GCSE’s but I certainly finished them 😉
        Im guessing you’re not too chuffed about  the outpouring of opinion and have no actual debate available

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  2. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

    Ummmmm …

    Didnt realise that Property Industry Eye did advertorials?

    Awful lot of words to say “use our stuff” cos we think it’s really good although obviously we’re not actually doing the work.

    Your opinion of those who ARE actually doIng the work rather contradict the title of the piece.

    If you want to be a thought leader you might want to consider that you need to take those people with you who you’ll need to sign up for your game changing piece of software.

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    1. mattfaizey

      Seriously Peter?

      You didn’t realise the number of individuals who clearly contribute by pennies first and words second?

      Bless you, sweet, innocent Peter 😉

      (you know I’m pullin-yer-leg)

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  3. Rob Hailstone

    You can be unnecessarily offensive, inaccurate and unhelpful at times Matt:
    “Conveyancers are at the bottom of the pyramid in terms of intellect.”

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    1. mattfaizey

      I agree with you Rob. Yes. I’m all of those things.

      However, very often I seem to be offensively articulating what a majority think. Albeit I’m using terms, language and mannerisms that’ll do little to win over those who disagree.

      Sycophantic mutual backslapping within the industry as a whole however is proving damaging.

      Imagine Rob, if I and others got our own way in terms of levelling up conveyancing and banning the dumbing down and cheapening of the process how much more money there would be  in it.

      The irony is that I want what you should want.

       

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      1. S.kaye

        I’m a humble conveyancer but I pretty much agree with Matt.  I don’t know who you are Matt, or what you do, but you hit the nail right on the head when you say “dumbing down” in our industry, and I agree with you.  Whilst I don’t personally claim to be dumb (or down), I have always bitterly complained about the “race to the bottom” in terms of conveyancing.  Bag it and tag it – do it cheap.  Thats what a lot of us have to deal with.  Conveyancing is, alas, a highly complex area at times.  I wish all my conveyancing transactions were clone terraced freehold houses.  But they are not.  As soon as the industry wakes up to charging a decent fee, with less pressure on law firm owners (you know who you are!) to take on mass volume work, at rock bottom prices, then there will become the level playing field.  So, Matt, I take no offence at your comments. The majority of the public dont realise the range of law firms out there.  Just because one person’s qualification might be the same, doesnt mean every practice is the same.  There are also the large mega agency (online too) agents who only use the mega large volume conveyancing firms, because of essential fee income derived from referral fees (too dirty a word for here?).  If you asked any volume agency firm if they would prefer to recommend a personal choice lawyer, rather than the panel firm (and thus not risk losing their job), we might have a different conversation.  Too taboo for here?  I don’t mind if people blame my industry for the reputation, as long as something is done about it, rather than complain about it.  Technology only assists to an extent.  Up front sales packs are great, but they only assist to an extent.  Understanding the entire leasehold process and all the numerous factors that go into transferring a property safely (without negligence) can’t be done by machine.  If it could, it would have been done by now, would it not!?

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  4. Blackcountrygirl1

    I’m really quiet shocked by some of the offensive comments used here to describe conveyances. I’m quite sure they could probably use some of those terms about agents they deal with.Conveyancers need to up their fees so they can have a successful business without the need for the huge and unmanageable case files. The fact that most are now called fee earners shows how the industry has changed. Surely they should be conveyancers first and foremost and look to uphold a high level of customer service.

    We as agents have caused this by looking for high referral fees as an income source and this has happened because our own industry has had fees driven to stupidly low levels too.

    We really are our own worst enemies, if both agents and conveyancers charged reasonable fees for a good service we could do away with the need for referral fees and just recommend on proven service. This would soon sort ‘The wheat from the Chaff’

    The only other thing to remember is Courtesy, no one has touched on it but if your polite and helpful to conveyancers you will get a lot more out of the relationship.

     

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  5. smile please

    As fruity as Matt’s comments are he is right.

    The problem is conveyancers see agents as ‘sales chasing’ because us greedy agents want our commission.

    Nothing is further from the truth, we ‘sales progress’ as conveyancers cannot be trusted.

    A good number of estate agent actually employ staff to progress sales. Just take a moment to let that sink in.

    Agents know how poor a large majority or conveyancers are they employ staff to HELP conveyancers and pay it out of their own pocket.

    Conveyancers are so disinterested in service they don’t do this themselves.

    And then the arrogance of the so called profession say don’t help by chasing and only interested in our commission.

    Oh and yes this story is a poor advertorial from a nonsense portal.

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    1. Robert_May

      Conveyancers  desks are piled high, so high it took us 2 months to get a reply to a question asked of the agent  at the initial viewing that only the vendors solicitor could answer definitively. With desks piled high  and every case  has two anxious and stressed parties with questions and concerns even the simplest and most innocent of comments has the potential to rile someone the whole process is dependent on.

      Treat conveyancers with respect  and kindness, figure out when is a low stress time to call and be understanding that your  just 1 simple question ( for deity’s sake) is possibly about 0.6% of the stuff they have to deal with yesterday

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    2. Carpets And Curtains Included

      A good number of estate agent actually employ staff to progress sales. Just take a moment to let that sink in.

       

      A good number of those agents will be the ones taking referrals, thereby creating their own vicious circle.

      The London market in particular is in a mess with this because of the volume of Leaseholds.

      Agents are sending young negotiators out with little or no training in enfranchisement, so when confronted with a short lease the response I hear regularly is ‘you can just extend it’, like getting a sandwich off the shelf in Tesco Express.

      Then the deal gets referred to their preferred lawyer, many of whom are sadly lacking in this area, so it’s dead before it’s even got off the ground. All for a £300 referral fee.

      Conveyancing isn’t rocket science, neither is agency, but what it is is complex, time consuming and certain fields require a lot more specialist knowledge. If we as agents recognised this and acted appropriately we’d all get paid a lot quicker.

      I’ve said this on other threads, but since I set up my own business and was no longer required to use whichever law firm that paid us the best fee, my off rate is negligible.

      I have three lawyers I recommend: A general conveyancer, who is partner in the firm and I have his mobile and he talks to me. An enfranchisement specialist, who is partner in his firm, and I have his mobile and he talks to me, and a lawyer who is very handy in a contract race/time critical situation, who is a partner in his firm, I have his mobile and he talks to me.

      I don’t take a penny off any of them, although one will usually send me a bottle of champagne at Xmas, and I’ll have lunch with another once or twice a year.

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      1. smile please

        You make a valid point on leashold, we are one of the only agent is our area which specify length of lease unexpired, maintenance and ground rent/
         
        If below 80 years beofre makret we speak to the seller about either assigne the right to extend and or the cost to extend (potentially new lease on completion).
         
        BUT the issue is not just leasehold. Recently i had a freehold house with a true cash buyer no chain and the seller was not buying on and he was not living in the property (was in his name). Motivated buyer and seller.It took the two local solicitors 11 months for exchange and completion. (neither of which paid a referal fee.) 

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        1. Carpets And Curtains Included

          BUT the issue is not just leasehold. Recently i had a freehold house with a true cash buyer no chain and the seller was not buying on and he was not living in the property (was in his name). Motivated buyer and seller.It took the two local solicitors 11 months for exchange and completion. (neither of which paid a referal fee.) 

          I don’t doubt it for a second. I’ve just completed on a property (in a reasonable length of time, to be fair), and in 20 years of doing this it was the first transaction where my client’s lawyer, who incidentally was her Cousin, failed to respond to a single call or email. Not once. The first time I heard his voice was on the day of completion when he offered the key release. Another firm on my ever growing list of solicitors I hope never to deal with again.

          I have another transaction (not) progressing involving a £1.2m sale where both lawyers have entrenched themselves over the provision of a £60 indemnity policy, refusing to take each other’s calls or answer emails until one of them blinked. When I spoke to both my client and the buyers, neither of them had a clue this was going on.

          My point being, you can offer the best technological solutions out there, but at the end of the day, just like any other industry, it’s the human on the end of the phone/keyboard that matters…

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  6. Rob Hailstone

    Conveyancing (and the conveyancing porocess) is complicated, detailed, risky and time consuming. You only need to read the Q & As posted daily on my online forum to see that.

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  7. RetiredConveyancer

    One point i agree with Matt is that technology is not the silver bullet.. far from it.  Articles written by technology people flogging their wares are often hopelessly naive.

    What we need is many more home grown Conveyancers, with great customer service skills, patience, “can do” attitude, happy to use the phone and willing to work with agents to overcome issues as they crop up throughout the transaction. This only works if that Conveyancer has a sensible caseload and decent fees that make that sensible caseload profitable.

    We don’t need intellectuals coming into the profession either, but professional minimum standards for Conveyancers would be helpful. Dare i say it, FILEX and Licensed Conveyancers often fit my profile above more than Solicitors, who, to be fair, are trained for confrontation with “the other side” in most areas of law that they have to learn to qualify.

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  8. Property Searches Direct

    Here we go again. Lots of noise, lots of chatter and infighting and no one doing anything to drive change.

    Honestly, if anyone really gave a **** or wanted to drive change and be part of a solution, my business would be doing a lot less door knocking and lot more door answering.

    We are trying to educate and drive change. We have ZERO interest in displacing good conveyancing relationships (some do exists) as we don’t offer conveyancing. We only wish to help home movers to get better prepared and support progressive Estate Agents that wish to deliver a great service to do just that; as in so doing, the conveyancing process will be much quicker.

    But instead, the mud slinging ensues and naff all changes!!

    Where are the aspirational Estate Agents that want to work with great conveyancers in a collaborative manner? We are struggling to find many of them. Most are simply too busy being busy to want to drive any form of change. From what I can see it appears that it is far easier to throw insults at another profession that to look to improve your own.

    Take a big look at your business and try and see what YOU can do to improve the status quo.

    Be part of the solution, or remain part of the problem.

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    1. smile please

      PSD,

      We are one of the most progressive agents out their in tech and service. circa 25 years in the property industry i have only dealt with one conveyancer during that time i thought offered anything close to service (to their clients).

      Also we often find in chains, we are ready to go a month to six weeks before the weakest link.

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      1. Property Searches Direct

        All your vendors complete their protocol forms and order their searches when going to the market do they?

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        1. smile please

          The ones that will pay £200 – £300 to put on account just for a conveyancer to open a file.Here lies the problem, conveyancers should give us a PIF and F&F form from the outset and the client should be allowed to lodge with the conveyancer free of charge until a buyer is found.  

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          1. Property Searches Direct

            We provide those all for free to home movers. To get someone legally prepared does not need to envolve a brown file at a conveyancers office. Take a look at our home mover page or estate agents pages.

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            1. jan - byers

              Yes but it means that every one in the chain has to do the same which never is going to happen as some vendors will simply not pay up front

              Also searches are not a problem to me it is things like management companies not responding etc

              Searches smercheees

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              1. smile please

                I will take a look but as Jan says, searches are not an issue. We are seldom awaiting searches (circa 4 weeks here) It more down to conveyancers not raising or replying to enquiries in a timely manner.Searches, mortgage offers, clients returning paperwork all very good at the moment

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                1. Property Searches Direct

                  We don’t just deliver Searches, however, if you have the ability to speed up something, why wouldn’t you?

                  We appreciate that in some areas, searches are not taking too long, however, nothing can be faster than having them available when the buyer wants to make an offer, or the valuer wants to do a survey.

                  Having the Searches eliminates 4 out of the top 10 additional enquiries raised by a conveyancer post mortgage offer. IF you had the searches sooner, the offer would have no gaps and no enquiries would be raised or need to be answered. That therefore would eliminate your perceived delay given that conveyancers appear to be slow to raise or answer enquiries.  Stop making them have to do it!!

                  There is more to the jigsaw than what you see on face value. There are over 300 local authorities so all areas need to be considered.

                  If everyone in the chain saw value in getting the data during marketing, it would not matter where geographically the parties in the chain were if up front data and reporting has been completing. You can’t take the “we’re all right jack” approach when it has been pointed out that the weakest link in the chain will slow things down.

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    2. KW

      “But instead, the mud slinging ensues and naff all changes!!
      Where are the aspirational Estate Agents that want to work with great conveyancers in a collaborative manner? We are struggling to find many of them. Most are simply too busy being busy to want to drive any form of change. From what I can see it appears that it is far easier to throw insults at another profession that to look to improve your own.
      Take a big look at your business and try and see what YOU can do to improve the status quo.
      Be part of the solution, or remain part of the problem.”

      Agree, this change has to start somewhere. The negative people on here are part of the problem that is blocking change as they are very anti anything new. We don’t have a problem with conveyancers we work with, some of which have become friends. We treat each other with respect because we understand the pressures and challenges we each face. Some people need to take a long hard look in the mirror as maybe the first thing that needs to change is their negative attitude and how they treat people. For example, this is totally uncalled for “Let’s face it, conveyancers are bottom of the pyramid in terms of intellect and income”

      This comment is deeply offensive and doesn’t help the cause it just widens the divide further.

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  9. Woodentop

    Going around in circles fighting each others corner?

     

    1. Engage the mentality of the consumer i.e the seller to take part in the first place (Conveyancers do not understand the multiple hurdles that involves for estate agents on a voluntary basis?)

    2. Have all the jigsaw pieces of legal documents in place (Only a few are available at the start of the process). Many cannot be done pre-sale and will cause delays.

    3. Third party involvement delays i.e mortgage lenders, surveyors, housing associations and management companies that provide and require information, to name a few.

    4. Insurers terms!

    5. Legal liability issues and shelf-life on many documents and unforeseen senario’s raising pre-contract enquiries. Is there such a thing as a straight forward sale (very few).

    6. Chains !!!!! You can’t speed the process which is reliant on an end sale.

    7. People involved. The good, the bad and the very ugly!

    8. Current codes of conducts and legal amplifications/indemnities for individuals and companies.

     

    So what is a good time frame to all come together, we do not live in utopia?

     

    No chain, cash buyer, no problems and straight forward sale = approx. 6 weeks at present? That’s not down to estate agents!!!!!

     

    Haven’t time to keep adding to the list but those are the fundamental issues of our current system. No ‘IT system’ is able to address and can only walk at the pace that is dictated by all the elements. You already have instant access available to some information (Title, Local searches if your lucky) so would someone please tell me how I can eat my cake when the ingredients are not available, let alone put in the oven that will speed the process up and satisfy all the issues and consider to be acceptable time frame to completion?

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  10. David Jabbari Solicitor CEO Muve

    How sad to read this tirade of ill-informed nonsense, nearly as sad as a system like ‘WiggyWam’ thinking it will solve these problems.  Can it please take a place in the queue behind all the other portals – released about one per week – which, they assure us, will solve the nation’s conveyancing problems overnight. All of the above is utter nonsense.  There is absolutely nothing in the conveyancing process that could not be transformed into an end to end tech solution right now but it is NOT going to happen, and that is for the following reasons: (1) The Land Registry which is utterly key to it is not sufficiently motivated to make it happen and prefers an idea of tech competition to that of following the Australian PEXA example of a central system of electronic lodgement of conveyancing, (2) no one – lawyer or estate agent – has enough market clout to make it happen.  The top 5 conveyancing firms control only 7% of all conveyancing, and that is after significant M&A deals since 2007, and it is even worse with agents, where we have 25,000 different agents and the largest has about 5% of the market,  (3) Lenders, who like the Land Registry could impact this,  also don’t care enough about it, relative to their need to develop profitable new lines, to mandate any change, and in any case they need to outsource the title risk to the law firms; and (4) unless you hadn’t noticed the government has quite a lot on its mind at the moment so don’t expect them to get involved. So as an alternative to all the claptrap and whining, and the false messiahs promising a one stop solution, we are going to have to make the best of it because it will continue to look like this for the next 10-15 years at least.  Have a great day!

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  11. Gangsta Agent

    when you have an industry that takes days to send a response and are reactive to the process then EA can never work together with Solicitors/Conveyancers. I was told by one recently, we are too busy to respond and will get back to you in about 3 days, my answer “stop taking on clients or take on more staff because at the moment you are doing a **** job”

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    1. smile please

      Amen brother

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  12. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

    Well – to quote Anchorman. “That escalated”.

    The great news about this debate is I now have a story for my column next week.

    Thanks everyone!

    Oh and by the way – technology WILL solve the issue of problems in conveyancing.  Just not the nonsense being peddled today.

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