Mega merger of conveyancing firms will create stand-out ‘powerhouse’ market leader

A new conveyancing ‘powerhouse’ has been created by the merger of the two biggest players – My Home Move and The Simplify Group.

They are joining forces to become Simplify.

Simplify will consist of four property law firms: Advantage Property Lawyers, DC Law, JS Law and Premier Property Lawyers.

In addition, the business will include panel managers Move with Us and My Home Move, which between them processed or panelled 130,000 conveyancing completions last year, along with the QualitySolicitors brand and marketing network.

A spokesperson stressed that the deal is a genuine merger and not a takeover by one firm of the other.

The My Home Move and Simplify Group businesses have grown strongly over the past three years, despite declining levels of transactions in the property market.

The newly created Simplify will build on the technology investments in both businesses in recent years, promising benefits for customers, panel firms and introducers such as estate agents.

The business plans significant investment in service, technology, and further increasing scale over the coming years.

With effect from March 15, the new group will be led by David Grossman, current chief executive of the Simplify Group, and will be headquartered at My Home Move’s Leicester site where over 450 employees are located.

Grossman’s new senior management team will be made up of an equal number of people from My Home Move and the Simply Group. The business will be jointly owned by all the current shareholders of the two groups.

In total, Simplify will have more than 1,500 employees based at eight UK sites and home-based locations across the UK.

Doug Crawford, CEO of My Home Move, will be leaving the organisation after the transaction completes.

David Grossman, CEO designate of Simplify, said: “I am incredibly excited about the future of Simplify. By combining the best in service, technology and relationships from the two existing groups, we will create a business that will shape the conveyancing market and make life easier for customers, introducers and partners.

“Together we can simplify conveyancing for hundreds of thousands of people each year.”

Doug Crawford, CEO of My Home Move, said: “During the past six years My Home Move has built on strong foundations to develop a market-leading, multi-award-winning organisation that has continued to break industry records and revolutionise the customer experience of conveyancing.

“It gives me great pride to know that My Home Move is moving to the next stage of its evolution as part of Simplify and I wish the businesses every success.”

EYE columnist Peter Ambrose, of conveyancing firm The Partnership, said: “This merger is a clear sign to the conveyancing industry that it must wake up to the fact that modernisation is unavoidable.

“The days of those tiny law firms that dabble in conveyancing with occasional  transactions, that continue to refuse to invest in technology, must surely be numbered.”

Rob Hailstone, founder of the Bold Legal Group, said: “This news will send shock waves to many high street conveyancing firms, big just got bigger. Unlike online estate agents, online/volume conveyancing has been in existence for a while and is not going away. Maybe this is what the future home buying and selling public want?

“To ensure their long-term survival high street firms will need to make sure that they also provide a service that the modern home mover expects. Continued investment in technology for many is a must, as will be concentrating on client retention and growth.

“My gut feeling is that in a few years’ time the number of law firms carrying out any conveyancing will have dropped significantly, to possibly below 2,000. However, the good news is that those that do survive should have a bigger market share.

“It will be interesting to hear the reaction of estate agents to this development.”

 

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30 Comments

  1. 40yearvetran08

    Good luck to anyone who uses them, you may need it particularly if you want to actually move!

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    1. P-Daddy

      Fall throughs about to soar and transaction times to double again!! Oh dear oh dear!

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  2. Ouch18

    Another call centre mentality with absolutely no communication and nobody aware of what’s going on with the file. Stay clear and stick with local conveyancers.

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  3. Chris Wood

    We’ve been advising clients using these types (and certain named)firs to proceed with caution/ reject offers in favour of other buyers who aren’t using these firms for some time. At best ‘ok’, at worst, institutionally negligent on an epic scale.

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  4. ARC

    Well Mr Hailstone I think you will find the reaction of most estate agents to this will be similar to that of online agents (ie: not very positive) because as you point out the conveyancing sector has been going down this path for a while and all that has happened at such firms is that the already sense of disarray and chaos has increased and the level of service has gone down for both the client and the agent.   Hope that helps.

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    1. ARC

      Given that My Home Moves largest customer is Purplebricks I can see them all living happily ever after …………………….

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  5. ArthurHouse02

    2 rubbish firms of conveyancers merge to form 1 much bigger rubbish firm of conveyancers. My advice as always, use a good local firm.

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  6. Whaley

    As ever there’ll be the concerns over a merger this size but I’d like to wish everyone especially the likes of Mr Hayter the very best as they deserve this.

    All I can say from having known a number of people there is that they’ve always wanted to do the very best for them and their clients and the investment they’ve put into their own people and technology is massively impressive.

    lots talk the talk but the likes of EWay is walking the walk.

    If they can leverage even more economies of scale then it gives them options.

    What is undoubtedly true is that a new major player is here in the industry, not calling it whether that’s good or bad but it’s a fact none the less

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  7. Jacqueline Emmerson

    On the other hand there is another model, a smaller high street firm where clients are offered a bespoke service, one fee earner working on the file from start to finish, support staff to answer questions if the fee earner isn’t available, people who answer the phone and emails, fee earners who pick up all the gaps created by the pile it high firms and a first rate case management system used in conjunction with a mantra of how does this look and feel to the client. It works for us.

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  8. revilo

    When will people learn that good and effective conyeyancing will NEVER be a tick box exercise? Improved technology is all well and good, improved 3rd party input, searches etc is essential but the process requires appropriate interpretation, in many cases some local knowledge, and certainly a willingness to work with and communicate effectively with other parties in the transactions.

    Give me local agent and local conveyancer any day.

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  9. J1

    Sounds like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    Legal work being done by Umperlumpers who never meet their clients – excellent

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    1. ArthurHouse02

      “Who never meet their client”….must be good for complying with anti-money laundering regulations!

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  10. AgencyInsider

    I wonder how long these conveyancing factories would survive if referral fees were ever to be banned. Five minutes?

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  11. whodis123

    Having worked for Move with Us for a number of years, I can honestly say that anyone who uses their conveyancing service is taking a massive gamble on whether or not they will actually move. It is very much based on a ‘stack em high, sell em cheap’ basis. They use a lot of spotty faced teenagers fresh from school (don’t have to pay them as much as an experienced member of staff!) who have no experience of anything property related to deal with the majority of the compilation of the legal file (obtaining searches, dealing with replies to enquiries, general admin etc) with the actual conveyancer only looking at the file once all of the boxes have been ticked and it is deemed ‘ready’. There is little to no pro-active chasing taking place due to the case load of each person, and trying to get an update from them is a total waste of time, only the actual case handler that is dealing with the file will speak to you and if they are out of the office on leave or sick then nothing at all happens with it. Certainly explains why it takes so long for transactions with them to go through, as errors or ommissions aren’t picked up until 10-12 weeks down the line when the conveyancer actually gets the file to check, and then it goes back to the case handler again to deal with the missing items, which gets added back into their caseload of up to 100+ cases to be looked at when they get round to it.

    Give me a local conveyancer/solicitor every time. It’s likely that it will cost a few more quid, but you will at least know that things will be done properly and it’s a lot more personal.

     

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    1. fotw2614

       
      Interesting comments from someone who actually, apparently, worked at MwU – especially as MwU Conveyancing never conveyanced a file in the 18 years they have been in existence. MwU outsourced conveyancing to a host of firms, many on the high street. 6 years ago they started to develop a more joined up conveyancing service with the use of DC law – an “owned” brand. This was to compete with the likes of MHM who had efficiencies they did not have. From someone who helped set the service up in the 1st place there are so many inaccuracies in your statement I can only assume it is “made up”. These links to what customers actually say about the “own brands of MwU”  may help clarify and also refute a lot of the comments made on this site today. As an independent person sitting on the outside of this “merger”, I would say watch this space as more and more people are tempted to use this service. This is not ” a conveyancing equivalent of Purple Bricks”…. far from it. I wish the teams at MHM and at MwU/DC/JS – all the very best with this! https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/www.dclaw.co.uk https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/www.js-law.co.uk      
       

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      1. whodis123

        Just to clarify, I did work for MWU for almost 10 years, and when I referred to their conveyancing, I was referring to DC Law who were part of MWU/Simplify and were based on the top floor in the MWU building in St Ives where I worked. 2 friends of mine worked within DC Law and both left the business due to the complete lack of any type of customer care and the volume of work and went to work for smaller, local conveyancing firms where customer service was very much at the heart of everything they do and all of their business comes from recommendations. Believe I worked at MWU or don’t, I don’t really care. Just calling it as I saw it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on it.

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  12. smile please

    Anyone applauding these businesses would have no experience as an estate agent or be a good conveyancer.

    In my opinion they are the dregs of the industry. We wince everytime one of these firms are in a chain. So much so we have blacklisted one of them due to consistent issues, lack of communication and a general F’ You attitude to not only us but their paying customers.

    Correct me if i am wrong but PPL also has an Indian call center dealing with UK property ….. Says it all really. Why base yourself in India it sure as heck not down to the quality of the staff. Because it is CHEAP.

    As for referral fees, agents get off your high horses, many good local agents pay a referral fee and this is disclosed to the client. Our local solicitor pays us £200 for each transaction his base fee is £650 plus VAT this is if you go direct or through my firm. Has an office, is a fee earner is ‘No sale, no fee’ circa 25k per office per year additional income.

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  13. Alan Murray

    David Grossman, CEO designate of Simplify, said: “I am incredibly excited about the future of Simplify. By combining the best in service, technology and relationships from the two existing groups, we will create a business that will shape the conveyancing market and make life easier for customers, introducers and partners. “Together we can simplify conveyancing for hundreds of thousands of people each year.”   I know these press releases are knocked up for wider consumption rather than being aimed at people within conveyancing who know the truth. But honestly, what planet does this man live on? Combining the best in service? Make life easier for customers, introducers and partners? What? Does he really know what a complete and utter shambles these firms are when it comes to having to deal with them? This may be a good deal for the Company Directors who can make more money, but for the consumer on the street it is no good at all. Big is most certainly not better. What I would really like to see is Mr Grossman actually come onto a site like this and justify the service levels of his Company, the complete lack of competence and professionalism shown by his staff, and how they can justify the length of time any transaction involving any of the Firms mentioned in the article take to complete a conveyancing transaction. That is without mentioning the amount of money he is making. How does this merger benefit the consumer?

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  14. Robert May

    Isn’t it strange that I am building, based on my own perceived need, a system to identify good #local recommended conveyancers.

    As an agent having local conveyancers who charge fairly and reasonably for the job they do, who get sales exchanged because their   #local experience identifies what’s properly  a concern and what’s a seen it 1000 times before, ok to ignore, is invaluable

    Technology might fill in the forms but technology can’t wander down the civic centre at lunch time to get this one exchanged by Friday!

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  15. GeorgeHammond78

    Let’s face it – conveyancing factories only exist because agents are more interested in their referral fees than their clients’ wellbeing. Pre-their existence the system for buying houses in England was already flawed, fast forward 25 years and it continues to creak along, only 3 times slower if a conveyancing clerk is somewhere in the mix. If agents stopped introducing, they would soon disappear.

    I hear Honda have a spare factory, perhaps they would consider selling the robots too – might speed the process up!

    And finally, was trying find a suitable anagram of ‘Powerhouse’ to properly describe the effect this lot are going to have but could only come up with – Ow, Ou, Herpes….

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  16. LocalLens

    Sounds like a win, win situation for good local conveyancing firms as cannot believe this larger outfit will be anything but worse than its separate parts (and that is setting the bar very low as it is), and no-one will use them twice.   It’s always our advice to use a local firm.  As others have said, you have a fee earner you can speak to who knows what they are doing and bonus is that documents can be hand delivered to save time and ensure safe delivery.

    Our typical experience of encountering these ‘sausage factory’ outfits in a chain is that you rarely speak to the same person twice, when all the work eventually seems to have been done (and as others have said they are reactive not proactive), then file has to be passed to a ‘grown up’ for checking, who then proceeds to raise further enquiries………  Painful for all concerned.

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  17. Cheese.

    The banned conveyancing list in my office has just grown!

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  18. aSalesAgent

    Simplify | Where conveyancers are incredibly simple.

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  19. Carpets And Curtains Included

    This is great news.

    They’ve ‘Simplify-ed’ my client/applicant ‘which lawyers to avoid’ list.

    In nearly 20 years of doing this there’s only three lawyers I recommend to anyone, and I don’t take a referral from any of them. I have an Enfranchisement specialist, a general conveyancer and a guy who I use if there’s a contract race or high pressure transaction, who goes like poo off a proverbial. They’re all partners in their respective firms. I have their mobile numbers, they talk to me and represent their clients well, which is all you can ask.

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  20. Mark Sparrow

    Do they mean Simpleton?

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  21. TwitterSalisPropNews53

     

    Brave, as certainly not the best time to be a volume conveyancer – aside from the fact that for too many conveyancers ‘volume conveyancing’ is associated with ‘shoddy conveyancing’ – as I suspect many large conveyancing firms out there have probably already been named and shamed by law firms in their own individual responses to the recent Government consultation on ways to improve the home buying process (and probably too the estate agents whose HQ direct their staff to refer out to them).

     

    It will be interesting to read the results of their findings.

     

    In the meantime, thankfully, the most common thing we now hear from estate agents is not just how from their own experiences they berate certain large conveyancing outfits, but how they are now using the poor reputation of the buyer’s conveyancer as pivotal in whether they advise a seller to accept a buyer’s offer at all – not if they are using certain outfits. (I just told my own estate agent that the buyers offer is refused if they use a volume conveyancing outfit.)

     

    Estate agents are now demanding better quality conveyancers. Refreshing to hear. I guess there is this shift because of such pressure on the fees of estate agents – and therefore competition for business – and with the continuing growth of review sites, estate agents want to be aligned with quality conveyancers, who make each other look good.

     

    And yet, all any conveyancer wants is to simply face a quality conveyancer. So instead, just be great at what you do otherwise you impose extra work, stress and cost on everyone else in the whole moving process! Ensure that you do not gear up/strive for massive profit at the expense of offering the public an inferior conveyancing service – otherwise there must surely be a failure to act with integrity, to act in the best interests of each client,  to provide a proper standard of service to your clients, to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services, and to run your business in accordance with proper risk management principles.

     

    .

     

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  22. JCwatford

    Just another way to change their names and hide from the poor reviews.

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  23. mark@solicitorswhocare.co.uk

    The days of those tiny law firms that dabble in conveyancing with occasional  transactions, that continue to refuse to invest in technology, must surely be numbered.”

    Instead you now have a large conglomerate staffed by school leavers who do not even know what the term “unregistered conveyancing” actually means and when they do look it up, think that deducing title means sending a photocopy of everything in the deeds packet

     

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    1. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

      Totally agree that the quality of expertise that we see in the market is a problem we face on a daily basis.

      Traditional technology ( tick box ) does not solve this problem, and, as you say, actually makes things worse.

      However.  We cannot be fooled that traditional and local means good.

      In the same way that we struggle to get sensible answers and decisions from inexperienced case handlers,  we suffer equally from hopelessly inefficient traditional solicitors.

      Our view remains the same, adaptive intelligent software combined with expertise is the only solution.

      And believe me – we have seen NO software today that comes even halfway close to being competent.

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  24. Alan Murray

    Having slept on this announcement I have now come to the train of thought that maybe this merger is actually a survival ploy. Basically the business plan of these factories must be based entirely on referral fees. They cannot receive personal recommendations or repeat business.

    So if/when referral fees can no longer be paid and Estate Agents are free to recommend Solicitors on who provides the best service rather than who pays the most, they could find their work levels falling off a cliff.  So maybe they take the view now that it is best to merge and at least one of the offices may stand a chance of surviving when they start contracting? Within such a large organisation there must be a handful of good staff who can at least run a team and turnover any work they may still receive from somewhere.

    Whilst in the short term it is good neither for the conveyancing profession, customers, Estate Agents not receiving their pots of gold or improvements to transaction times, in the long term if they lose all their referral fees and their business model fails, maybe in that situation they will invest in better staff and training and stop outsourcing and people will then start taking them more seriously?

    In a race to the bottom nobody receives a prize for being first.

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