Online agents are lambasted by solicitors for causing hold-ups in transactions

Solicitors have hit out at online agents as causing delays in transactions.

At a recent round table event, one solicitor said they were a cause for concern.

She said: “There’s no after-care service, they’re not project managing the team, they’re not making sure mortgage offers have gone out, that surveys are done.

“We’re all having to chase things like that now, whereas that was always the role of the estate agent.

“So if you’ve got an unsophisticated buyer who doesn’t know when they mean to be doing this and nobody’s telling them they need to do it, delays occur and deals fall through.

“I was six weeks into a transaction and we found out that the buyer at the bottom hadn’t even applied for their mortgage offer because nobody had told them they needed to do it.”

Residential property transactions are, however, generally taking much longer and the length of time between offer and completion is often “eye-watering”.

Solicitors are also reporting that what was a rarity – transactions falling through between exchange and completion – is now becoming commonplace.

At the round table organised by the Law Society Gazette, one lawyer said she had seen several transactions fall out of bed between exchange and completion.

Farrer & Co partner Laura Conduit said: “We’ve exchanged contracts and, for whatever reason, the money isn’t there on the completion date.

“We serve notice to complete, the money still isn’t there and we’ve rescinded contracts.”

Stephen Ward, of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, said he has seen cases, adding: “Something else we’ve noticed is the greater time it is taking to get from offer to completion . . . extending out to quite eye-watering lengths.”

Attendees at the round table reported that many transactions are taking eight to ten months from offer to completion, with buyers calling the shots.

At the round table, there was also criticism of estate agents, with one solicitor describing it as “galling” that they receive “ten times a solicitor’s fee for less work”.

Another said that estate agents tend to present conveyancing “as a nasty technicality you have to get over so that you can have your housewarming party, rather than . . . extremely valuable professional due diligence”.

As such, consumers are motivated by price rather than quality – with concerns expressed that once law firms have to publish price information on their websites, consumers will focus even more on price rather than service.

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  1. awpj54

    Having been a high street agent for 35 years I never thought I would hear solicitors complaining about agents holding things up!!

    The online boys must be really bad



    1. forwardthinker

      ha ha!

    2. NewsBoy

      They are!  As you say it takes a lot to make solicitors look poor but the online guys do a great job of doing so! We recently had a chain with two online agents in it. Fortunately we managed to persuade the sellers to go with some else, with a much more secure chain. It is not just the time delay that causes the problems, it is shear incompetence. Again, I know that some agents are pretty poor but a chain with onliners in it and added luxury of a bucket shop, factory conveyancer adds up nicely to a fine mess!

  2. ArthurHouse02

    Yes the call centre agents (PB, Emoov etc) are part of the problem, the dont give a damn attitude that i have heard their vendors speak of towards sales chasing is alarming. However in my opinion a large part of the problem it takes to get to exchange of contracts is down to solicitors/conveyancers. The lack of communication is astounding, the unwillingness to sound vaguely interesting constantly amazes me. There are some great people out there, but most are bogged down by heavy caseloads, lack of quality or bluntly a real lack of being bothered to do the job.

    One firm recommended by the buyers mortgage advisor, took over 2 weeks to report to their client. Firstly blaming the lack of staff, then they were too busy, and then claiming that it couldnt be done as a completion date hadnt been agreed.

    1. NewsBoy

      We have just had one of those Manchester based bucket shop conveyancers take 4 weeks to take their clients instructions, despite calls from their clients and us – it probably took 10 calls before they contacted the sellers solicitors. What a huge waste of time and effort for us, the sellers, their solicitors and the buyers.

  3. JonnyBanana43

    “At the round table, there was also criticism of estate agents, with one solicitor describing it as “galling” that they receive “ten times a solicitor’s fee for less work”.

    Change career then you idiot.

    My local solicitors all have chips on their shoulders about the fees agents get.  STOP charging £800 and employ some top quality solicitors, not a conveyancer who graduated from Luton University.

    interesting Farrer & Co were “round the table” the last client I had who used them was charged £46,000 – more than my bill – and I definitely worked harder…!

    ****** lawyers.

    Kettle.  Black.

  4. Ric

    Firstly, There is some relevance to the post above and it was slightly worrying out of 3 agents through this persons door…. I was the only High Street Agent! anyhowz…
    Just won an instruction (YAY) against PurpleBricks and Yopa (Double YAY). The valuation ended up as a 2 hour not 1 hour meeting. (Boo – I will stop with the drama now) Some of the advice the owner was given by both online agents was at best “argh”…
    Like when not to call loft/Attic space a bedroom! It had a near vertical paddle stair case, no fire doors and for those who know me…. even I had to crouch down at the highest point! One of them said…. “We can definitely call it 4 bedrooms to keep the value up”…. and one said we they would call it “3 / 4 bedrooms” or we can call it…… wait for it….. “a child’s play room” Seriously hair raising stuff when you were coming back down the paddle staircase! Trying to imagine a 3 to 6 year old peering down from what was essential fixed loft ladders.
    Best bit about above, Their “To keep the value up” was £25k lower than I valued even with me ignoring the loft space (I whole different story).
    Relevance to this story (Finally I hear you gasp)… A buyer would have ended up I think with a series of issues surrounding the mortgage valuation if 4 bedrooms was tagged to the property and the surveyor was questioning the use, there would be a possible CPR case and a solicitor fighting to get building certificates and indemnities on something which was basically a “posh loft” and could be avoided or warned from the outset there are no documents for this space, as it is sold as and not taken in to consideration in the property valuation bla bla. 

  5. TwitterSalisPropNews53

    The moment I see it is an online agent, I warn the client to expect weeks of extra conveyancing delay. And too often when it is the clients own agent I hear ‘we wish we had not used them, they are useless’.

    Sadly all Agents are under fee pressure, and a buyer is now a buyer, when before a buyer was only a buyer when first and comprehensively financially vetted. As a result we see more sales fall through because the buyer cannot get a mortgage. And so few Agent now keep involved in the legal process, which is odd, as it is their deal, they put it together, don’t they want to keep it together?

    And a result, the good conveyancers handling more than 100 live files, at an average fee of barely the VAT of the Agent do the project managing for the Agents and keep the deal together. The bad conveyancers, well they might as well not open a file when added to the poor Agents involved, as their deals will collapse far more often.

    I now send more global emails than ever before to all the lawyers I know are in the chain to keep us all talking.

    Conveyancers now have the ear of the Government, so do expect changes to conveyancing, and also now to estate agents. Both – loads of exceptions I get that but in the main – are in need of great improvement.

  6. Rob Hailstone

    There should be some clarity over who does what. Yes their will be some crossover, but better safe than sorry. Agree with Jonnybananna43, if you think agents charge and make too much money for doing very little (on the whole, I don’t), become an agent.

  7. J1

    Solicitors have abdicated too much for too long.

    Simple tasks of communicating by email and phone would speed things up for them – they need to get in the real world.  They have on-line transaction tools with milestones they never fill in, so the client portals they use are pointless.

    If they were braver and charged more for their service and employed the right calibre of people, rather than a production line approach, they would be faster, happier and better rewarded with a higher reputation.

    Just a thought.

  8. smile please

    Brilliant Solicitors crying over timescales and the fact the agent is not chasing through the sale, Have i woken up in a parallel universe this morning?

  9. scruffy

    Indeed smile please. Just had a sale chain fall through as purchasing solicitor took it upon himself (i.e. without his client instructing him to do so)  to “save his client’s money” by NOT applying for searches until the mortgage offer was in. The extra 3 – 4 weeks search turn-around + supplementary enquiries that may well have been triggered, 6-7 weeks since the sale was agreed tipped the balance for the chain involving families hoping for their children to take up school places.

    A parallel universe seems highly apt.

  10. sanctuary45

    Methinks that solicitors should get their own house in order before lambasting agents, online only or otherwise, for increasing timescales!!

  11. Chris Wood

    As with all things and all business models, there are good and bad everywhere. Generalisations are almost always dangerous, usually unhelpful and often come back to bite one on the bum.

    1. PeeBee

      I’ll stand and agree with you on that one, Chris.

  12. andywoodcraft64

    When will solicitors understand that agents charge a fee that allows them to maximise the marketing, exposing their clients property to the widest audience. Websites etc cost money! So we could ask why do solicitors charge so much for sitting behind a desk reading documents?


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