Opinion: Are you using a conveyancer who’s a member of the sales prevention team?

Frankly, being an estate agent (especially in London) is not a barrel of laughs right now.

And just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, with sellers not budging on price and buyers using any excuse to walk away, your boss does a deal with a panel manager and you are forced to tell clients that “our hand-picked expert lawyers will get your deal through more quickly”.

As Joseph Goebbels said: if you’re going to tell a lie, make sure it’s a BIG one.

Although there are many LinkedIn experts offering sage-like advice on improving your service offering, we think there is an overlooked source of expertise from people with vast experience in reducing the stress involved in buying and selling houses.

Yes – we’re talking about lawyers.

Whilst they have perfected combining atrocious service levels with arrogance and ambivalence, there’s a lot that can be learned from them.

Swot up on your snitching

In last month’s article, we reminded people that “Snitches Get Stitches”, but agents could learn a lot from lawyers who will rat out anyone in an instant.

Agents have been seething in silence for too long – if you’re forced to recommend “FabConveyancerPanelServices” when you KNOW your neighbour’s Golden Retriever could do a better job at conveyancing, now is the time to speak out.

Let your clients know that with these companies doing the legal work, any dreams they might have of buying their new home will be just that. Dreams.

If you think that’s unethical, just remember how many times you’ve called a lawyer and they have told you without hesitation “The other side are slow and unresponsive”.

As in John Boorman’s classic film, Deliverance, it’s time to “squeal like a pig”.

A straight answer – absolutely not

Can you remember when you last spoke to a lawyer and got a clear and straight answer – their skills of misdirection put Derren Brown to shame.

Frankly, agents need to raise their game when it comes to weasel words, and there is much to learn from these masters of vagueness.

Carefully listen to the answer you receive to a simple question such as “Have you raised enquiries?” and received the response “We are reviewing these”.

No dates, no timescales, no detail – pure genius.

Blame the chain

We’re amazed by the numbers of slope-shouldered lawyers who have developed market-leading skills when it comes to “Blaming the Chain”. They have learned to deploy this tactic from the very start of the transaction – the simplest call to check if a contract pack has been sent out can be met with a mystified “but our client’s onward purchase is not together yet”.

If a client is putting you under pressure, just explain that the “onward chain is not ready” and suddenly you are the innocent party.

Take the lead from lawyers – get a few names, throw in a couple of intransigent (or even better, absent) freeholders, and you’ve got your client back onside. It isn’t your fault – it’s all those lawyers and other agents that are slowing things up.

Stop answering the telephone

This is where you’ll be kicking yourself for not thinking of this sooner.

The “Diplodocus and Partners” school of legal training instils in all lawyers that answering the telephone is the quickest way to get yourself into trouble.

Talking to people directly causes no end of problems and there will be a strong possibility you will be asked questions that you simply can’t answer.

Which is embarrassing.

If agents took on the experience of traditional dinosaur lawyers and refuse to answer the telephone, any issues just go away, along with much of the stress.

Go on holiday and don’t tell anyone

Finally, this stress-avoidance technique has been deployed successfully by lawyers for decades – it’s very straightforward and requires almost no effort at all.

If a deal is getting particularly stressful and your clients are calling every couple of hours for an update, simply take a week or so out of the office.

Make sure your colleagues are completely in the dark about your deal, so when the client calls in, they can genuinely and honestly answer “We’re sorry, but he’s out of the office and there really is no one else that can help you”.

Conclusion

Whilst the relationship between agents and lawyers can be strained at times, we have shown that there are some lawyer traits that are highly effective for reducing stress.

So while you might think some lawyers can be arrogant members of the “sales prevention team”, it’s worth remembering they’ve been doing this for years, and maybe the mistake the rest of us are making is that we’re all just trying to be a bit too helpful.

  • Peter Ambrose is founder of The Partnership, an independent conveyancing firm – which he says is one of the helpful brigade
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19 Comments

  1. Mark Connelly

    Very good and all too true

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  2. Ouch18

    We recommend two in the whole of Greater Manchester!

    The rest are ignorant, clueless and exactly as described above but worse.

     

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  3. JonnyBanana43

    These under par, hardly qualified idiots are on borrowed time. The system needs to change; BUT in the meantime I’m adjusting my sales memos to include a LR title plan – then there is no excuse about “waiting for searches” ALL my local authorities now come back in under 72hrs.

    Womder what excuse they’ll find next….?!

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  4. undercover agent

    Well written article, I eagerly await the book.

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  5. TwitterSalisPropNews53

    It’s the same estate agent chains (who we all know and could never recommend) recommending the same inferior conveyancers (who we all know and dread seeing on an Agent’s Memo of Sale) – as massive yearly cash bungs trade hands.
    All a very nasty taste in the mouth.
    But no one ‘at the table’ is looking to tackle it.

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  6. Rob Hailstone

    A short while ago, I said I would try to produce a (draft) Joint Memorandum on Improving Communications between the Professions. Along the lines (but with a bit more meat on the bones) of the one issued by The Law Society of Northern Ireland:

    https://www.lawsoc-ni.org/DatabaseDocs/med_3599445__joint_memorandum_lawrcisnaea.pdf

    Hopefully, over the Christmas break I will be able to do this. If anyone wants to assist please let me know now and I will give you a shout mid December. rh@boldgroup.co.uk

     

     

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  7. JasonB29

    Great article, there is a best seller in there somewhere!

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  8. Anonymous Coward

    What surprises me most is that in the last 27 years (my time in the business) the process of buying a property takes (roughly speaking) either the same amount of time or perhaps even longer today than it did when I started.

    It’s madness.   MADNESS I say!

    You would have thought that with emails, and etcetera, we should be able to do the whole thing in days, not months…

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  9. craves69

    The biggest problem with solicitors is the referral fee they pay to us agents, as for some agencies this will be their second biggest income stream. We can all understand the temptation to take bigger referral fee from the conveyancing company/factory based in Leeds when you’re down south or alike, rather than the reputable company down the road that pays nothing. My solution is that all referral fees are removed and then it becomes a level playing field for all solicitors. Us agents will choose the best solicitor for the job rather than the one that pays the most. We will then choose the solicitor that will get the sale through in the quickest time, so we get the commission sooner and the vendor/buyer gets a better service too. The worst solicitors will then have to “up their game”  or risk going out of business as they will be forced to become better and then we all benefit as the level of competence in the industry will increase to a better level for everyone!

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    1. TwitterSalisPropNews53

      Sadly a referral fees ban would need to ban ANY money or monies worth being paid or directed to any estate agent. Otherwise, a conveyancer will pay an inflated price every quarter to ‘have a logo on their website’ which is just a way of pay the backhander.

      But yes, I agree, but cannot see it happening.

       

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  10. Richard Copus

    Recently had an excellent offer prior to auction on a property being sold  –  yes  –  under an auction contract!  The solicitor tried to make a meal out of it, punching holes where none existed and claiming that all sorts of clauses in the contract were suspect.  He was clearly trying to justify his existence to his client and covering up the fact that he had never dealt with auction procedure before.  It is eye watering how many solicitors acting for clients buying at auction haven’t the faintest idea what to do and won’t pass the business onto a more savvy partner.  When the property is sold in the room there’s nothing they can do, but when a prior to auction offer under auction conditions arises, they come out of the woodwork!

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    1. TwitterSalisPropNews53

      I seldom see decent auction packs, shameful the fact that sellers have no idea how rubbish some are by their ‘lawyers’. Invariably lacking official searches or any pre-empted replies to enquiries, or Council consents containing conditions, or indemnity policies for clear decfects – and yes, I have warned clients to be careful about bidding. Or bid low. Remember, the conveyancer only cares about one thing and one thing only – their client. We do what we do so our client does not inherit any legal defects (and which they can sue us for). We ensure the same quality as if we were buying, or buying it for you …yes, you reading this now.
      It is never about ‘yeah, they have exchanged, my ‘£1,000 for 12 weeks of work bill’ will be paid.

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  11. LocalLens

    Never known conveyancing delays quite as bad as past 12 months, and been doing this for over 25 years!  Latest example, fortunately just exchanged, but lot of anguish caused by conveyancer providing incorrect information to lender about a rising ground rent, resulting in them declining the mortgage.  Despite us challenging conveyancers several times – they kept saying it doubled, when it fact it went up every 25 years with a set figure given – and the seller’s solicitor asking to see correspondence with lender, it took buyer phoning lender to confirm what we had suspected all along.  Has taken well over a week for lender to go back to valuer for confirmation on value still not being affected, and each time lender promised an answer on set time frame, did not adhere to it.  All very stressful for a lovely young lady buying her first home, and our seller has had to be very patient.   Not talking ‘sauage factory’conveyancers here but a well regarded local firm.

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