5 Property Industry Heavyweights Discuss How to Reduce the Time Between Sale Agreed and Exchange of Contracts
Participants included Peter Ambrose, Managing Director from The Partnership, Jon Cooke, CEO of nurtur.group, Jan Hytch, Partner at Arnolds Keys LLP, and Beth Rudolph, Co-chair of the Home Buying and Selling Group.
The discussion between the panellists was expertly led and facilitated by UK property journalist, Christopher Watkin, who has a keen interest in fixing this important problem.
Watkin posed a question to the panellists; “With so many stakeholders and professions all working towards the same goal, why is the process taking so long?” with Rudolph adding; “Don’t also forget - you’ve got the 34% of transactions that fall-through, so all of that wasted work by all of the stakeholders.”
During the discussion, three key themes emerged.
- delays obtaining the necessary information
- inefficient communication
- lack of transparency
Delays Obtaining the Necessary Information
The time taken to gather all the information required to conduct the conveyancing process was raised as one of the main causes of delay.
Getting the information pack started at an earlier stage and appointing a conveyancer earlier on in the process were both posed as potential solutions to shorten the timeframe.
Rudolph added; “Certainly, at the Home Buying and Selling Group, we have pledges to try and get conveyancers instructed on day one of marketing to try and make sure they can review the information and identify anything that might be relevant to the material information.”
Hytch explained how her estate agency team are helping to get the process started faster; “I’m finding that we’re more and more getting the property information form, and we do it ourselves with the client to get the ball rolling – and we explain to them why we’re doing this, and they understand, and they appreciate the fact. We can as estate agents do a lot to get that groundwork done.”
“That has overcome so many niggles at an early stage, whilst people’s hearts and minds are still excited and engaged with this process.”
Conversation turned to upfront information as a potential solution for resolving some of the delays.
“There was a Propertymark survey that showed that 60% of estate agents were getting the upfront information, but nobody was asking for it.” Rudolph advised.
“If we made sure that the buyer had all the information upfront. They knew they were buying the right property for their intended use and enjoyment; they knew which lenders would lend on the property, then we wouldn’t have nearly so many fall throughs.”
The Buying and Selling Property Information (BASPI) dataset, designed to be the ‘one source of truth’ when it comes to upfront information about a property is completed at the point of marketing a property, and is planned to help cut down on the need for duplication of tasks and information gathering within the process, by making that data accessible to all stakeholders.
“The solutions are already out there. We need to embrace them” added Rudolph.
By obtaining and sharing upfront information, this would also enable the surveyors to create their report based on fact, rather than assumptions. Helping to minimise the on-average 21 days which such enquiries can add to the conveyancing process.
Cooke recommended that the key to speeding up transactions and smoothing the home buying process is all about helping the vendor to achieve their goal: “It’s not necessarily about the bricks and mortar, it’s about the actual consumer. By informing them that upfront information will help to achieve that outcome. It’s going to make that outcome happen.”
Communication and Transparency
The consensus among the panellists was that communication and difficulty keeping track of progress were among the biggest problems faced by all parties, resulting in the need to chase the various parties up and down the chain for updates.
Hytch commented; “It’s absolutely mind-numbing to have to call your vendors week after week to say I’m afraid there’s no more news. I’m afraid the solicitors still haven’t got back to us. It makes you feel that you’re ineffectual in some cases, because you’re not able to extract the information.”
Better use of technology was posed as a potential solution. In addition, as the same information is used throughout the process, by the estate agent, the conveyancer, the mortgage broker, the valuer, and the lender, as identified by the Home Buying and Selling Group; this enhances the opportunity for technology to offer support.
Ambrose commented: “The fundamental problem is that people are trying to do too many cases, with either too little experience or too little tech.”
“I think if everyone were able to work in one platform, that would take days if not weeks off the process… From a technology point of view, CRMs are opening up. That means that data can flow. APIs are opening up. Therefore, that gives the opportunity for better communication for everybody, all the way through the process” advised Cooke.
Hytch echoed the need for greater use of technology, adding, “The origin of the data is with the estate agent. If you’ve got an entry point for software, it has to start with the CRMs that the estate agents use.”
The importance of updating clients and keeping them in the loop, even when there are delays was also raised as a way of ensuring clients remain satisfied and their expectations are managed. Therefore, helping to avoid fall-throughs.
A Way Forward
Watkin provided a summary of the findings of the discussion, before asking the panellists for their concluding thoughts and recommendations on how to help fix the home moving process.
“We’re trying to create a positive home moving process for all” advised Rudolph.
“Now, to do that the conveyancers need to be asking for that material information upfront, the estate agent needs to be putting the information in their memorandum of sale and ensuring that what they’ve collected they do pass on to the conveyancers, but also to the mortgage broker.
“Because we want to make sure that the mortgage application goes to the right lender that will lend on that property. So, we need to share, and we need to collaborate, and we need to ensure that all the information is available upfront.”
A key theme throughout the discussion, ‘technology’ was again raised.
“My personal view is technology. I think we need to be less scared of it… I think chain view is really critical, and that’s a clever bit of tech. Something that doesn’t involve people. We need to take people out of the process. I think that’s the key” recommended Ambrose.
“The Ministry did identify that we need to deliver certainty and transparency, and chain view is really important to that” added Rudolph.
“If we could wind the clock forward a couple of years’ time and see the basis of a grid of information that’s shared between all parties, that we can log into and have a look, so that you can see the chain, you can see the progress… You can see we’ve got a problem three sales down the line… we will be in a lot better shape” agreed Hytch.
“Bring back home information packs, digitally” added Cooke.
By adopting these changes, can we look to see a faster, more efficient home moving process?
The results remain to be seen, though the foundations for many of these positive changes are already in place. The key now is for those of us involved in the home buying and selling process to embrace them.
The full face-to-face Roundtable, including additional insights from the expert panel is available to view here.
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