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19 minutes reading time (3759 words)

How Conveyancers and Estate Agents can speed up property transactions

Collaboration Communication, Collaboration, Trust and Transparency are what's needed to speed up home moving

AND slash time-sucking administration AND MAKE MORE MONEY without having to invest a fortune in new technology.

The home moving process is a hot topic right now. Everyone's talking about the problems faced by estate agents and solicitors, asking questions like how can we make this better, faster and so on. 

Some claim the solution is for law firms to invest heavily in new tech, whilst others suggest it's the processes that need to improve. Moreover, there's a need for all professionals involved in the transaction to communicate and collaborate – not just between themselves, but more crucially, with their clients.


Who or what is to blame for the current situation that's slowing things down?

THE PEOPLE

Solicitors and estate agents blame each other, but the public mostly blame solicitors. The truth is, if we're going to blame anyone then that blame lies with all of us. We all (buyers and sellers included) play an active part in slowing the process down.

Confused? Allow me to explain...


Some solicitors (and agents) are selling their services on a 'commoditised' basis, which as most of us now know, is the fastest route to failure in business. It is also one of the main causes of problems within property transactions, because those who commoditise are more often than not, selling their services way too cheaply. 
By commoditised, I mean where a business offers the exact same service as their competitors, with the fee being the only differentiator consumers can see. It is also perceived to be one of the main reasons so many buyers and sellers end up selecting the cheapest solicitor or agent. As far as they are concerned, all solicitors and agents are the same; 'very vanilla' and providing the same service and so on.


This commodity death spiral is killing the industry and is why so many law firms and agencies are struggling to survive and now face the prospect of going bust as a recession begins to grip the housing market.


In fairness, homebuyers and sellers add to this problem purely because they are not educated on the process and don't know what's involved. What's the difference between a good solicitor or agent and a bad one? And how would they know if they've never moved house before? This is a big deal for them which could affect their lives for the next 10-20 years, and there's huge sums of money involved, so those 'dumb questions' they ask are very relevant in their eyes. As an agent or solicitor, you may have heard them and answered them a million times before, but the problem is, this particular client doesn't know that. 


I'm a massive believer that "if something is repetitive, it's crying out for automation." In the case of the same questions coming up time and again from new and existing clients, it's not necessarily automation, but the pooling together of information that you need to consider. If you want to slash the significant amount of time you spend dealing with these repetitive questions, the answer is VERY simple.


Pull together all the questions that a buyer or seller might have and provide detailed answers once and for all. Don't post on social media how dumb your clients are for not understanding something that appears to be very basic to you - take the time to systematically answer these questions in short-form video content, a blog, or even separate podcasts - so you can refer your clients to them once they instruct you. This provides an incredible value-added resource, slashes your admin time, but will also help you increase your fees.

Yes, I know many of you "don't do the internet" or you "don't do social media" but unfortunately you cannot have it both ways - you either go through the pain of doing this exercise once and use it to your advantage, or you face the consequences of watching your competition embrace this new way of doing things and get ahead. I don't make the rules - I'm just offering to show you a dynamic way to kill two birds with one stone - drastically reduce your admin time and make more money at the same time - what's not to like?


Remember that the format in which you provide this content is also important, so you have to cater for the different types of learners – some people prefer to read, others are more visual so enjoy watching a video, and some prefer audio. So whatever you produce needs to cater to those different audiences. There are many free tools out there that can help you convert your content easily into the different formats - for example a video can be converted into a podcast and an article.


Now don't get me wrong, there are guides, videos and podcasts online on how to move home, but given buyers and sellers don't move very often, they don't know where to look. There isn't a central place for them to go to find the relevant information, ask questions and so one. More importantly, if you're not the one providing them with this information, you're at risk of losing out to your competition that are.

But let's be honest, we all want to have an easier life and finding several hours to put into online content can be incredibly daunting with all the day-to-day challenges we face. So, we decided to make life easier for you. At WiggyWam, we've produced a series of training videos and other valuable content which walks buyers and sellers through the home-moving process. So if you want to save time and add massive value to your service offering, direct your clients to our learning centre at: wiggywam.co.uk/learn - it's totally free for buyers and sellers and they'll get many of their questions answered so you don't have to spend hours emailing or on the phone with them.


The easy to consume content covers everything from finding the right property, the roles and responsibilities of all involved, how to navigate the conveyancing process and everything else right up to moving in. By helping your clients to educate themselves, it should drastically reduce the number of questions they put to you.


You ARE different, you ARE unique

If you think you and your competition are all the same, think again.

For a start, the name and branding of your company is different to that of other solicitors and agents, as is for example, your reputation for offering a reliable service and speed of response to your clients. Your service is almost certainly built on your unique values which in themselves make you unique. Also, the individuals who represent your company are likely very different to the people who represent your competitors. Everything about your company adds up to it being one-of-a-kind. 

If you don't know where to start, hire a personal branding expert who can help you get your message and story right. Chris Arnold is one such expert, he provides this service to estate agents but can work with solicitors too as has a deep understanding of your target market - the homemovers! (if he's not available, I am sure he can point you to someone who is).


So, to avoid falling into the trap of commoditising your service offering, the best angle of approach is to exploit these very differences which make you so unique, demonstrating to your target audience the value you can add when they employ you. That way, you avoid the consequences your competition will face if they become trapped in the downward spiral of undercutting one another by lowering their fees in an attempt to win business. As we all know, low fee solicitors end up having to massively increase their case loads to try and make a profit, it is unsustainable - hence why conveyancers are leaving the profession en masse! 


And we've yet to meet an agent who will admit to being able to run a profitable business by over-valuing and under-feeing when the reality is they're losing a fortune in marketing spend every time a dissatisfied client pulls their property off the market with them.


All the commodity death spiral does is to increase your workload to unmanageable levels, and set yourself up to fail on multiple fronts. Staff morale deteriorates, stress levels rise and ultimately the customer (the one paying everyone's wages) suffers because you're spread far to thin to provide a decent level of service. This results in bad reviews, fewer word-of-mouth recommendations, a tarnished reputation and potentially your business failing altogether.


All it takes is for the market to swing in the opposite direction and a recession to come along to wipe your business out for good. Which is exactly what started to unfold in the late stages of 2022.

But how do I get off this hamster wheel to nowhere?

Put simply - you need to differentiate.

This might be by offering something your prospects will not be able to obtain elsewhere, like a simple service designed specifically to speed up transactions or by delivering an exceptional customer experience with a strong emphasis on communication – both being the biggest un-met needs of buyers and sellers currently!


As a solicitor or agent, take a fresh approach. Open your eyes and ears, read and listen to things that matter to your target audience. Take the time to really understand their issues - then simply provide solutions which address their main pain points. Ensure the value you're adding meets those needs and your message will automatically stand out from the crowd! 
Because let's face the harsh reality of business currently - the economic crisis has drastically increased overheads and the cost of doing business. It's made especially worse for conveyancing firms who are seeing their indemnity insurance going up year on year. For estate agents, it's the ongoing annual hike in fees charged by certain portals (but there's no change in the value proposition provided). 


Many businesses connected to the property market are going to have to take drastic action immediately if they're to survive the next 36 months - the economic conditions won't allow businesses to carry excess overhead and they'll need to provide stellar service to increase fees just to keep up with inflation.


And let's not forget - many solicitors also suffer as a result of the referral fee culture with some agents, that takes a sizeable chunk out of the already low fees some are charging (I read recently this can be as much as £400 per referral which is disgusting and totally unsustainable). I believe that many agents also suffer hugely from these types of relationships, but not in the way they think - it stifles creativity and the ability to create new and exciting ways to generate more revenue into their business. In short, its apathy and a resignation to the status quo - which leads to stagnation in the business, and eventually death (of the business).


THE PROCESSES

Many 'experts' say it's the conveyancing process that's broken. But is it really?

If we look at the problem strategically, the conveyancer is, in effect, project managing their way through a bunch of different systems and processes that are outside of their control. Land registry and local authority searches to name but a few. Their role is to pool all this information together and make sense of it, so they can protect the interests of property buyers and sellers, potentially for years to come. They do an amazing job!


Frankly, their role in this process is largely undervalued, evidenced by the constant sniping in industry press and derisory comments on social media. I personally think it's more a case that they're misunderstood. Their role is critical. If they miss something it can have a massive impact, not just on their business, but on the client, and not just now, but in the future when they come to sell their property. Then there's the other obligations to the mortgage provider and their professional regulatory bodies, as well as (more obviously), keeping on the right side of law and legislation.


It's a massive weight on the shoulders of conveyancers. Us outsiders (and I include many estate agents in that) don't understand their role well enough, or what's involved - although I do wish some expert solicitors would put themselves forward to be interviewed on a future WiggyWam webinar, so we can dive deep into what they do for their clients and help educate 'us outsiders' on what we can do to help speed up the process (get in touch if you are interested).


It's also the same in reverse - many solicitors and conveyancers don't understand the crucial role of the estate agent - especially in handling the last-minute crisis negotiations in order to keep a deal together. To this end, both parties need educating in what the other actually does so they can nurture some much needed respect for one other and eventually move towards a more collaborative way of working. We would all love agents and solicitors to put down their weapons and move away from the adversarial 'them and us' approach which it seems to be right now (and in case any estate agent is feeling left out - you're also welcome to join us on a future WiggyWam webinar where you'll get to share more about the vital role of what you do for your clients in the house moving journey - again, just get in touch).


Be transparent with potential clients about the way you work

Any solicitors (and for that matter, agents) who still operate like it's the 1920's, sending out letters when an email will suffice, need to stop this archaic and time-consuming practice now. If they don't, they need to state very clearly to any potential clients that this is how they work so the client can make a more informed decision as to whether to hire them for their house move or not.

Even to those who are devoted writers and lovers of words and correspondence, when it comes to buying or selling a property - speed is of the essence! So if you fail to adapt to a new way of doing things through nostalgia or stubbornness, you must face the facts that most clients will choose not to hire you.


On the flip-side, if you're a forward-thinking agent or solicitor then shout it from the roof tops! Or on your own blog, YouTube channel or Podcast. If you embrace new technologies and if you use specific communication tools or channels to keep your clients regularly updated – then let the buyers and sellers know. I promise they'll thank you for it!


Communicate Communicate Communicate!

There are, quite literally, tens of thousands of social media posts made each month by frustrated clients who feel their agent or solicitor is failing to communicate with them. It's fair to say there's massive issues around communication, and more recently, collaboration.


Buyers and sellers are exasperated because they're paying good money to their professional advisors - some of whom choose not to respond to their phone calls or emails, and by ignoring their clients, only serve to make everyone in the chain suffer, as their procrastination increases stress levels and anxiety for all involved. Its shameful behaviour and quite honestly, it will be good to see the back of these types of companies as the market begins to vote with their wallets and move their business elsewhere.


From your clients perspective, it's quite simple. They've paid you for a service. In that service they expect a certain level of communication. You're dealing with their biggest asset and they're stressed and anxious. They want to know what's going on – even if you call them to say there is nothing to report. I've yet to read a single complaint where a client was frustrated because their agent or solicitor over-communicated with them. Not once!


Simply put - you'll never be fired for over-communicating with your clients - but you will be if you fail to communicate with them when they're paying you for a service.

THE TECHNOLOGY

There are tons of solutions out there to help you manage your business; CRMs for agents, case management systems for law firms, tools to manage chains and software to manage all manner of things. But despite the plethora of apps, software and websites dedicated to communication, it's still not working. What's wrong?


Law firms, for example, are being told by industry gurus that they "need to invest in new technology" whereas agents are told they "need to integrate with XYZ." But the question remains - do these proposals work? Yes in isolation they do work, but they still aren't solving the key issues around property transactions - the biggest ones being communication and collaboration? 


It's pointless having a case management system if staff don't use it, or they're so overburdened with work that they simply won't communicate updates to their clients because they feel that they don't have time (the irony being of course, that their time is then taken up by the 6 phone calls they receive per week, per case file, chasing for an update…).


The other problem is costs. Many PropTech and LawTech companies are building solutions along with API's to integrate different pieces of software and systems with one another. These quite often incur additional costs including one off payments and/or monthly subscriptions that can all add up. 


There's also a lot of talk about artificial intelligence (AI) and how taking the human out of the process is going to be the answer. There might be some truth in this, especially as some industries are finding it harder and harder to recruit, train and retain staff. 


But when it happens in the residential property world, will it completely eradicate the need for conveyancers? Some guru's predict this to be the case but quite honestly, whilst AI can remove some of the replication, duplication and automation of mundane tasks which it is doing now with great success, but personally, i'd still like an expert with many years experience to work on my property. Also, how will people gain years of expertise if everything is being done by a computer? I'm not convinced I would put my trust in something like this just yet, so lets see how it unfolds!


If we're truly going to make the moving home experience much more enjoyable and allow ourselves to fast-track deals through to completion as soon as possible, there is a need for every part of the process to be digitalised. This includes every local authority or government department providing information for local searches, as well as freehold management companies providing leasehold information packs within days rather than weeks or months.


Frankly, I think we're still a long way off and I don't know what all the people employed in these various departments would do once things are taken over by AI that can think for itself, doesn't need coffee or toilet breaks, won't need to sleep and never needs to take sick leave. Surely this is not a good position for us all to be sleepwalking into? 


Also, I dread the day when I am speaking to a machine where I can't tell the difference between a robot and a real person. I don't get the current culture to de-humanise everything when in fact all I want is the expert human touch to do the work they enjoy doing - and be paid handsomely for it! Just because we can do/create these things doesn't always mean its good for society. 


How Can You Work Smarter, Different, And Make Your Clients Happy?

Here's a shortlist of things you can do to rapidly improve your business, make more money and increase client satisfaction:

  • Start by increasing your fees for your standard service. Contrary to what you might think, people don't want the cheapest, they want a stress-free transaction which includes a quality service from both the agent and solicitor. 
  • Create different packages such as Gold, Silver & Bronze options – look to how other countries market to their audience such as the US and Australia – they have nailed this! 
  • Make communication central to your offer – commit to regular updates, feedback and so on – its what your clients are crying out for – it's their biggest pain, so address that and you'll win! WiggyWam can help you as we have powerful communication tools designed to help you quickly connect and engage with your clients throughout the entire property transaction (and beyond)!
  • Provide educational content to your clients so they can learn about the process they're about to go through. If you can't provide it yourself, point them to WiggyWam's learning centre (www.wiggywam.co.uk/learn) which is free and explains all the things they need to know so you don't have to. 
  • Join WiggyWam. We are a platform dedicated to making your life easier. Not only do you get to market your business to your ideal target audience, but you gain access to all the communication tools you need for effortless collaboration on transactions, generating leads and building relationships with others in your industry and partner organisations. 
  • Educate yourself on sales and marketing, understand and learn how to handle client objections and how to package your services in a way which adds significant value to your client - or joint venture with someone like WiggyWam who will help to do all of this for you. 
  • Abolish referral fee culture and Collaborate instead! Agree to support each other in the process. For example, the agent works on getting all the upfront information together in the form of a sellers pack before the property is listed for sale, and getting clients signed up to a protect your pocket insurance policy to remove the financial penalties when sales fall through - see www.wiggywam.co.uk/protectyourpocket for more information. 
  • Offer services such as WiggyWam's suite of services which guarantee a smooth transaction for your home buying or selling client, whilst also providing you with useful additional income. You can find out more by emailing us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Here at WiggyWam we want to build the biggest network of quality solicitors, estate agents and other professionals whose mission is to provide excellent customer service and not be reliant on referrals which eats into profits, or are selling their services to cheap. We want to make it easier for consumers to find you, communicate with you and if they are buying or selling a home, collaborate with you and other parties involved in the transaction in one space. If that's you, join us!
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Comments 4

Guest - Chris Arnold (website) on Wednesday, 14 December 2022 19:12

If you're not creating the future of your estate agency or residential conveyance firm, it will happen to you. Then you have to react to circumstances often beyond your control.
Doesn't it make sense to build a business that isn't subject to economic and market fluctuations?
If your business is part of the common, it's not a strategy that will move you forward.

Time to embrace remarkable difference.

If you're not creating the future of your estate agency or residential conveyance firm, it will happen to you. Then you have to react to circumstances often beyond your control. Doesn't it make sense to build a business that isn't subject to economic and market fluctuations? If your business is part of the common, it's not a strategy that will move you forward. Time to embrace remarkable difference.
Guest - Pete Faulkener on Wednesday, 14 December 2022 21:23

We have just gone through change and restructuring. It seemed like the worst decision at the time but was actually the best. Everyone was against the decisions brought in by new blood, but it actually worked. We were stuck in our ways and got a bit complaicent. The fresh blood showed a new way. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't like a 20 something it was a 65 year old man who came in and very tech savy he was too who showed us the way.

We are in a partnership here and so I agree we also need to work together better. We are up for it. Some home truths here.

We have just gone through change and restructuring. It seemed like the worst decision at the time but was actually the best. Everyone was against the decisions brought in by new blood, but it actually worked. We were stuck in our ways and got a bit complaicent. The fresh blood showed a new way. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't like a 20 something it was a 65 year old man who came in and very tech savy he was too who showed us the way. We are in a partnership here and so I agree we also need to work together better. We are up for it. Some home truths here.
SteveWhitaker on Thursday, 15 December 2022 13:36

Really good article!……as commented on, some good home truths for an industry that struggles to move with its clients demands. How many who work in this sector really believe that what they offer is anywhere near the level they would wish to experience!
Collective change for the better seems to be beyond the masses, so, those that strive to invest in a new offering and a better client experience will ultimately prevail.

Really good article!……as commented on, some good home truths for an industry that struggles to move with its clients demands. How many who work in this sector really believe that what they offer is anywhere near the level they would wish to experience! Collective change for the better seems to be beyond the masses, so, those that strive to invest in a new offering and a better client experience will ultimately prevail.
Guest - Harry_Coventry on Tuesday, 28 February 2023 15:08

Great article that talks a lot of sense. Agree that referral fees should be abolished. This is the first i have heard of wigwam. It looks very interesting. Does it list properties on behalf of estate agencies or is it for private sellers? I had a quick scoot around and it mentions a property portal which I can't see. We are based in Coventry with 3 branches and looking for alternative marketing options and doing things different.

Great article that talks a lot of sense. Agree that referral fees should be abolished. This is the first i have heard of wigwam. It looks very interesting. Does it list properties on behalf of estate agencies or is it for private sellers? I had a quick scoot around and it mentions a property portal which I can't see. We are based in Coventry with 3 branches and looking for alternative marketing options and doing things different.
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