Easy Choices – A Conveyancing Can Of Worms.
There's me thinking that estate agency has enough problems of its own - conveyancing is in a different class.
A Redundancy process under way at Simplify, the Leicester headquartered firm that provides conveyancing services to the likes of PurpleBricks. Turmoil at conveyancing giant, Metamorph, with news of frozen client accounts , unpaid staff and closed offices.
Despite big numbers, the latter has begun to unravel after Connells took legal action to wind up a subsidiary, Beamont ABS, after referral fees were not paid. Beamont ABS has since appointed liquidators.
At the heart of this malaise is the simple fact that big law firms compete on price for conveyancing work and margins are insufficient to give a chunk of it to the estate agency that refers business their way.
In the race to the bottom on fees, both estate agencies and conveyancing firms likely put profit before service.
Neil Robinson, commenting in Property Industry Eye today, makes a valid point that staff at the beleaguered firms "have no choice but to cut out giving updates to estate agents. No choice but to make clients wait forever for things, due to having unsustainable case loads forced upon them. No choice but to miss and forget things because they're having to rush individual cases. No choice but to make poor decisions due to lack of training and experience."
Who to blame?
The conveyancing firms, for their insistence on a pile it high and sell it cheap strategy. The estate agencies that value a £250 or thereabouts referral fee ahead of a duty of care to their vendor clients.
Simplify was in the news last month when a serious data breach in 2021 came to light and personal details (bank accounts, D.O.B, medical, tax and N.I records) of past and present staff were likely compromised.
Estate agency isn't immune to shoddy practice.
PurpleBricks has reportedly set aside £9 million to prevent buy-to-let investors, which used its services, from being exposed to legal action by tenants.
Estate agents and landlords are required to serve tenants with legal information within 30 days of receiving the tenancy deposit. If they do not, the tenant can take their landlord to court and the landlord can be ordered to pay up to three times the deposit.
It's basic lettings practice in good estate agency, but in the rush to scale a business, often it's the simple things that are overlooked.
As with estate agency, the business model for conveyancing appears broken. A "fingers-crossed" expectation that it will go well - if a vendor chooses the right agency and the right conveyancing firm.
There is help out there for those that are not easily satisfied, but have been dropped, unwittingly, into this minefield.
When Conveyancing Goes Wrong is a great private Facebook support group started by Samantha Walker. Loads of case studies and helpful advice from its 1600 members. Well worth joining.
Wiggywam is a platform where all issues surrounding the selling process for a home are regularly discussed and expert advice provided. They also offer a Conveyancing Concierge Service that does all the heavy lifting and drastically reduces the time to progress a sale from agreed offer to completion. Check them out.
Is there a solution to the conveyancing can of worms?
I believe there is.
The future of estate agency and conveyance practice depends on doing business with "good" people. People that care about the process. People that are transparent.
"The only reason that price is all your customers care about is that you haven't given them anything else to care about." - Seth Godin.
Customers want to know Who you are.
Then, they care about the message and story that you give them.
Everything else: the advertising, the affiliate marketing, the technology, the easy promises, is just noise.
Start with Who you are - what values and beliefs will matter to those you seek to serve? Tell them the story that only you can tell. If you're a firm, it's the culture that will differentiate.
Become known for making the hard choices.
The easy choice for conveyancing firms is to hide away behind the 'bigger is better' corporate brand and offer referral fees to grasping, needy estate agencies that deliver them business 'on a plate'. Instead, start attracting more clients - start attracting better clients. Clients for whom the price you charge isn't their main concern.
The easy choice for estate agencies is to recommend a conveyancer to their clients that offers the agency a financial incentive and when it all goes wrong, the agency has someone to blame. Especially so for those estate agencies selling a fixed-fee, pay-regardless offer to homeowners. Start charging what you are worth - enough that a paltry referral fee won't be an incentive to make an easy choice.
There's an easy choice, too, for homeowners. Choose the cheap agency and the cheap conveyancer, the consequence of which will always be a hard life.
Or choose the estate agency and the conveyancer that make the hard choices in order that their client has the easy life.
My first article on the subject, coming at it from a marketing perspective, so I have a lot to learn, but I can already feel the 'juices' flowing.
Thanks to Christine Soltvedt at Wiggywam for the suggestion.
Need a helping hand with telling your #estateagency, #conveyancing story?
I'm happy to help. Here's how to reach me:
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I can relate. Our firm was struggling. I worked in conveyancing side. I have just been let go. They had the same problem you mention of pile them high. I was support and i couldn't cope. Told my wife today after been let go last week I am glad to be out of it.
Sorry to hear that you were let go, Tony. As you say, it's good to be out of certain company cultures.
I hope you find a home for your talents. Keep us up to date with developments and hope you both have a Happy Christmas and inspiring 2023.
Sound article with good points made!
It seems to me that Regulators and industry bodies seem to be missing in action when it comes to meaningful improvements in service level standards for the consumer! They should be demanding much more from their members and when those standards are not met, consistently, then withdraw membership. This will give the consumer greater confidence in who to choose, as they can rightfully expect a better service from a approved supplier. To that end, it would become a clearer point of distinction between industry suppliers and their competitors. Currently, it appears that regulatory membership is just a paid for badge that does little to drive change or improve service for the consumer!
There are way too many trade bodies/associations etc. across all the property related industries. It's a minefield for those who work in these industries, never mind for the public.
Not only do these bodies substantially increase the overheads of all those businesses where there is a legal requirement to be a (paid) member, but who also feel a need to sign up for others because:
1. the one(s) they are forced to be a member of don't offer the standard of service they want/need or are inefficient
2. they feel pressured to join others because their competitors are with them and it looks better to potential clients.
There will no doubt be other reasons too that are both for and against being a member.
This makes sense. You do get what you pay for. We recommend solicitors to vendors based on them providing a good service. We don't take referral fees as don't think it is fair or even good business practice. We have a really good relationship with most local firms and between us get most deals through fairly quickly. We have no control over who the buyers select and this is mostly where we hit problems. We try to offer advice but there is a mistrust as they think there is something in it for us. Who the buyer selects makes the difference in our case as almost all our clients go with the solicitors we recommend.
The solicitors we work with are exceptional, we just need more like them!
Well if my experience is anything to go by it was a total shambles. Start to finish the solicitors were useless. The agent selling my property was also a waste of space and very cold. Never contacted us, never told us what was going on, never interacted at all. Then we had a buyer and the nightmare got worse. Bloody usesless the lot of them. I am glad I will never have to go through it again as I am 92 and don't need those kind of services any more.