Saturday, 31 May 2014

Demand more for the fee you pay to your estate agent

I always make a big effort to manage my clients expectations when  taking on new instructions. I do this because some clients may be buying a home for the first time and other clients arrive on our door step with  a distorted expectation stemming from discussions with the estate agent.  I am not sure why some agents believe that conveyancers  have attended Hogwarts.  I am certain however that by providing a client with misinformation about the conveyancing process some agents simply do not do their clients any favours. 

You pay your estate agent a small fortune to market your property and perhaps the time has come for us all to expect the agent to do more than put a ‘For Sale’ board up and place a few advertisements in the local newspaper.  A simplistic view I know and I must qualify the preceding and following observations by acknowledging that not all agents are the same.  There do exist pro active agents who often prove very helpful. 

So what could the agent be doing to help to speed up the process of a house sale?

To begin with it would be good to know that your agent has some knowledge of the legal process behind selling and buying a home.  How many agents have actually taken the time out to spend time with a conveyancer to understand the steps involved and more importantly the reasons why delays can arise.   If an agent devoted the same amount of time to learning about conveyancing as some agents  do in chasing a conveyancer for updates there would be vast reduction in the the number of interruptions conveyancers receive each day and a massive improvement in turnaround times. 

I did send an email around not too long ago inviting agents to a free training session.  The idea was to provide an overview of the selling and buying process.  Surprise, surprise I did not receive one acknowledgement let alone an acceptance! 

If you sell a home there are what are known as transaction forms to complete.  These set out details on the property such as council tax banding and particulars of the items you are leaving in the home.  These are forms which normally take a client sometime to compete and there are some clients who need help in completing the forms.  I have never understood why the selling agent does not hold a stock of these forms so hand to clients when it comes to the marketing of the property.  It would save so much time and allow the conveyancer to send out the contract pack much quicker. 

Helping the client to get  together to pass to the conveyancer the warranties, guarantees and planning and building documents would also make life so much easier for the conveyancer.  We spend so much time on chasing clients for forms and documents and this is often the source of major delays. 

Once the transaction is up and running the agent should not telephone/email the conveyancer every day seeking an update.  Rather than helping these constant interruptions only serve to cause delay.  We have ploughed several thousands of pounds into developing a state of arts online tracking systems which clients love and which is accessed by our clients around 13,000 times each month.  The system also allows the selling agent on sales to receive the same updates but to actually get an an agent to use it is simply impossible.  The mentality is why should I access an online system when I can try and get the information by telephoning.  Agents seem obsessed by the telephone.  

Last month our support team took over 4000 call of which 70% were from agents.  These calls involved over 150 hours of manpower which we could have used far more usefully in progressing transactions. 

The other way agents could help and is to give up on creating a blame culture.  Some agents enjoy playing one party to a transaction against the other.  Why?   All it does is to fuel unnecessary stress and make the whole process even more painful. 

The agent could play a far bigger role in helping the conveyancer when it comes to fixing a completion date.   This can often prove to be a logistical nightmare and trying to get the agent to call the other agents involved to come up with a mutually acceptable completion date would help to save so much time and wasted energy. 

I suppose what I am trying to say is that if there was a closer working relationship between the agent and the conveyancer, and a better understanding of the selling and buying process on the part of the agent,  the time it takes to sell a property could be much shorter and less stressful.  Is this likely to happen in the future?  I very much doubt it.  Agents are not going to change when there is no need to do so given the very high fees they charge. Why do more work than is necessary?

Perhaps some conveyancers who pay agents for referring home sellers to them are partly to blame.  Would they really wish to do anything that could rock the boat?

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at davidpett@m-j-p.co.uk

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