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The breakdown in relations is hurting the industry

Published on

Boxing Tournament

Its becoming increasingly apparent to me that the relationship between many solicitors and traditional estate agents is at breaking point.

Every house purchase and sale is different but in general a solicitor or conveyancer will manage the more intricate elements such as dealing with the Land Registry, stamp duty charges and payments, collecting and transferring money during a house sale, providing legal advice and recommendations and drawing up and assessing contracts; they are, patently, an integral cog in the process. If there is disharmony between estate agents and conveyancers then the industry has a serious issue to address, and my recent experiences suggests that is very much the case.

Last week my efforts to contact a number of solicitors who were playing a fundamental role in various property exchanges were perpetually rebuffed. It's unbelievably frustrating when you are trying to work as hard as you can on behalf of a client or customer and you are not getting the feedback required to give them an adequate service.The last thing I want to do is shine an unsavoury light on the integral work they do, but I am at my wits end trying to engage with many solicitors, and whilst the blame game is futile I'm happy to portion the vast majority of this at the door of our traditional counterparts.

The pressure being exerted on solicitors to complete deals has been unnecessarily aggressive in the past and the politics involved in completing a sale, and the way in which the commission from a sale is divided up across a deal, has led to many becoming disillusioned with traditional estate agents and the industry at large. Given their crucial role in proceedings and the sterling job the vast majority do, I do not believe solicitors get their fair share of the spoils. Traditional estate agents tend to hoard the vast majority of the commission, and not enough of this is being filtered down to solicitors. Traditional estate agents' commissions are forever rising yet one could argue that solicitors are not being sufficiently rewarded for their work. Estate agents would be nothing without solicitors, so why are the latter seemingly being undervalued to the point where they don't feel obliged to help us?

The lack of incentive and the fact that traditional estate agents are being overtly pushy to complete a deal has resulted in an impasse and a subsequent stagnation in many deals. I am worried that a few disillusioned solicitors are perhaps being a little lethargic in their dealings with over-eager traditional estate agents. In many cases you can certainly empathise with their frustrations. I believe online estate agents, because of our traditional predecessors, have been tarnished with the same brush and yet the people who suffer most are the customers. This breakdown in a key relationship is hurting the industry and online agents like ourselves are guilty by association.

Our business model is reliant on word of mouth and in many respects our motivations to facilitate a deal are by no means solely financial. We have a completely different business model and approach from traditional estate agents, whereby we are trying to cultivate a peer-to-peer ethos between buyer and seller, where each one is well catered for. We are, put simply, reliant on the positive experiences of our customers being shared, so I'm desperate to try and address the problems which could undermine both us, the customer and indeed solicitors. The split of our fees is completely different and yet we are still being treated by solicitors like we are part of the old guard. In order to address this we need to open up our lines of communication and be transparent with our commissions so that no one feels unduly hard done by. Let's put the pithy games to bed, because we all need these transactions to operate. Obviously the conveyancing process is crucially important and deals will inevitably fall a part sometimes, but better lines of communication should certainly limit this. We all need to be pulling in the same direction.

We want to lead this behavioural change by making amends for the previous indiscretions of our industry. There must be a collective shift in approach so that everyone feels valued and also well-rewarded for their work, because customers are being undermined by the political infighting within our industry. This deadlock simply must end.

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