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Government figures currently show deals take on average 19 weeks to go through with about 35% failing. Due to this there is now much more emphasis on sales progression. Agents need to understand more about the legal aspects of home buying and the importance of managing the chain.

The key challenges of progression

Agents are faced with the challenge of determining the progress of part of the chain as it involves different lawyers each using their own unique approaches. Progress can be measured by simple milestones such as whether a contract pack has been received or searches ordered. However, a key problem that remains unsolved is ‘enquiry handling’. There is no standard approach to the process carried out by the buyer, and responses may be incomplete or unsatisfactory.

Understanding what issues should and should not be chased up, can be problematic.  For example, selling a property for which the correct permission for alteration work was not gained.  In this instance, it is quickest for the seller’s lawyer to buy indemnity insurance. In such circumstances, the local authority must not be contacted, as this will mean the insurance option is not possible, slowing the process further.

Lawyer communication

A common misconception is that lawyers are not allowed to speak to anyone else in the chain. However, this is not the case.  In recent years there has been a shift in mind-set amongst some lawyers in their efforts to get deals through.

Lawyers can talk to any other lawyer involved in the deal.  It is only the other clients that they are not allowed to speak with.  The problem is that there are still a lot lawyers that do not like doing this, and this is why the agent is in the best position to do this work.

Can technology help?

Every few months there are announcements of the “next great thing” when it comes to technological advancements in conveyancing communication.  However, this software development work is typically carried out in isolation rather than with lawyers, which results in inflexible solutions.

The fundamental problem is that a transaction can only move as fast as the slowest part of the chain.  The value of technology is limited unless there is a standard mechanism for every lawyer to use.  Given that many lawyers don’t even use case management systems themselves, getting them to use a third party solution may be optimistic at best.

Solving the issue

There are no quick fixes to solving the communication issues in sales progression.  However, by agents becoming more informed about the legal aspects of the transaction and driving the need for greater accountability and transparency with lawyers, this will bring positive change.