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Online agents are lambasted by solicitors for causing hold-ups in transactions

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Wed 19 Sep 2018

Online agents are lambasted by solicitors for causing hold-ups in transactions

Solicitors have hit out at online agents as causing delays in transactions.

At a recent round table event, one solicitor said they were a cause for concern.

She said: “There’s no after-care service, they’re not project managing the team, they’re not making sure mortgage offers have gone out, that surveys are done.

“We’re all having to chase things like that now, whereas that was always the role of the estate agent.

“So if you’ve got an unsophisticated buyer who doesn’t know when they mean to be doing this and nobody’s telling them they need to do it, delays occur and deals fall through.

“I was six weeks into a transaction and we found out that the buyer at the bottom hadn’t even applied for their mortgage offer because nobody had told them they needed to do it.”

Residential property transactions are, however, generally taking much longer and the length of time between offer and completion is often “eye-watering”.

Solicitors are also reporting that what was a rarity – transactions falling through between exchange and completion – is now becoming commonplace.

At the round table organised by the Law Society Gazette, one lawyer said she had seen several transactions fall out of bed between exchange and completion.

Farrer & Co partner Laura Conduit said: “We’ve exchanged contracts and, for whatever reason, the money isn’t there on the completion date.

“We serve notice to complete, the money still isn’t there and we’ve rescinded contracts.”

Stephen Ward, of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, said he has seen cases, adding: “Something else we’ve noticed is the greater time it is taking to get from offer to completion . . . extending out to quite eye-watering lengths.”

Attendees at the round table reported that many transactions are taking eight to ten months from offer to completion, with buyers calling the shots.

At the round table, there was also criticism of estate agents, with one solicitor describing it as “galling” that they receive “ten times a solicitor’s fee for less work”.

Another said that estate agents tend to present conveyancing “as a nasty technicality you have to get over so that you can have your housewarming party, rather than . . . extremely valuable professional due diligence”.

As such, consumers are motivated by price rather than quality – with concerns expressed that once law firms have to publish price information on their websites, consumers will focus even more on price rather than service.