In my view the UK property market has been quite fortunate to be able to not just remain active but thrive during all three COVID lockdowns. The industry has made a tremendous effort to demonstrate safe practices to provide much needed services to buyers, sellers and tenants alike. We all know, however, that it may well be sailing into choppy waters. There are now just days left before the current stamp duty holiday ends threatening to derail the mini property boom and leave tens of thousands of home movers disappointed.
I was astonished many weeks ago to read that conveyancers have been actively turning away sellers rather than have a grown up conversation to sow the seeds of doubt about a pre SDLT holiday completion. Have Estate Agents been adequately briefing vendors at valuation or have they failed to have an awkward conversation for fear of losing the instruction?
Given the ‘Perfect Storm’ threatening sales pipelines across the country, it has become increasingly evident that all stakeholders involved in property transactions have a significant part to play in helping smooth things over. Considering Estate Agents and Conveyancers ultimately want the same thing, to enable people to move home - why is there so much tension between the parties?
Symbiosis comes from two Greek words that mean "with" and "living." It describes a close relationship between two organisms from different species! Whilst that may be a stretch, Agents and Conveyancer certainly have very different drivers. Agents work (largely) in an unregulated environment with an unashamed sales focus which can sometimes be a little scant on detail and are prone to chase their deals relentlessly. Conveyancers, however, work in a highly regulated arena with a strict code of conduct, are risk averse and process driven. They typically see chase up calls as a hindrance and an unwanted distraction. Mutualism describes a cooperative relationship within which both parties benefit, both know they need each other which reminds me of this old tale.
A scorpion, which cannot swim, asks a frog to carry it across a river on the frog's back. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung by the scorpion, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung, despite knowing the consequence, to which the scorpion replies: "I couldn't help it. It's in my nature."
I am not looking to judge either party, but we work in a system that has not really changed for decades and fear that due to a lack of regulation and a plethora of often innovative solutions we are approaching a crossroads. Competing ideas and platforms will have a showdown wasting countless sums of money without orchestrated change being made. There was a glimmer of hope with the publication of the Governments rather laissez faire White Paper - Improving the home buying and selling process - but it declined to regulate Estate Agents, reintroduce a HIP lite, compel Local Authorities to standardise their response to Search information requests but did point out what everyone already knew in a rather woolly and non confrontational way!
It proves to me however that there is a real appetite for reform and that there are opportunities to provide real solutions to those that want to listen.
We remain ready willing and very able to help.