A number of estate agency practices are at risk of going out of business due to the amount of time conveyancers are taking to complete property transactions, according to national law firm Dutton Gregory.
The highest interest rates for 15 years have taken some heat out of the housing market, but the UK is not in a recession, high employment levels continue to rise, and there is healthy demand from those wanting to buy and sell.
This time last year, Rightmove reported that it took 150 days on average to move house, and the situation remains virtually unchanged, despite Covid restrictions fully lifting in March 2022. Dutton Gregory Solicitors stresses that many of its peers are taking too long to raise enquiries and progress cases collaboratively, which can impact completion timescales by several weeks.
Paul Sams, partner, and head of property at Dutton Gregory Solicitors, said: “I don’t understand why any lawyer would want to slow the process down or turn it into a combat sport. Clients want certainty and efficiency, and the completion of their property transaction is essential for Estate Agents to be able to pay staff wages. It’s not uncommon for our conveyancing team to receive over 40 new enquiries 48 hours before the whole chain is expecting to exchange contracts, which can put every linked transaction in jeopardy. It astounds me that some folks just won’t work as a team.”
He continued: “Slow transaction times increase the chances of a property transaction falling through, which is why most housebuilders insist on a 28-day exchange of contracts, whether it’s an off-plan sale, or a finished plot. This timescale can be at odds with the current norm in the resale market. Buyers and sellers are facing too much uncertainty around timeframes for their conveyancing process and completion. While unexpected issues can arise, enquiries should always be raised when the contract is first received.
“If a local estate agents practice folds, it’s a blow for not only the individual business but also for the overall health of the housing market let alone the economy at large. At a time where there is a shortage of housing, completing transactions in the shortest time possible is in everyone’s interests. We want to work with our industry peers to improve service levels and help the whole supply chain to stay in business.”
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