2021 – Time for property professionals to stretch their mind?

Business always favours the customer’s needs eventually. In 1973, a high street bank survey discovered that the public wanted longer opening hours and shorter queues. In response, most of the banks opened an hour longer and put more cashiers on duty. Barclays however delivered the first ATM and blew the customers’ expectations out of the water. As Henry Ford said in 1901 “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said “faster horses”.

Over the past twelve months so much that we took for granted has changed. People who were once camera-shy now run Zoom meetings, working from home is no longer regarded as skiving, and who needed real shops anyway? The pandemic has forced change upon us that was in the process of happening in any event.

So why not apply some ambition here on behalf of the customer (who always triumphs in the end)? Carry on as we are – or create extraordinary change to our archaic system of property transfer, in England and Wales at least?

For example, conveyancers should be encouraging estate agents to work with their seller clients to complete their SPIF, instruct a conveyancer and apply for searches on the day of listing. At the same time how about a single blanket signature that effectively signs every document simultaneously at the outset, even the TR1, subject to the conveyancer’s advice to do so. What about getting surveyors to offer surveys in advance, on behalf of nobody, but commissioned by the seller/agent and paid for by the eventual buyer (when liability would pass to them).

Only when these things are applied in practice can a sale be virtually exchange-ready by the time a buyer is found

In 1974, banking jobs we no doubt lost. As the motor car industry grew, no doubt stable-hands and farriers’ jobs were lost as well. While traditional high-street solicitors may believe that focusing on maintaining the status quo is a form of protection, it appears to be all smoke and mirrors. The reality is that unless they ambitiously embrace consumer-centric change, they are actually jeopardising their very existence.

Richard Rawlings is one of the UK’s leading estate agency trainers. www.rawlings.info

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