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How can we speed up the buying and selling process?

Monday 25 February 2019

Simon Wilkinson, owner of The Wilkinson Partnership covering Milton Keynes, Winslow & Leighton Buzzard, was asked to sit on the Propertymark ‘working group’ to modernise Estate Agency in the UK. Now a year has passed a lot has happened and change is on the way.

As a front-line practising agent of some 30 plus years, the revolution is coming and make no mistake at the size and scale of the changes that are coming to our profession. They are long overdue and like technological change it’s going to be rapid - those that embrace it will survive. My personal view is that a lot of estate agents and negotiators will disappear in the survival of the fittest. But there is real opportunity here, this is good stuff.

Some key points, regulation and licensing, professional standards, efficiencies and greater customer satisfaction will follow soon. But the quiet revolution has started. The working group have watched, listened, learned and developed new tools. The really big changes, specifically with enhanced technology and significant Government investment are yet to be announced, but the direction of travel is incredibly exciting. We could be selling houses in 14 days in a few years from now and it does look achievable.

Two key new protocols

  1. The Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ)
  2. New Point of Sale (POS) Protocol

The updated ‘Property Information Questionnaire’ or PIQ, is in effect a longer ‘take-on’ sheet at the point of Instruction and encourages vendors to be transaction ready from the point where the property goes onto the market. Some agents are already using it now – why not get one, work it and make it right for you? The Propertymark approved PIQ will be available very soon for you to download and use. I hope like us you will find it really delivers effect for you, sure, you need to work it yourself and adapt to it. But boy does it work well later. It saves a lot of time, makes the sale much easier and quicker, it reduces your fall through rate and if as in Northern Ireland, where it has reduced offer to exchange from 14 to 10 weeks, it has to help us all. The PIQ is something of an obvious requirement that might be adopted as a ‘best practice’ for licensing.

But to work it, you need to think a bit. Our Valuers ask the client to complete it as they are taking the property details, possibly floor plans and photographs. They then sit down with the client and run through it, explaining that any outstanding issues should be resolved now, that’s assuming that 1. They are serious about selling and 2. They are motivated. Both great indicators to you as to their desire to sell. A question about when the boiler was last serviced will stimulate the discussion with the vendor – get it done now, copy me in on the invoice/report and save time later. Oh, and let me sell the benefits when doing viewings. Let me show the buyer the Land Registry Plan, the boundaries, the garage in block etc.

Many agents, but not yet all, spend £3-6 to get the Land Registry entry downloaded, many argue that this is actually a compliance requirement for the Consumer Protection Regulations (CPR’s) today anyway. This highlights any covenants, restrictions and the boundaries, all information that you and a buyer ‘need to know’ and this should be put on the sales particulars where it impacts the ‘transactional decision’. For a leasehold property this is essential, in my view you cannot offer a leasehold for sale without the basic terms of the lease. Look out for Regulation of Management Companies too, as they need to provide the information to the selling agent in a timely manner.

The PIQ will often identify a lack of key documents, typically a Building Regulations certificate on an extension, this can often take weeks to get, so why wait – get the vendors conveyancer on the case now and get it done. But beware many clients will time to think about it - four days is not uncommon and many too will not answer the questions or reply correctly.

Essential to the process is reacting to the completed PIQ – update your colleagues in the morning meeting – it’s a CPR requirement for all sales staff to pass on anything that might affect a ‘transactional decision’.

Let’s look at the Point of Sale protocol

Throughout the meetings over the last year, the HM Land Registry and Solicitors/Conveyancers views have been really interesting. Despite many years of experience some really basic deficiencies in the information provided at the POS were highlighted to the agents. But let’s get this right and expect a much faster sale.

A new protocol will I expect follow here too, but you can start now. Some basics.

  1. Put the Full and Correctly spelt names of both buyer and seller (taken from ID check) on the Memorandum.
  2. Elaborate on the Memorandum with remarks to help the lawyers especially. Not least where the buyer’s finance is coming from and if they have an Agreement in Principle from a lender
  3. Attach the Land Registry documents with the Memorandum
  4. Attach a simple ‘chain’ form with all the properties/buyer’s circumstances and agents – note we consider this to be GDPR compliant based on ‘legitimate interest’ and as there is no need for client personal details.  In practice lawyers welcome this additional information
  5. Timescales be precise, the ‘ASAP’ is too vague. Suggest target dates or if applicable specific dates that have been negotiated and agreed as part of the deal.

So, in broad terms, there is a lot that you can implement now to make your business more commercial and the sooner you start, the easier the transition.

A streamlined property information questionnaire is being tested by several agents. If you are interested in taking part in a pilot project using an improved Property Information Questionnaire please email rachelhartley@propertymark.co.uk