Closer working can help property professionals put an end to the blame game according to industry experts
Property professionals see it all too often. Frustration with the property transaction, marred by poor communication, delays and emotive movers, is fertile ground for finger pointing. The ‘blame game’ is a vicious cycle as it can actually do more harm than good.
What gets lost in the battle of “us vs. them” is the fact that when it comes down to it, everyone is actually on the same side. Somehow we lose sight of that, when all parties involved in the property transaction have a vested interest in making it a success.
Rather than exhaust energy on playing the blame game, isn’t it heathier and more productive to see how we can work better together and rise to the challenges in a more unified way? In doing so, you’ll be putting an end to underlying hostilities and boost your bottom line – and staff retention.
In tmgroup’s latest tm:tv episode, our panel of high-profile industry experts shared their tips on how to stop the blame game in your business and collaborate more harmoniously with fellow property professionals once and for all. Let’s take a closer look at their key recommendations.
Partner up to get movers legally prepared for sale early
Whether it’s material information, Local Authority searches or ID and AML checks, gathering up as much information as possible about the client and their property and proactively working together to iron out any potential sticking points, can dramatically speed up the transaction process and lead to more successful outcomes, which is ultimately good for clients and good for business.
Alison Taylor, Knowledge Lawyer at Mishcon de Reya LLP advocates for the five Ps, “Proper planning prevents poor performance. You don’t sell your car until you found the service record and the MOT certificate and the same goes for the house. The seller’s usually going to focus on getting the house ready for market, but the paperwork to go with it is just as important. That’s where the agent comes in, not only with collecting all sorts of information about the property, but also to persuade the seller to instruct the conveyancer sooner rather than later.”
Rob Hailstone, Founder of the Bold Legal Group, encouraged estate agents to be proactive in educating sellers about the benefits of upfront material information, and sharing it with conveyancers and buyers, adding, “With some of the changes providing more material information to the potential buyers here already, and more on the horizon, providing upfront information will soon become the norm.”
“With agents now taking around 49 days to find a buyer and another six months to complete the transaction, there are clear benefits for conveyancers working with proactive estate agents as Rob Hailstone noted, “Those 49 days taken to find a buyer are the ideal time to compile the sellers pack or a property transaction pack. Trading Standards have made it very clear that it would like conveyancers to be instructed before a buyer has been found. So, agents should be proactive, not reactive, and arrange a meeting with like-minded conveyancers where you can discuss how, by working together, you can get the sellers on board with a property transaction pack idea.”
Another common cause of friction and delays are Local Authority searches, so it’s particularly important to get these underway as soon as possible. Not only can these take time to process, but also they may highlight areas of concern. These could also add to delays while they are dealt with, or worst case scenario, lead to a buyer pulling out of the sale, setting the sale back to square one.
Alistair Trippett, Managing Director at Heywoods 1881 Estate Agents said, “It’s not uncommon for searches to be instructed weeks after the Memorandum of Sale been raised, and it’s all it’s dead time. Collaborate together to ensure that the searches are instructed as soon as the offer is accepted and qualified.”
Estate agents and conveyancers have to comply with the anti-money laundering regulations, so both parties need to know about the buyer’s ID, their source of wealth and their source of funds. Agents who prepare their buyers for this can help everyone move the transaction along more smoothly, as Alison Taylor explained, “The sooner we can get the checks done the better and we can get on with the transaction. The problem is, clients aren’t always ready to provide that information. Particularly where the source of funds isn’t straightforward, for example if money’s being gifted, where you have to persuade other parties not related to the transaction, to provide sufficient information. That can take quite a lot of time. Agents could really help to make sure that the buyer is prepared with what’s going to be asked for.”
Use technology for more efficient collaboration
The use of technology – whether that’s upfront information property packs, management packs, case management systems, integration electronic signatures, data rooms, sharing of a single source of AML – can benefit all professionals involved in the transaction. It can reduce repetition and re-keying, as well as speeding up the process.
Technology solutions can also help professionals to quickly identify were roadblocks and challenges might be, which can help those involved focus their time, effort and resources on the areas that will resolve these and move the transaction on. That means all parties can work together with higher confidence levels and get ahead of the game.
Nick Battrick, Senior Associate at DWF said, “The use of online portals where appropriate is a good thing to do. It’s a great way of giving updates to agents and to individuals during the course of a transaction. Automated updates will be something that people can look at in real time. It doesn’t obviate the need for regular communication and telephone calls where appropriate, but it just means that people can have insights as they’re going along on what is happening with a particular transaction.”
“I think the use of electronic signatures where appropriate is a really good way to speed up the transaction. With certain documents, especially those which don’t need to be registered, it makes much more sense to utilise electronic signature where possible. I would strongly urge people to look into that,” he added.
Don’t forget the personal approach to communication
tmgroup’s latest industry-wide ‘Back to the Future’ research report found one of the main causes of delays was due to poor communication, pointing to a lack of responsiveness, respect and empathy.
The panel agreed that while digital communication channels are essential, property professionals should not underestimate the power of offline communication. Telephone or face-to-face communication is conducive to building up relationships and breaking down communication barriers. They nurture mutual, better understanding of one another’s challenges and roadblocks, and facilitate co-operation to overcome these together for the common goal.
Rob Hailstone suggested face-to-face communication can be particularly powerful in the digital age, saying, “The convenience of a virtual meeting doesn’t always outweigh the value of meeting someone in person. It can be an essential step in building positive relationships with clients and prospects. Once you’ve met someone in person it’s far more difficult to enter the blame game culture.”
By fostering stronger, more collaborative working relationships in this way, people adapt to be more helpful towards each other, meaning less stress for everyone involved.
Educate for greater appreciation and understanding
The panel recommended wider training and education to promote greater understanding of businesses’ and individuals’ demands and limitations, for better working together. Having the right people with the right skills, trained and using the right processes, can also make the transaction proceed without friction.
“People are key in the transaction. It’s really important that everybody is given the best training possible. It will improve the way in which the service is delivered, and help that transaction progress to completion, ” Nick Battrick noted.
Alan Milstein, Chairman of the Residential Property Surveyors Association, also suggested setting up local property professional networks to encourage better collaboration, “Learn what other property professionals do and what matters to them. How many of us could set up a little group locally where we invite local conveyancers, estate agents and surveyors to come and meet, to talk about what we do and the challenges that we face in our day-to-day tasks?”
While property professionals all have demanding but different roles play, it’s important not to lose sight of the human aspect of your work as Alison Taylor added, “Treat the other side with empathy, respect and kindness – and have a sense of humour.”
Education can extend to clients too. The panel encouraged estate agents and conveyancers to take a more proactive stance when it comes to preparing them and their property for sale, by informing movers on what information they should provide early on, to help speed up their transaction.
You can watch the full tm:tv episode “Top 3 Tips: How to stop the blame game” here. You can also register your free place at tm:tv’s upcoming online webinar “Top 3 Tips: How to drive material change” on 11th July.