• Author:Ben Jones
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We’ve exchanged

Well that was quick. House on the market. House sold. House bought. Contacts exchanges. All in five weeks. We move one week from now. Even as experienced house movers – this will be our fifth move in around eight years – this has been a pleasant surprise. Why was this time easier than the others. Three reasons.

Firstly, we got lucky. We had a short and convenient chain, with everyone committed to a quick move and able to move without delay. Secondly – and I make no apologies for the northern bias – there was good will and commitment from all parties, including an excellent estate agent; words you don’t often hear going together. I put it down to northern straightforwardness – it is certainly a very different experience from our London/SE experience – but everyone involved has just got their heads down and sorted it out, quickly and fairly painlessly.  Thirdly, we have kept on the agent and solicitor’s case throughout, to allowing them to fob us off with jargon and unnecessary delays. It helped to have a line of communication open with our chain and the ability to chase stuff up directly with our buyers and sellers that was getting stuck – which it did, several times.  We have been lucky too that our solicitor has been superb. On the ball from first whistle to last and communicating clearly and regularly. A brilliant service – the best we’ve ever had.

I am however left wondering, why can’t it always be like this. In fact, why can’t it happen faster still. We need to introduce e-conveyancing and remove this outdated nonsense of witnessed documents, original copies, communication by letter and the like. I heard the word “fax” used more than once doing this process – surely the only content in which it is used these days – which tells you all you need to know about how the legal profession – and mortgage providers – still treat the process. In the world of instant news, social media and the communication revolution, we are still at the mercy of how a single solicitor wants to communicate – usually by letter – or their unwillingness to communicate – some wait until they are ready to get in touch not seeing it as the height of bad manners not to reply to an email from someone else in the chain.

The process of buying a house is the ultimate market failure. As consumers we have perfect information; there is competition; there is supply and demand; and yet, we are being fed the same old diet of gruel. Unless you are active – and lucky – it can take three or four months for no good reason. We have proved it can be done in five weeks and even that timeline had delays built into it. It’s not rocket science. It’s not hard. It can be done.

I don’t know about exchanging contracts, we need to exchange this whole process for something that is not from the 19th century.


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