Monday November 30, 2020

Tech solution takes blood, sweat and tears out of new house transactions

The house-buying process is a long and arduous one for all involved. Leman Solicitors has teamed up with software company Transact to streamline it for developers, estate agents and the legal sector, benefiting the buyer in the process

8th November, 2020
Gavin Fitzgerald, senior associate in the Real Estate team at Leman Solicitors: ‘The legal side of house selling is ancient’

It’s not quite like the TV programmes: anyone who has bought a home will tell you, the purchase process is far from simple. Delays are common, the amount of paperwork immense and the whole thing is akin to a black box that no one can see into.

Gavin Fitzgerald, senior associate in the Real Estate team at Leman Solicitors said the process of selling new houses was, if not Victorian, at least decades out of date.

“Leman acts for some of Ireland’s largest new home developers and we always felt that there was room for improvement in the space,” he said.

“It hasn’t moved along with the homes being sold: [building energy rating] A-rated homes, homes where you can switch the lights on with your phone, yet the legal side is ancient.”

Leman reached out to Transact to build a partnership that would develop a cloud-based software platform to make the entire new home sale process less arduous. Aimed at developments of 25 or more homes in a single estate, Transact makes use of the cloud and the inherent replication in transactions to streamline the entire process.

“These kinds of new home developments, that’s where we felt the technology could make the biggest difference as the amount of duplication of work for developers is enormous,” said Fitzgerald.

“Then Covid hit and it almost fast-tracked the process: the world needed to somehow continue.”

Transact chief executive John Fahy said the genesis of the idea was simple: he experienced the interminable delays first hand.

“I’m not an estate agent, I’m not a solicitor, nor am I involved in banking. I went through this myself a couple of times and just couldn’t believe how bad it is in terms of customer experience.

“There have been no technological advancements in this space in about 40 years.”

Fahy then sat down with key stakeholders in the new home process including numerous developers, Leman, AIB and Sherry FitzGerald and tried to work out what each party required.

“We knew that there had to be a way of streamlining this whole process,” he said.

The answer was to integrate all parties – the developer, both legal teams, the estate agent and the buyer – on a platform that provided a single source of truth.

In effect, all documents and key stages are digitally shared – and done so transparently, so everyone can see who has done what, as well as what still needs to be done in order to complete the sale. No hiding with Transact!

“That’s why the likes of Amazon are very successful: you don’t need to log into 12 sites for 12 different products,” he said.

Transact integrates into all of the stakeholders’ systems, maximizing efficiency and transparency. For the buyer this offers great reassurance as they can see the process evolve at the click of a button.

“The customers can log in to the system if they wish and they get an end-to-end roadmap, all the way through the multiple stakeholders to drawing down the funds. It tells them exactly what happens and who needs to do what,” said Fahy.

The main beneficiary from the platform, however, is the developer. It means cutting unnecessary losses, avoidance of unnecessary duplication of tasks and live updates on the status of their developments.

“Delays in contacts every single day costs the developer cash. Plugging into Transact guarantees that they can cut weeks out of the sales process,” said Fahy.

Fitzgerald agreed: “Four, six, even eight weeks saved might not sound like a long time, but the developer can guarantee cash in the door quicker and ensure they are not paying interest to the bank any longer than needed,” he said.

He also said the replicated nature of construction – and paperwork around construction – means that deploying an online service can be transformative.

“Why it really works with new home developments is because the title for house number one is almost identical to the title for house number 100. Traditionally, you could be dealing with the same 100 queries from 100 different lawyers,” he said. With Transact, the purchasing lawyers have access to all previous queries raised which slashes the need to raise repetitive queries and eradicates unnecessary delays.

Right now, even if paperwork is helped along by electronic means, it is typically done with heavily customised but ultimately not specialised CRM software. Transact’s unique selling point is its laser-like focus.

Two large developers have already signed up, as well as well over 100 solicitors and most of the big estate agents. Advanced discussions are under way with a number of other developers as well who are having their platform fully customised by Transact.

Fahy said estate agents found Transact particularly beneficial.

“Speed is king for the estate agent. At ‘sale agreed’ they’ve finished their work. That is supposed to be the case anyway, but it can still take three to five months to get the money in the door.”

One-click reporting and electronic document signing are also important features.

“There’s one thing in particular that the developers love: they can distil down and compare estate agents against one another, compare solicitors against one another. The transparency allows you to prove how efficient you are. Developers love that ability to hold people to account, and the better solicitors and estate agents want to be held to account,” said Fahy.

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