Estate agents can stand out from the crowd and help consumers through lockdown by providing a more secure sales process, according to Gazeal.

The digital platform, which provides Buyer Information Packs and reservation agreements, has dealt with circa £238m of property value through its platform since the spring lockdown.

It says the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic have made transactions more fragile and that the pressure on agents is likely to increase during England’s second national lockdown.

Market conditions increase chances of fall-throughs

A combination of market factors could increase the chances of transactions falling through over the coming weeks. Although the housing market has been allowed to stay open, the tightening of coronavirus restrictions will lead to further economic uncertainty.

This is likely to affect consumer confidence and could lead to buyers or sellers pulling out of transactions at short notice. Meanwhile, a huge number of transactions in the pipeline as a result of increased activity over the summer could put significant pressure on the longest chains.

With the stamp duty holiday ending in less than five months, some movers may be doubting whether their transactions will complete in time to benefit from the tax cut, which could force them to take drastic action.

“Unfortunately, fall-throughs are part of the property market, but estate agents can reduce their frequency by focusing on secure sales. The risk of fall-throughs has been higher than usual this year and these pressures are likely to continue well into 2021,” says Bryan Mansell, co-founder of Gazeal.

“Agents can substantially reduce their fall-through rate by encouraging sellers to provide upfront information and carry out checks early in the process so key issues can be identified and subsequently rectified sooner.”

Mansell adds that giving buyers and sellers the option to enter into a reservation agreement can increase security, confidence and transparency through commitment.

Transaction delays could get worse during Lockdown 2

With many transactions already delayed due to a significant backlog caused by the stamp duty holiday and the release of pent-up demand after the spring lockdown, the impact of the latest restrictions could make things worse.

It was recently announced that the furlough scheme has been extended until the end of March 2021. If more conveyancing and local authority staff are furloughed, transactions could be delayed further as parts of the process, such as turning around searches, could come under increased pressure.

“The impact of under-resourced teams of conveyancers and local authority staff could make things more difficult for agents. If transactions are delayed, consumers will want answers and solutions from their agent,” Mansell explains.

“Although agents can’t do anything about under-resourcing due to the furlough scheme, there are certain parts of the process which they can control to speed things up and increase security for buyers and sellers.”

“Good communication and an emphasis on getting sellers to provide upfront information are two key aspects of the process which agents can focus on to have a positive impact on reducing delays,” he says.

Agents can stand out by offering secure sales process

Mansell suggests that during uncertain times, homemovers will ultimately benefit from a more secure sales process.

“A safe and secure sales process reduces stress and increases peace of mind for consumers, while it ensures agents get paid faster and on more properties.”

“The market is crowded and competitive at the moment – agents can differentiate their offering by focusing on security and reducing the chances of fall-throughs,” he says.

“Being able to tell vendors that you are the safest agency to sell with in the local area due to the processes you have in place is a powerful message that will really hold weight with consumers.”

“As well as encouraging increased upfront information and offering reservation agreements, agents can increase sale security by managing expectations and communicating the realities of the market to homemovers,” Mansell concludes.