PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’: Simplify | Pirie Palmann | Property Ombudsman

In today’s news, Andrew Stanton discusses Simplify’s acquisition of Pirie Palmann, and the Property Ombudsman’s ruling on the double agent mixup.

Daily bite-sized proptech and property news in partnership with Estate Agent Networking.

Simplify acquires Pirie Palmann, grows team by 33% 

In what is now a common post-pandemic strategy, corporate giants are buying their way forward in the arms race. Simplify, already believed to be the biggest conveyancer, has just bought out Pirie Palmann, adding over 80 new members to the Simplify team.

The reason that the Simplify brand has managed to scale is that it really believes in software efficiency and replacing analogue with digital. Conveyancing is a paper-heavy industry, so their reasoning is if you’re investing in better tech, you’re going to get ahead of the game.

It’s not just the extra skilled workforce that Simplify has gained, it’s the clientele that Pirie Palmann has built up over the years, too.

CEO of Simplify Robert Grimshaw said: “The acquisition of Pirie Palmann is a great match for Simply Conveyancing as its experienced team and commitment to quality reflect our own values. Together, we are a formidable force in the sector and a highly capable partner for referring agents. Our innovative approach to flexible ways of working and investment in technology mean we’re well positioned for rapid growth – Simply and Pirie Palmann are facing the future with confidence, and we are excited for the next steps.”

Double agent mix up could cause vendors a financial headache

VENDOR BEWARE: Selling your home through two agents could be costly 

A buyer was introduced to the same property by two agents, one of them invoiced the owner on completion of the sale and the vendor paid this agent. Another agent then said that they were due a fee as they had introduced the same buyer. 

Following an investigation by The Property Ombudsman, it was found that the Ewemove franchise agency who had been paid by the vendor should repay the money, as they had (amongst other things) not warned the vendor that there may be jeopardy of two fees being liable should the sale to that buyer go through. In a twist, the agent has ceased trading and so did not repay the amount. The TPO has since issued a ban.

The thinking from the TPO was that it should have passed on the opportunity of the sale if a previous agent was in the mix.

In what some agents see as a draconian thought process, the TPO holds a very constant line. They maintain the belief that “Agents should take every step to ensure that the seller understands the risks when either dis-instructing one or instructing another, and to adhere to the relevant parts of the TPO Code of Practice at such times.  This ensures the seller is properly equipped to make decisions when agreeing a sale.”

What I know from my own experience is that it is not always easy to determine what an introduction means, as it could be seeing a ‘For Sale’ board, an email alert, seeing a listing online, or when an agent shows a property, or gets an offer, or negotiates that offer and does all of the work from that point…you can see how nebulous the term is.

Over the years there have been countless cases where different interpretations have been used to influence outcomes of disputes.  

Things are often made more opaque as the vendor, or the buyer, may have partisan views. Maybe they dislike an agent or favour the other, which often makes it hard to establish truth.

The TPO has a rose-tinted view of disputes between two agents. They advise that the two agents should, as a best practice, split the fee. A quote from a TPO spokesperson underlines this: “When dual fee situations arise, sometimes through no fault of an agent, I expect the agents to act to negotiate a split so that no seller faces dual fee payment where that seller is innocent.” 

Clearly, this person has not been a working agent in a marketplace which has as many as 40 local agents fighting tooth and claw to keep their business going. They’re unlikely to want to give an agent a penny, let alone thousands of pounds. 

The average vendor in a case like this may have to stump up two fees at the average national of 1.68% in the UK. Multiply that by two to make it 3.36% and you’re looking at £16,128 on a £400,000 purchase price. Not exactly a small consideration.

Andrew Stanton is the founder and CEO of Proptech-PR, a consultancy for Founders of Proptechs looking to grow and exit, using his influence from decades of industry experience. Separately he is a consultant to some of the biggest names in global real estate, advising on sales and acquisitions, market positioning, and operations. He is also the founder and editor of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.

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