When I first started working in the industry, the standard time between exchange and completion was 28 days, basically a month. Every piece of communication was conducted by letter, typed on an IBM Golfball typewriter and delivered by a postman who still had to deliver a first and second post all before lunch. This sedentary pace meant that everything in life had a time and a place, it was an ordered existence.
Fast-forward 35 years and welcome to today. Here, technology facilitates pretty much everything we do. We no longer live in a linear world, instead tasks, systems and processes can be over-lapped and speeded-up thanks to the technology we employ. There are times when things happening instantly is good and expected – a condition of being a consumer in today’s world, where 81% of individuals own a smartphone – online shopping, transferring money at the tap of an app and managing your conveyancing via eWay are all good things. But when it comes to the moments between exchange and completion, ‘more haste, less speed’ needs be the proverb of choice. This is one time when things happening instantly is as a result of a stressed market, and not because smart technology has made us all slicker.
The volume of simultaneous exchange and completions (SEC) is, in my belief, a barometer of market health. Our data suggests that when levels of simultaneous exchange and completion are at their highest, the market is at its most ‘stressed’. In 2007, just before the bubble burst we saw SEC at 18%, where it remained for 12 months before returning to a steady 15% in 2011*. In 2015/16, following the announcement of changes to Stamp Duty for addition home buyers, the market experienced ‘extraordinary’ conditions once again, as people rushed to buy – at this point SEC hit 17%. I know I am only talking about a few percent, but it is worth keeping an eye on such numbers. Like a weather forecaster watching the clouds, we need to watch the figures to help us read the market and identify pinch-points which force it to act oddly.
So when a home mover says they want to move house as quickly as humanly possible, yes we need to help them complete their transaction as efficiently as possible, but we also need to advise them. There is a time and a place for speed, and one for haste – as it’s in all our interests to keep the market calm and moving.
*Number of simultaneous exchange and completions expressed as a percentage of overall transaction for the year. Source: My Home Move Management Information 2007 – 2017.