The Chain

Photo by Francesco Paggiaro on

They say that moving house is in the top three stressful things that you can do though I’m not sure it has to be that stressful. I remember when we bought our first house that the process seemed fairly relaxed, mind you, we didn’t have to worry about selling too.

This time around, we set out to sell at the start of January 2022.  We’d actually just started with a few tentative enquiries to some estate agents before Christmas indicating that we might look to sell within about 6 months. Our estate agent encouraged us just to try putting the house on the market to test the market.   Within two weeks we’d accepted an offer.  Now we needed to find somewhere for ourselves.  We looked at a few houses and one really stood out to us, we felt “at home” as soon as we walked through the door.

Later, the sellers told us that they were pleased that we had been successful with our offer, they’d warmed to us and wanted us to be the ones. Fascinatingly I believe we felt the same about our buyers.  We had offers coming in from cash buyers but we didn’t want to sell to someone who would then rent the place out. We were keen to give a first time buyer the opportunity to get their own home.

Things seemed to be moving incredibly quickly in early February. There was serious talk of us being in our new home by Easter at the latest.  However, suddenly things ground to a halt.  Eventually, we found out that our buyers were having a frustrating time with their solicitor. As that part of the process became more visible to us we got a feel for the frustration.  It seemed like no-one could get him to respond or progress things. He was working to a different pace and timetable.  There we were with nearly everyone in the chain committed to making things happen. Our sellers were keen for us to buy their house, we were keen to buy and to sell, our buyers were excited about their new home.  Mortgage companies were eager to lend and the estate agents, removal companies and two out of three solicitors in the chain were all keen to get things done, if only so that they could get their commission and fees. Yet it seemed that one person had the power to hold everything up.

And of course, that’s the kind of thing that causes stress in the process.  It means that instead of enjoying the move and focusing on getting the things ready that you need to, the people looking to buy and sell find themselves doing all the work of chasing, phoning, emailing.  And to be honest, even doing the solicitor’s job of working out how to resolve challenges along the way.

Now, first of all, I’ve some practical views on how things could be made less stressful.  Afterall, other countries, even Scotland have found ways to take a lot of the pain out of the process, mainly by getting a lot of things dome up front.

If I were designing the process, I’d do the following:

  • I’d enable the agent to act as a one stop shop.  Most of the conveyancing process in fact doesn’t depend on having a solicitor’s eyes on it and the larger firms will have assistants doing much of the processing.  So, why not enable estate agents to take responsibility for the bulk of conveyancing.  They could either employ their own solicitor or bring in someone for the tricky legal bits as and when required.  The seller would have an upfront view of their costs from the start and it would give the estate agent a stake in making sure that all issues were known up front because they would have to solve them.
  • I’d require that surveys and searches would be provided up front. Indeed, in this day and age, a lot of the search information on local planning issues, sewers, mining rights etc should all be there on line.  A buyer would have access to their full homebuyer’s report before making an offer and the listed price would be based on a physical survey. The owner would also already know if there were likely to be any issues. Incidentally, Scotland is already very close to this.
  • This would mean that on day one, the buyer would be able to raise any concerns and all of the legal stuff making things binding as well as a timetable for moving could be agreed early and quickly.

However, I’m not really here to talk about how to improve the conveyancing process. Rather, there are two important lessons I want to draw out here. They both derive from the principle that you are only as good as the weakest link in the chain. First, there’s the reminder that this is true with regards to sin. It doesn’t matter if I’ve kept every one of God’s law’s except one. If I break one, then the chain is broken. This is why we have all fallen short of God’s glory and need a saviour.

Secondly, I think there’s a challenge here to the part we play in teams whether it’s as part of a church leadership team, the church membership, a wider network team or mission team.  Basically, it only takes one person who is uninvested in whatever is happening to bring everything to a standstill and creating stress for everyone else. So don’t be that guy.

However, the responsibility is also on us as leaders to look out for those who might not be getting it. Take time to find out why. Is it that they don’t share the vision or that they’ve tried to take too much on and there are competing priorities? Or is it that they simply don’t grasp the part that they have to play.  This is important because even when it doesn’t bring everything to a grinding halt, it still adds a disproportionate burden and stress onto others.

It’s important for leaders to have an eye on how the whole team are doing and make sure that everyone is pulling together in the same direction.

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