Estate agent calls time on drawn-out house sales

Hunters says it will not sell a house unless the contracts for sale are prepared in advance

It’s not every day that you hear of an estate agent refusing to sell a house, but that is just what Hunters is doing.

With property transactions now taking up to 200 days to close, frustrating buyers, sellers, and agents alike, Hunters has taken a novel approach to the problem and said that it will no longer launch a property for sale until the contracts are prepared.

And it’s calling on other agents within the industry to follow suit.

The boutique Dublin agency recently drew a crowd of more than 100 from the property and legal sectors to debate the inefficiencies in the existing property sale process. The audience heard how sales are getting bogged down by issues with title, planning compliance, outstanding liabilities, a burdensome conveyancing process – and buyers changing their minds.


Rowena Quinn, managing partner at Hunters, spoke of an “outdated” sale agreed process, which is not legally binding on either party, and which, she says, may favour the buyer.

“Taking a property off the market because it is ‘sale agreed’ and transferring control of the process to the buyer’s solicitor is no longer appropriate – and it’s not in our clients’ best interest,” she said, adding that Hunters will now only market a property for sale where the contracts are prepared, in an effort to fast-track the sale process.

“Contracts should be prepared prior to the commencement of the sale process, and there is no reason that all solicitors cannot co-operate with this,” she said.

As a first step, Hunters says it’s going to publish a list of legal firms who are willing to prepare contracts within three weeks before the property goes to market, and wants the SCSI and IPAV, the professional bodies representing property agents, to endorse the listing.

Solicitors of course have been in the firing line for many in the property industry, who complain that the current conveyancing process is archaic, and simply takes too long.

Quinn believes digitising the process using technology such as blockchain to create an open access online platform could revolutionise the process – and cut the time needed to get a sale over the line to as little as five working days.

Last week the Law Society told this newspaper that having already spent some €2.5 million on its e-conveyancing project, it's now embarking on a new approach, one it hopes will be led by the Department of Housing.