Access to most forms of information are now only a click, maybe two, away. So why do property transactions still take so long?
In fairness, many remain overtly complex and very few cases are the same. Conveyancers have also faced many issues gathering relevant information from a variety of parties – never mind pouring through this wealth of paperwork – which often results in a slow and arduous process. However, positive changes are underway to hopefully speed up this process.
Under new proposals, unveiled by James Brokenshire on 27 June, freeholders will now be capped on the time they can take and the amount they are able to charge for vital information regarding a leasehold contract. Moving forward, freeholders will have a maximum of 15 working days to send this information and can charge no more than £200 for the service. The government are confident that this change will improve the efficiency and speed of a home sale.
This is a highly encouraging move for all links the property buying chain. It will help buyers to make a more well-informed choice, add greater level of transparency and open the door for earlier lines of communications and engagement, which is something conveyancers have not always been great at. In fact, this is an issue which has long been cited as being one of the most frequent hold-ups in the homebuying process.
In June, the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) ‘Thematic Review’ revealed that almost a quarter of conveyancers were failing to offer vital information to their clients. The review found that 23% of conveyancers were accused of ‘failing to properly explain long-term implications of complex contractual clauses. In particular, the SRA found that, within a leasehold purchase, 23% of conveyancers had failed to adequately explain the difference between leasehold and freehold models of ownership.
These are damning statistics and reflect badly on the conveyancing sector as a whole. It also highlights how important it is for buyers and sellers to choose a professional, efficient and effective conveyancer, and the role intermediaries can play in this process. First-time buyers especially will often seek advice from their mortgage intermediary on conveyancing options. Inevitably, firms will have access to panels from a provider, network or club but how do they know if individual conveyancing firms currently have the capacity to take on this case? And how any backlogs they may be experiencing are affecting the quality of their service and their communications?
Are these questions you are asking your panel provider? If not, why not? Speed isn’t everything but it vital that your conveyancing partner is keeping pace with market trends, regulatory shifts and has the capacity to take on more cases. Speeding up the compulsory flow of information is certainly a positive step in the right direction for the industry but in order for buyers and sellers to really benefit conveyancers must be honest about their capacity and maintain highly efficient service standards for this to have any real impact.
So, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your conveyancing partner on behalf of your client. It could prove the difference not only in that transaction but also in your future relationship with them.
Peter Joseph is CEO at The Moving Hub