Are you a “Slowlicitor”?

Are you a “Slowlicitor”?

Agents accuse conveyancers of threatening to derail the housing recovery.

Last week a group of estate agents via Estate Agent Today showed yet again how little understanding or interest estate agents actually have in the conveyancing market with some of their supporters calling solicitor conveyancers “Slowlicitors”.

Apparently Situ an a property company launched by the leaders of five major agencies in the West Midlands, claimed that many conveyancing departments were under-staffed, causing a delay in agreeing completions and heaping frustration upon buyers and sellers.

Estate Agent Today quoted Philip Jackson, a member of Situ and director of Maguire Jackson saying “Vendors expect to move home quickly once they have agreed terms but it’s generally taking 12 to 16 weeks because of the lawyer time-lag. I expect it’s a staffing and cultural problem”

“Many solicitors until very recently haven’t acknowledged the sharp rise in residential sales and have been caught out with too much work and not enough time” he claims.

The article goes on to say “Conveyancing lawyers are threatening to derail the housing recovery because they are not recruiting to cope with increased demand from buyers, according to a new umbrella group of agents. “

The article cites Land Registry data confirms the scale of the problem by saying it reveals that between August 2013 to November 2013 sales volumes averaged 75,114 transactions per month across England and Wales – a 25 per cent annual increase from the same period a year earlier when volumes averaged 60,272 per month. Land Registry figures also predict this will rise to 80,000 transactions per month during 2014.

“Solicitors and estate agents have seen a sharp rise in instructions. As estate agents, we are building our teams but the lawyers aren’t following suit. They need to pick up the pace or will become labelled as the brakes of the housing market” says Andrew Oulsnam of Oulsnam, one of Situ’s members.

Unfortunately the estate agents fail to acknowledge that a chronic shortage of underinvestment in valuers by estate agents has contributed to the problem.

Only last week Financial Reporter covered this issue by quoteing Blemain Finance’s Tracey Bailey, Head of Residential Underwriting, Blemain Group, saying:

“The industry has taken a number of steps to address the issue of a shortage of surveyors, including streamlining the education process to allow the faster training of more specialised, niche practitioners, as well as placing a greater emphasis on promoting surveyor careers to university students directly.

“However, in some – mainly rural – areas a complete absence of coverage has held up some property deals and has risked some transactions collapsing entirely. These instances place a greater strain on the whole chain, from lenders to brokers and customers."

“For this reason it’s vital for lenders like Blemain Group to contribute to engagement and education activities directly to help people realise how the situation is impacting the industry as a whole. Our UK-wide reach gives us a good overview of the market, in addition to which we’ve recently been touring the country to meet with our brokers to canvass their concerns and needs for lending products, and to find out where issues are arising in the deal process.”

“Feedback indicates that the residential property sector remains a less attractive career choice than commercial property, leading many trainee surveyors to shun it in favour of more lucrative alternatives. While the obvious solution would be boosting salaries to compensate, it is important to note that this cost would in turn be passed along the chain, so professionals across the industry must continue to work together to look at ways of improving the whole system without risking damage to recent growth."

It should also not be overlooked that many estate agents seek to take large referral fees driving down conveyancing fees to conveyancers and ultimate salaries. Combined with the fact that it takes years to train a conveyancer and a massive shortage of candidates most conveyancers are finding it hard to recruit candidates,

It isn’t just a question of poor working practices and a lack of desire to hire staff, good staff just do not wish to move and there are very few new conveyancers joining the market.

Chris Harris

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