What are the challenges in the conveyancing process and how can it be improved?

In an era defined by soaring consumer expectations and rapid technological advancements, the home buying and selling process finds itself struggling to keep pace. Landmark data reveals that the average time from instruction to completion takes 80% longer than it did in 2007, leaving buyers and sellers mired in frustration. But what is causing these delays, and how can the industry find a way forward?

One area bearing the brunt of the challenges is conveyancing—the intricate legal process that ensures the smooth transfer of property ownership. So, what is it about conveyancing that causes delays?

Increasing responsibilities

Over the years, the roles and responsibilities of conveyancers have dramatically increased in scope and conveyancers now find themselves shouldering an array of added responsibilities, from combating fraud to tackling issues like cladding and the now infamous Japanese knotweed. These mounting obligations have effectively doubled the number of checks they must undertake compared to 2007. However, despite the increased workload, conveyancing fees have failed to keep pace, resulting in a struggle to attract and retain top-tier talent in the field.

Counterproductive processes

Yet it is not just the scale of responsibility that is bogging down the conveyancing process. Interactions with other property professionals, and the pressure to advance transactions have given rise to counterproductive systems. In a bid to meet SLA’s, sellers’ conveyancers are often required to provide incomplete contract packs to the opposite side. This approach merely delays the inevitable, as conveyancers are left with no choice but to raise additional queries, elongating an already complex process. To put it into perspective, Landmark data shows the enquires process is now taking 115% longer when compared to 2007 (26 days in 2007 vs 56 days in 2022).

This is contrary to common belief that it’s the search requests which cause blockages in the transaction pipeline. According to Landmark’s data, over the past 15 years the time it takes to receive search results has remained remarkably consistent. In 2022, the average turnaround time was 15 days, three days faster than in 2007.

The intricate dance between lenders and conveyancers also contributes to the complexity. Each lender has their own set of requirements, creating a minefield for conveyancers. The stakes are high, as any misstep carries significant risks.

Consumer expectations

Compounding the challenges is the undeniable influence of the digital age. The rise of the click-and-buy culture has instilled a desire for immediacy, even when it comes to purchasing a home. Unfortunately, legal services have not been able to keep up with these heightened expectations. The task of keeping clients happy during a 5-month home buying and selling process becomes increasingly difficult as they anxiously seek updates and express their frustrations. The modern expectation for immediate information and constant communication adds pressure to conveyancers, emphasising the importance of streamlined and transparent processes.

However, this intensified interaction between conveyancers and clients, driven by an eagerness to progress the transaction, does precisely the opposite. Conveyancers find themselves inundated with inquiries, leaving less time to devote to their caseloads. Each phone call or complaint chips away at the already stretched resources, further impeding progress.

The Solution

However, amidst these challenges there are solutions that will untangle conveyancing and transform it into a seamless process. The key lies in embracing change and harnessing technology. By involving property lawyers earlier when a property is listed, more upfront information can be collated earlier, allowing them to proactively prepare and complete contract packs. If complexities become apparent earlier in the process, they can be addressed more readily and completely. This would put an end to today’s overly laborious back-and-forth exchanges and lay the groundwork for a truly efficient system. In fact, we have found from volume trials that it’s already possible to save four to six weeks simply by ordering the searches at the point of listing alone.

Of course, forthcoming changes to the Material Information requirements imposed by National Trading Standards could mean that lawyer interaction at the point of property listing soon becomes the new norm for conveyancing practices, so it is worth getting ahead of the curve and being one step ahead of the competition.

At Landmark, we believe it’s time for the property sector to evolve, and the latest technology for data gathering and connecting transaction participants represents a future-proof approach to navigating the increasing complexities of the conveyancing process. We need to empower conveyancers and property professionals to navigate the process efficiently and securely. By facilitating the sharing of the right information at the optimum time with all the right people, we can streamline property transactions and provide improved speed and certainty to our industry and consumers alike.

By Rob Gurney, Managing Director of Ochresoft, a Landmark Information Group company

2 Responses

  1. Add to that a failure by The Law Society and the SRA to actively reflect and address the concerns of Solicitors.

    Sellers and estate agents should be required by law to offer for sale a property which has good title together with the essential documentation, properly completed and collated.
    CQS should be the professional standard for all conveyancers and should be policed robustly.
    It should be illegal for estate agents to receive a referral fee for recommending a buyer to a conveyancer alternatively a legal requirement to inform the seller and the basis upon which it is made.
    The licensing of estate agents and close regulation would standardise their professional standards and training improving their understanding of the conveyancing process.

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