Diary of a high street conveyancer; 28th March 2022

Being an old fashioned conveyancing solicitor, I have to admit that I am not a fan of simultaneous exchange and completion. In an ideal world, I would like at least a week between exchange and completion – yes, for me so that I can make sure mortgage monies are ordered and pre-completion searches are done – but principally for my clients, the house movers.

There is so much more that they need to organise than they did twenty or so years ago. Think about having to transfer the Broadband or internet connection, something which is vital for those clients who work at home and want to have as little interruption to their working life as possible. I hate it if I have a  client who goes into a weekend not knowing if they are going to  be moving that week – do they pack up the boxes or do they wait to see what will happen? If they pack the boxes, it is possible that they may need to unpack some boxes, and maybe all the boxes, if the sale falls through just before the day they had hoped to be moving.

When I first started as a conveyancer, it was common for  there to be twenty-eight days between exchange and completion. This is incredibly rare nowadays but I think life would be less stressful if this were the case. It would give the clients the time to make their arrangements and they would not feel pressurised into doing things at the last minute. It  would help them plan their move and let’s be honest, it would also help the removal companies plan their staffing arrangements and diaries in a far more organised way.  It  would help us solicitors to take time in order to do the final checks and make sure that everything was in place for completion and it would just feel less stressful. The end of the SDLT holiday is still fresh in our minds and the pressure of having to work to those deadlines last year proved that things could be done quickly when needed but at what cost to the profession’s mental health as well as the stresses on the clients who wanted a deadline to be met?

Last week, I had three chains complete – all three exchanged the day before completion, and I spent a large part of last week, not doing legal work, but trying to console upset clients who did not know if they were moving, trying to reassure them that us solicitors work more towards completion dates rather than exchange and trying to reinforce the message that I was confident that they would be moving, all the time knowing and advising them that things could still go wrong and they may not be moving at all. A lot of the work us conveyancers do is reassuring clients and advising them and trying to give them the benefit of our experience. But even as we tell them that it is more and more common to exchange and complete on the same day, if not exchange the day before completion, it is still stressful  for them not to know for definite if they are moving, and always a judgement call for us as to whether we should order the mortgage monies or tell them it is unlikely to happen. It sometimes feels like a game of chance but we just have to cover all possibilities, so don’t let anyone ever tell you that conveyancing is easy…. Far from it.

This is written by a real high street conveyancer who wishes to remain anonymous. Read more in Today’s Conveyancer every week.

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