Diary of a high street conveyancer; 8th August 2022

There were a lot of things I could have written about this week – one is how the rise in the interest rates will affect the housing market. But, with no apologies, I feel I have to write again about the ongoing conveyancing bashing… And it makes me very cross, frustrated and disillusioned with a role I love and a profession I admire and respect.

Today’s Conveyancer teamed up with Property Industry Eye and asked if other parties in the transaction (lenders, clients, agents, etc) need a better understanding of the conveyancing process? It would not surprise anyone to hear that the result was 95% saying yes.

So where do we go with this? One of the biggest issues as I mention above is that there is a real bashing of conveyancers and not a day goes by without someone complaining about the process, how long it takes and how difficult it is. But we know this! We conveyancers are not oblivious to the difficulties within the system, but blaming us for those delays does not help anyone and seeks to drive a further wedge between solicitors and others.

Conveyancing is not a tick-box exercise, and it should not be viewed as such – mortgage offer in? Tick. Local search result in? tick. That idea which is often perpetuated by estate agents is not correct. The real scenario is as follows:

Solicitor – mortgage offer in? Tick but now we note that the lender wants more details about the gifted deposit which we could not send to them until we had received an offer.

Solicitor – local search in? tick but now we see that there is no consent for the loft conversion whereas the seller told us that it had been done prior to their ownership and they had no documents. Not that there were no consents, which we believe that they would have known or been told about at the time when they bought the house…

So I ask again, where do we go with this? It takes many years to train good conveyancers, those who know what to do and how to do it when there is something missing or not right. Many very experienced conveyancers have left the profession in the last two years because of the pressures we were under and it will take time to train others to that level.

Referral fees? If I had a magic wand, that is one of the first things I would change. But if referral fees are to stay, there needs to be more transparency around them. Why pay your conveyancer £800.00 only for £450.00 of that to go back to the agent or referrer? And what impact does this have on the quality of conveyancing being done? Clients need to know if their conveyancer is not getting the full monies they are paying in the belief that all goes to the conveyancing firm. They need to know if there is a fee paid for the recommendation so that they can decide whether or not they want to go with another firm. Being told that if they go with the agents’ preferred firm means it will be done quicker rather than because the agent is receiving a fee is wrong.

Putting my head above the parapet, I think that conveyancing fees should be higher – gone should be the days when the house movers look for the cheapest option. We are a profession, and we need to restore the belief in this professionalism. With those higher fees, firms can invest in their staff and the technology. Conveyancing will never be a completely digitised process because add people to the mix and it never could be, but there are parts of the process which many firms have digitised and take advantage of in order to give a better service. Hand hold people, tell them what is going on, lead your client to trust you over and above others in the process and they will then have your corner so that if the agent says that the other side are waiting to hear from you and your client knows that is not quite right, they will defend you. We are the client’s best friend in this process, not the agent. We want the client to buy the property which is right for them and which they can sell in the future; the agents want the client to buy this particular property even if it has a defective lease or no consent for the loft conversion.

When you look at this and start from the position that solicitors and estate agents ostensibly want the same outcome, you would think that there must be an answer to working better together. But isn’t it the point that agents see solicitors as an irritant? They have sold the house and now want their commission. To be told that there is a defective lease and a Deed of Variation is needed, and perhaps the lender will not approve the deed, does not help the agent and explains why they push for indemnity policies wherever they think this is possible. The buyer is in love with their property, the agent mentions an indemnity policy, the buyer just wants to move and as the agent has told them it can be sorted a different way, then the solicitor is seen to be holding things up. And the agent tells the client this, and because many conveyancers are too busy to talk to clients as we are too busy updating agents, the client does not understand the importance of what we are trying to do. And so the merry go round goes on.

I have heard the analogy of making a jigsaw puzzle when describing conveyancing. At the moment, it is not only taking longer to get the pieces of that puzzle, but there are pieces which are not even in the box when we want to finish the puzzle and there are people who know those pieces are missing but seem to want to continue to hide them from us. Up front information may be one answer but it is not the only answer. We need to push our professionalism and remind clients that we are dealing with the biggest asset they will ever own, and it has to be right. They cannot take it back if there is something wrong with it; we cannot get them their money back if they don’t like it.

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

Subscribe to the Today’s Conveyancer newsletter to receive industry updates, news and analysis

One Response

  1. If referral fees are here to stay, the SRA/CLC must cap them at, say, £100 or £150. There are some ridiculous sums being paid (I’ve seen figures quoted up to 75%) of the main legal fee and that is clearly not sustainable for a law firm. So what happens then? They have to top it up by charging additional legal fees which end up costing the client hundreds more. I’ve seen one firm charge up to £500 for acting for the lender, the poor client. If agents/firms cannot operate without referral fees and referrals, so be it. Then don’t operate. Perhaps the work will then stay much more local and the focus will be on the client.

Want to have your say? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more stories

Join nearly 5,000 other practitioners – sign up to our free newsletter

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.