Diary of a High Street Conveyancer; 14th February 2022

I listen to the Radio Four news bulletin every morning when I have my breakfast. One morning this week, the bulletin started with the following words

“More paperwork, lengthy delays.”

I held my breath as I thought that the article was going to be about conveyancing, but no(!) it was about the delays at ports caused by Brexit. But I thought it was funny and interesting that my brain thought that it was about work, and that my sub-conscious tapped into the fact that conveyancing does now consist of more paperwork and lengthy delays.

I thought back to when I started this job over thirty years ago. I did not know what a soffit was! I would not have considered whether a crack in a wall was longstanding and caused by the removal of an internal wall without a RSJ having been inserted. And FENSA certificates had not even been invented!

Our job would be easier if all we had to do was consider the title to the property, but it is about so much more; and asking about guarantees for building works is only one of those things.

The other thing that is very different is the checks we need to do in relation to identity.

I remember an episode of Coronation Street wherein a Land Certificate was stolen and a remortgage of a house was done, before the character came to a hideous end by being killed by a Blackpool tram! At the time, I was astounded that someone would think of doing such a thing but now we are on guard for it all the time. We are continually looking over our shoulders about anything about the person or property that rings alarm bells.

It is a difficult job. When I first started there were “high street solicitors” who did a “bit of everything.” Not any more. In fact, the need to specialise even within one’s chosen area of law is necessary. You can be a conveyancing solicitor, but you may choose not to do the conveyancing for a lease extension or the purchase of a freehold.

I have said it before but I think that the public need to know that conveyancing is a specialist area. A client said to me this week that she expected to move quickly and that she assumed that the process must be quicker than it used to be now we have more digitisation. I was saddened to tell her that it would take so much longer as, even with digitisation, the amount of information we had to obtain and advise on was far greater.

Perhaps one day it will be on a Radio Four bulletin that the time taken to buy a house is far quicker, but I don’t expect it soon!


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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