The start of the year is always a good time to get your house in order and think about what is round the corner. Here we highlight five areas that you might wish to consider focusing on during 2014.
Capacity and Price
2013 was a particularly buoyant year for conveyancers compared with 2012 with many commentators observing a return to pre-recession volumes. These high volumes of conveyancing are not without their challenges with increased levels of volume coinciding with lenders working with less conveyancing firms.
If you are one of the lucky conveyancers – safely on lender conveyancing panels and with insurance at decent rates, then you are likely to be very busy. With 2014 unlikely to see a slow-down many firms will be forced to consider whether or not they want to increase the size of their conveyancing departments.
There are already indications from at least two of the largest conveyancing firms that they will be opening new offices in different parts of the country and pushing forward with expansion.
More job adverts are appearing indicating expansion for conveyancing firms of all sizes and in the last month we have had four conveyancing firms asking about improving our conveyancing jobs board with a view to trying to get more qualified staff. This is something we are considering doing.
For other firms the increased number of home movers means that their conveyancing departments are stretched to bursting point, thus bringing the risk of increased avoidable errors and claims. Conveyancing managers need to be particularly vigilant against overburdened teams and risk management processes failing to identify issues.
Now is a good time of the year to consider whether your risk management is adequate in this area. With what appears to be a shortage of good conveyancing firms and staff one we know some firms are already increasing their prices and widening their margins. How will your firm deal with the increased demand safely?
If you decide you are going to recruit do not forget that lenders are tracking individuals and if you employ someone with a bad track record that might damage your lender conveyancing panel status.
Even if you are busy and finding your staff are working very long hours it is still important not to rush to employ the first conveyancer you find. Make sure you do your due diligence on them. Employing one dodgy conveyancer can cause significant damage to your business. Make sure that your supervision routine is particularly rigorous for new staff.
All we need to say is that it has not gone away and the story continues to rumble. Many conveyancers seem to think that there is no risk so you might just like to audit your files and remind your colleagues of your policy in this area.
The questions about how we cope with flood and the impact on home ownership remain challenging. Inside Housing reported last March that in the decade prior planners had overridden the advice of the Environmental Agency in 197 cases, giving the green light for new housing development on areas in risk of flooding.
Additionally millions of homes have now changed hands since the widespread availability of flood searches to conveyancers. At some point someone will challenge whether appropriate advice and information given by a conveyancer. Is it time to review your initial client information setting out your role?
Fraud is on the increase across society. Whether it is your employee, your client, your introducer, the surveyor, a member of staff at a lender, or the other side you need to be vigilant. Make sure you consider how you impress upon your staff that anything that feels unusual or suspicious needs to be escalated for consideration.
Every day conveyancers handle approximately £600M worth of client money. This is appetising for criminals. The threat is constantly changing but again it may be useful to reassess the training and risk management processes that you have in place.
We would be interested in your thoughts on the year ahead. Get in touch and let us know what you have reviewed in the lead up to this New Year.