As we reach the end of the year, it’s natural to be thinking about what has passed and what might be coming over the horizon, particularly in terms of the market conveyancers might well be faced with, and some of the challenges that are likely to present themselves.
At the CA we’re doing exactly the same, particularly in terms of our workstreams, and what areas we’d like to prioritise as we move into 2024 and beyond.
A lot of our work is focused of course on the ways and means by which we can continue to improve the home buying and selling process, and seeking support from a wide variety of stakeholders in order to do this. The Government and specifically the DLUHC Department, headed up by Michael Gove, being perhaps the most influential within this setting.
2024 is obviously a key year in terms of the political outlook, and indeed in terms of the future of ongoing policies designed to ensure we have a quicker, more transparent house purchase/sale process with far greater certainty for all concerned.
As you will know, unless the current Government decide to go right up to the ‘wire’ in terms of holding a General Election – and opts for January 2025 – then the more likely scenario is an election some time during 2024, which could of course herald some significant change, not least a new party running the country.
That is all to come, but certainly needs to be part of our preparation because, despite there being strong cross-party support for improving the process, those involved in the major decisions to come might well have a different view on how to get there and what methods to utilise.
It’s why we, and other stakeholders, have been speaking to the other political parties in order to build relationships and to try and continue to influence the process, solutions considered and the means by which they might wish to introduce new measures.
As I hope you know, up until now – in many key areas – this Government has tended to focus on industry-focused solutions, particularly in areas such as the provision of upfront information, digital services such as ID and signatures, plus of course in other areas such as property logbooks, and the like.
Our belief is that, while this is all well and good, and of course we have large numbers of members within the CA who have already introduced many of the solutions that can deliver a better process for all, it is still the case that we have many thousands of conveyancers/solicitors who are not minded to do this at all.
In this ongoing scenario, without any sort of political mandation about what they should be doing as part of the conveyancing process particularly in an area like upfront information provision, then you are only likely to get so far down the road in terms of quicker transaction time frames, less duplication of tasks, fewer post-offer queries, greater use of technology, more seamless communication, etc.
It’s a cliché but ‘going as fast as the slowest in the transaction’ is still relevant and, of course, when you have a large number of chains all dependent on each other, it can be hugely frustrating, stressful and costly to be waiting on those firms who are not willing or able to up their game and to use all solutions/methods at their disposal.
For what it’s worth, the current Government recognises this but is still loathe to legislate in this area, and given the short amount of time left until the end of Parliament, it’s unlikely we will get any real movement in this area until post-General Election.
However, this doesn’t make the pursuit of this mandation any less vital or important, nor should it make us less vocal in this area. We do have strong working relationships via the Home Buying & Selling Group, and the newly formed Digital Property Marketing Steering Group (DPMSG), with many civil servants and Ministers within DLUHC, and there is an obvious acceptance from almost all quarters that reducing the time to completion won’t happen by accident.
So, in that sense, while we are likely to see some big political shifts, the key message around what we want to see delivered in the home buying and selling process continues to remain the same. Indeed, you might well argue that – if we are to have a new Parliament beginning in 2024 – then that message needs to be amplified because the chance of action at the start of a new five-year term is much higher than where we currently sit, right at the end.
Reducing transaction times, and the amount of extra resources that imposes on stakeholders, remains a hugely important part of our industry’s key messaging, because it can deliver so much, not least pipelines turning faster, greater efficiencies, reduced risk, a better service to the client and the opportunity to earn more income. After a challenging year, and with many predictions suggesting 2024 will be little different, who wouldn’t want that?
Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)