Conveyancing process

How to make the conveyancing process more efficient – part 2

Why would we not want to see a positive, proactive change to improve the home moving process? Is it really an option that we just carry on as we did before? That, by the way, is what litigation solicitors call a “leading question”.

There is no reason why we cannot change the way in which we process conveyancing transactions. That entails us taking an objective assessment of the timetable as it applied pre-Covid-19 in light of IT and other developments and see what can be improved. The following myths need to be “busted”:

  • Would Searches be out of date at exchange?

ViewMyChain data, which covers 85% of the searches ordered, shows that 90% of transactions complete within six months of the property being listed in a pre-Covid environment. And for those remaining 10% – well, many regulated search companies offer a free refresher search service and, frankly, if we can bring the process forward, then those numbers will reduce still further. From a pragmatic position, do not forget that pretty much anything registered against the property that would have an impact on its value would result in a notice being served on the seller who is duty bound under the contract to pass all notices on to the buyer.

  • The buyer and lender cannot rely on the seller’s search results.

Yes they can – when it is a Council or a regulated search. If the local search is an official Local Authority search, then the information is public record and can be relied upon by anyone. If it is a personal search regulated by the Search Code, these can be relied upon by the buyer or lender. In Scotland, such search results can be relied on.

  • The buyer’s lender will not accept a personal search.

The majority of lenders will accept regulated personal searches and it is fair to say the quality of regulated searches has improve dramatically.

  • Conveyancers will not use the property information completed at listing.

Whether the seller completes a PIQ or similar, these cover the standard information required by the buyer’s conveyancer. It does not matter when it is completed or who asks the seller to complete the information: the seller will be asked to confirm that it is accurate and up to date when the offer is accepted, so any changes can be updated at that point. If the information is available, the conveyancer has a duty to review it and only raise additional enquiries where absolutely necessary or their client asks them to. This information is warranted in the contract. This, in essence, is vendor disclosure.

The Conveyancing Quality Scheme Protocol states: “Raise only specific additional enquiries required to clarify issues arising out of the documents submitted, or which are relevant to the title, existing or planned use, nature or location of the property or which the buyer has expressly requested.”

  • Sellers will not pay to put their property on the market.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, they already pay marketing and Property Centre registration fees upfront and that does not prevent listings. Likewise in Scotland, the seller commissions and pays for the Home Report prior to marketing a property. If it is explained how this will prevent them from suffering the emotional and financial loss of a sale falling through by having the information all available at the start, any seller who is serious about selling will happily get things underway. It is all about good communication.

There is also a lot that sellers can do for free, such as completing forms and gathering documents in order to make their property “market ready”.

And do not forget, if they are buying too then they are in a cost-neutral position because the searches will now be provided by their seller. It is therefore only the seller at the end of the chain who will be paying “extra” and, as they are liquidating an asset, they are more likely to be in a position to afford it than the first-time buyer at the other end of the chain who bears the burden in the current process.

  • Having the information will put off buyers if there is anything detrimental.

It will certainly put off those buyers who cannot get a mortgage for that property or who are not going to be able to use it for their intended purposes. But, on the flip side it will also ensure the property is marketed and sold at the right price to a buyer who can proceed and that it does not get “taken off the market” for a transaction which cannot proceed, thereby missing out on a buyer who would otherwise proceed to completion while the ill-fated transaction takes its inevitable course to eventual failure and all the wasted costs and frustration which that entails.

So, what needs to happen?

Not to put too fine a point on it: action needs to be taken now. We need to learn from the restrictions that we all faced during the pandemic. In the “new normal” – as referred to by our politicians – consumers are less likely to accept an answer from their adviser that “this is the way it has always been done”. Covid-19 is literally a “game-changer”, and society has been changed in many ways.

Is it not time for conveyancers to stand up and be counted and lead from the front? This is what happened in Denmark with considerable success. See www.danskeboligadvokater.dk.

Vendor disclosure is a positive start and will help refresh the property business. It is also one step on the road to transactions being done on an “end-to-end” digital basis. For some time, we have had a substantial framework in place for vendor disclosure in England & Wales via the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008; Covenants for Title within the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1994; and Misrepresentation Act 1967.

It is time to build on that framework to deliver a stable home moving process. The good news is this can be delivered in the form of the proposed Property Pack, which is similar to the Home Report in some ways, but more advanced in others.

And if that does not convince you, then on pure maths alone this makes sense for all stakeholders, not just the consumer. If you can reduce transaction times from 18 to eight weeks, your revenue increases by 232% – and that does not even consider the improvement in your profit by reducing fall-throughs and the estimated two hours of providing progress reports after eight weeks.

But it is not just the stakeholder economies we should focus on. Think of the impact of the economic stasis of almost two million people moving house every year, not being able to buy a sofa, book a holiday or get their kids into their new school, for 18 weeks. If we can reduce that by 10 weeks… now that is a game changer for the whole economy.

Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association and Professor Stewart Brymer of Brymer Legal Limited and the University of Dundee. Both are participants in the Home Buying & Selling Group – https://homebuyingandsellinggroup.co.uk/ The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the authors.

One Response

  1. Only if the investigating title process moves tomorrow marketing stage the transactions will speed up. At present lawyers on both sides are too passive.

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