Material and upfront information: What is the opportunity for conveyancers and what does it mean for property buyers and sellers?

One of the key themes at the moment is the use of material and upfront information and the opportunity for conveyancing. The sector is having this conversation because of the stubbornly high average conveyancing transaction time, which at In this article, we will look at how the high conveyancing transaction times could reduce, the potential of upfront data, the challenges and what the future may hold.

Balancing the use of technology and consumer protection

Much progress has been made in recent years in the use of technology to make conveyancing more streamlined and efficient, but much more could be done to improve the ways of working across all the participants. One of the key challenges that remain is the lack of standardisation and interoperability of technology and processes across the wider property sector. As Robert Steadman, Sales Director for SearchFlow, explains, “Adoption of technology isn’t the whole solution because you need consistency across the board to maximise its benefits”.

While it is important to drive efficiency into the conveyancing process through the use of technology, Alastair Waters, Pre-Sales Technical Delivery Director for SearchFlow, is also wary of undermining the quality of the work that conveyancers do to protect buyers and sellers; “How do you condense the process without undermining the importance of having professionals in it”.

The good news is that it is possible to achieve both reduced transaction times and increased consumer satisfaction through automated workflow, checks and balances.

What does the use of material and upfront information mean for conveyancers?

The availability of material and upfront information will start the conveyancing process off on the right foot, give stakeholders the information they need before proceeding, and allow conveyancers to make faster progress. Alastair Waters believes that the sooner conveyancers have the most relevant information they need (often much of which is very technical in nature), the better for everyone; “With the movement towards better upfront information and the earlier conveyancers or any professionals can get involved, the sooner the data can be collected, assessed and processed. This is really important because of the new Trading Standards initiatives, particularly part C, where some of the questions are getting quite technical in terms of the title and what information is needed upfront”.

The availability of material and upfront information early in the process will also take the pressure off buyers, sellers and conveyancers. As Alastair explains, “It is imperative that home buyers and sellers realise that instructing a conveyancer earlier removes a lot of the pressure to obtain and supply that information, meaning the experience is a smoother one”.

What are the barriers to upfront information in conveyancing?

Upfront information alone is not enough, as Elizabeth Jarvis, Managing Director of SearchFlow explains; “It’s no good to have upfront data if everybody in the process isn’t making use of it and they’re not speaking to each other. It’s the interconnectedness, the connectivity of people in the process working together with it”. Alastair Waters also makes the point that when it comes to upfront data, relevance, efficiency and quality of data are paramount. In particular, he says that it will be important to:

  • Avoid duplication
  • Collect information earlier
  • Ensure that we’re using data appropriately, not just collecting it for no good reason
  • Use materially to avoid doubling the work
  • Avoid raising the wrong enquiries
  • Ensure that upfront data is used well and efficiently
  • Remove elements of the existing process where possible (e.g., if upfront information is disclosed earlier on, a conveyancer shouldn’t; therefore, need to raise an enquiry about it).
  • Ensure data is warranted by the homeowner or the seller to be true before it makes its way into the transaction forms so it can be relied upon.

Other changes may be needed, such as how conveyancers charge. Under the current model, conveyancers only get paid on completion, but as Alastair explains, we may need to consider “whether the conveyancer should actually legitimately be able to charge a fee for obtaining and collating information… because it’s actually going to be materially beneficial for the home seller to make the transaction as smooth as they can by collating that information for the buyer”.

Final words

The concept of material and upfront information in conveyancing transactions is not a new one. Unfortunately, previous attempts to embed this within the industry have been unsuccessful. As Elizabeth Jarvis, explains, “There were reasons why it didn’t quite work the way it was hoped”.

In the next couple of years, it is realistic to expect that the use of material and upfront information will be core to the conveyancing process, which will aim to drive more certainty and reduce transaction times. There remain a number of challenges to overcome, including technology adoption and interoperability, process efficiency, fees, and communication. The full pathway to upfront information in conveyancing is not yet clear, and it may be about to take a new direction. As Elizabeth Jarvis explains, “if you are going to talk about speeding the process up, we must then talk about AI and automation. It’s the next logical step”.

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This article was submitted to be published by Searchflow as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.

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