Moving conveyancing ‘up stream’ – an opportunity not to be missed (again!)

Concerns about change are natural, but of course if you didn’t have them, you might think you don’t care enough about the work, and you’re prepared to allow change to happen without fully understanding what the consequences can be.

I certainly get that. Change can be scary, particularly if it involves the changing of the tasks you have done for many years, or if it involves having to change the business model to accommodate them, to change the way you work in order to benefit from them. You’re bound to ask the questions: will it really work and what will it really mean for us?

However, change can be revolutionary. Change for the better which makes you more efficient, more profitable, more engaged with the service you offer, and better able to deliver the right result, more of the time, in less of the time.

That, in my view, has to be the way we view the changes within the home buying and selling process, specifically the provision of material and upfront information, but also in areas such as using digital ID, property logbooks and the like.

Yet, I also understand why there might be push back on this. Why, for instance, I see some focusing on what other parts of the property market might ‘gain’ from conveyancers, rather than focusing on what gain conveyancers can take from this.

For example, I read recently that the introduction of material information provision into the process would somehow shift the entire home buying and selling process into the hands of estate agents. That they would take over conveyancing from conveyancers because of these reforms.

It’s somewhat bizarre to hear this from those who purport to have the best interest of conveyancers at heart. When gas safety engineers were asked to do their job in terms of ensuring properties are gas safe, they didn’t panic about doing it, nor did they think that estate agents were going to take over this part of their work. They just got on and did it.

Instead, we have a small minority who keep harking back to the experience of HIPs and the assumption that because agents took the lead in terms of HIP provision, conveyancers will be squeezed out again in such a way, with upfront information provision, property logbooks, etc.

The facts of the matter are that, when it came to HIPs, agents filled the void because it was a void that needed filling, and they sensed the commercial opportunity that existed for them in doing so. Of course, with a change in Government came a change in policy and HIPs were scrapped, but that does not mean to say we are likely to follow the same path.

Far from it. We know there is cross-party support for improving the home buying and selling process, and if conveyancing practitioners are waiting for a change in Government in order to scrap the direction of travel we currently have, I think they are going to be sorely disappointed. Do not forget that it was a labour government who legislated for Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 under which the Material Information is a legal requirement on sale of a property.

Even if that was a possibility, firms can’t base their approach or engagement with such things as upfront information, digital ID and greater digitalisation on a suggestion that the progress we have seen won’t happen.

Instead, it really is about grasping the opportunity, particularly with upfront information. Again, I get the fact some business models rely upon the status quo, but most stakeholders do want to change the process, do want to provide more transparency upfront, do want consumers to know key details about the property before they put an offer in, do want them to have no surprises after they’re already emotionally committed to the purchase, do want to give both sides the best chance of completing the purchase/sale without it falling through.

Lenders are already looking at how to support this, after all, the more knowledge they have about a property the more certainty they have on their liquidity ratios. It is no coincidence that Lloyds Banking Group are part of the Open Property Data Association with other lenders looking to join.

Whatever the situation, conveyancers shouldn’t be concerned about estate agents naturally leading in this area. They don’t have to lead but again if that opportunity is missed by the conveyancing profession, if others feel a void does still exist, then they should not be surprised if other step in to fill it, to the detriment of their firms.

Conveyancers have what it takes to make the most of this. They need to work out how to charge for the service around helping deliver and ascertain the relevant Material Information from the upfront information (title, property information and searches) on behalf of the client from the outset, with the potential built into that of how they are going to get the onward transaction work that will emanate from it.

What is becoming ever clearer, is that – particularly agents – are waking up to this, are understanding what they need to provide in terms of material information, are understanding what upfront information will do, and are increasingly starting to see the benefits it can provide them and their clients in terms of getting a shorter sales process, quicker payment, and what that will mean for their pipeline, etc.

Conveyancers are in a similar position – and will see even further benefits, particularly in terms of cutting down on the vast amount of administration they currently conduct, the 350,000 requisitions they have to respond to each year, and will instead return them back to being advisors to their clients.

It really is a question of taking control, dealing with a huge number of issues at the outset – upstream if you will – that will save them time, money, resource downstream because they will have already been dealt with and covered. In that sense, the opportunity is there and it should be grasped by conveyancers – if not, then we should not be surprised to see others forging into the space and taking it for themselves.


Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)

11 Responses

  1. Beth Rudolph you live in Barbieland if you think this will speed things up! Why are you concentrating on speed when you cannot resolve the rogues in estate agency and management companies. BSA has greatly affected many properties. You just watch PII go up and put many more conveyancers out of business

    1. You’re going to have to explain your rationale in that statement, anonymous, whoever you are!
      Speed is one thing that is mentioned by Beth, among others like reducing fall through rates, sale certainty, transparency..!
      What has the BSA got to do with this? It’s just one part of the many pieces of MI.

      There is an opportunity here for conveyancers to be greater involved, from an early stage in the process and help manage the transaction. Those that do not embrace this, will slowly start to lose business because transactions that have MI or UI, have fewer fall throughs and quicker transaction times.

  2. How come Beth Rudolph makes no reference to the potential criminalisation of estate agents and solicitors, or is her omission misleading by omission?
    Why does she not say how much it will cost sellers upfront to market a property like the infamous HIPS?

    The reality is this is just HIPS, but by the backdoor but with a significant increase in civil and criminal liability.

  3. A load of nonsense unfortunately, but this is what we have come to expect from the Conveyancing Association.

  4. And you say Beth is living in Barbieland. I think I’ll call you Ken instead of anonymous…!
    Ken, the majority of buyers are sellers too so it’s swings and roundabouts.
    As a buyer and a seller you want greater certainty in the transaction.
    Ken, in what world do you really think Estate Agents and Conveyancers are going to be criminalised? Do you really think this is actually going to happen?

  5. This is definitely an opportunity to create further transparency in the home moving process but the requirements do not go far enough in terms of up front information and so we will end up with a halfway house and a bit if a farce again unfortunately.

    It is naïve to think that Conveyancers will all jump in and provide this information for Estate Agents in such a short space of time – others will fill the void. This will definitely affect and control the direction of legal referrals in favour of the Estate Agents – no question.

    Once again we have a lot of unnecessary and ill thought out legislation at a time when the property market needs stability after a really tough year last year for all concerned.

  6. Morning Christian

    The article states:

    “I certainly get that. Change can be scary, particularly if it involves the changing of the tasks you have done for many years, or if it involves having to change the business model to accommodate them, to change the way you work in order to benefit from them. You’re bound to ask the questions: will it really work and what will it really mean for us?”

    The Conveyancing Association, a lead member of the HBSG, paints a cosy picture of a scenario which need not scare property lawyers. But lawyers must be scared if in the future property law will be practised by estate agents as ‘quasi-lawyers’. Moreover, the Conveyancing Association as a lead member of the HBSG often cites Norway as its model.

    In Norway, conveyancing is conducted by estate agents. Do you see the problem?

    1. Stephen, I don’t know how many times it has to be said but estate agents do not want to be in charge of the conveyancing process, i.e. ‘quasi-lawyers’.

      If conveyancers work with estate agents, assist sellers to get market ready, what is the worst that can happen?

      I can tell you what will happen if they don’t, eventually they will lose business to the conveyance that are being proactive. In case you haven’t heard, estate agents often think conveyancers are the ones holding up the process, you are just fuelling that fire!

    2. Just to reassure you Stephen, we checked with the presenter from the Norwegian Land Registry at the DPMSG conference last year and realtors in Norway employ what we would consider estate agents to list and market and also lawyers to review and prepare the title. Eligibility requirement is a bachelor´s degree in real estate broking, or professional studies in law. We do see Norway as evidence that we can create certainty in England and Wales but of course, closer to home in England and Wales, estate agents and conveyancers who are already working this way are reporting far less fall throughs and less stressed clients and staff – they are getting paid a sensible fee and able to exchange on average in 5-7 weeks from sale agreed, where the rest of the chain is doing the same. Sadly where there is one conveyancer in the chain not embracing this, timescales are unavoidably longer.

  7. The Conveyancing Association do not speak for the majority of experienced, competent conveyancers attempting to do their job under increasingly difficult circumstances.

  8. The Conveyancing Association do not speak for conveyancers.

    How many practising conveyancers actually support MI, and the revisions to the TA6?

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