If it’s not broken don’t fix it

If it’s not broken don’t fix it

Previously published as a LinkedIn post, David Pett, Director of MJP Conveyancing, shares his views on the upfront information debate.

This might be controversial, however, I believe what I have to say here should be aired and debated.

Our conveyancing system has remained more or less untouched for close on 100 years. In 2007 there was an attempt made by the then rather brave and progressive Labour Party to introduce Home Information Packs.

Sadly, due to conflict between stakeholders and political change this move to “improve” the house moving process suffered an almighty fall from grace. Jobs, livelihoods and political will for progression were lost overnight.

Since then we have witnessed the growth of professional bodies and trade associations flying the flag for change, and advancing ideas based solely around the production of upfront information.

Government has taken a backseat, and not surprisingly, has left the industry to take the lead.  It seems there is very little appetite for a change in the law, and indeed, I recently heard a Government spokesman highlight the fact that in the light of transactions completed each year the system seems, on the whole, to be working pretty well.

Transactions do collapse, and yes, there are wasted costs as a consequence.  The time it takes to move home is also at times excessive.

The question I pose is should the Industry be putting its eggs all in one basket. Is the current obsession with the production of upfront information a healthy one, when although it will probably help, it is by no means, a complete solution. Do we really need more paperwork to complete when as conveyancers we are already up to out eyes in forms and documents?

If you have attended a conveyancing conference within the last couple of years you will know all of the talk has been about pre-instruction information forms, property log books and digitalisation. In fact, there has been little other discussion, which is pretty amazing when the industry has and continues to face rising challenges posed by Covid-19, a major shift in the outlook of professional indemnity insurers, shortage of staff and ever increasing AML obligations.

That aside, the absence of focus on other causes of transaction fall out and delay, is in my opinion a notable failing.

Generally, the level of competency within the industry is not high, and probably reflects low fee structures and training deficiencies. If standards could be improved, this would make a big difference to time scales.  There can be little doubt, delay is often caused by a lack of knowledge and or experience on the part of one or more case handlers.  Moving a transaction forward, rather then side ways, is as important, if not more important, than knowing where the stop cock can be found.

As an industry should we not be doing more to make sure those engaged in the process are fully trained, are monitored and supervised more closely and are required to maintain and produce continuing education records.

Better educated, trained and equipped case handlers, will not only improve service times, but will also help to reduce crippling high PII premiums.

Combine this with the use of the right technology, and an alternative, or supplementary solution, can then begin to take shape. The conveyancing process might be old, but there is nothing to prevent conveyances from moving from a more traditional outlook to one that embraces and is constructed around the benefits of technology.

Hiding behind paper files, practicing within a “smoke and mirror” environment, can no longer be a feature of how a modern day conveyancer practices.  Its not rocket science. If there was more transparency and better and more instant channels of communication between clients, their conveyancers and other stakeholders, we would all start to see less failed transactions and a marked improvement in transaction time.

Yes, upfront information will help, but this should not be the only focus.  There needs to be a wider and more holistic approach. The system is far from broken, and with better educated and experienced players combined with the use of technology, it is more than capable of facilitating a more efficient and positive journey for the client.

David Pett, Director, MJP Conveyancing

1 Comment

  • It never fails to amaze me that the conveyancing press publishes buckets of crocodile tears about the impact of stress on practitioners while allowing something as stress creating as the chain sale to be the way that most transactions interact

    Much radical change is needed of which replacing chains with home brokerage is obvious but not unique. Financial institutions would have a monopoly on selling homes for owner occupation and required to buy-in a buyer’s existing home. Chains obviously proliferate potential stress points . Your buyer’s, buyer’s, buyer’s, buyer’s, buyer’s, buyer’s, solicitor’s incompetence can ruin all the effort that you have put into getting your kids into a new school at the start of term.

    How did we get where we are? I blame the French. In 1804 we were at war with them. The government hiked stamp duty to pay for this and gave lawyers a monopoly to collect it. At the time there may have been a reason to require lawyers to be involved. The property owning classes were paranoid about about allowing its landed wealth fall into the wrong hands. Like (read Austen) black sheep and women. And caused titles to be polluted with complications

    But those with the benefit of unfair restrictive practices do not give them up. Home ownership was democratised Owners who had to extract value from one property before buying another became the norm. Conveyancers could think of nothing more appropriate than stacking transactions up against each other so that fallout reverberates from one to another. And now they complain about stress levels!

    The insurance sector is investing in equity release (AKA partial home brokerage?) and should be encouraged to influence home moving brokerage

    Chains are only one way that the conveyancing sector has failed to come up with something better in the last two hundred years plus of monopoly. Over lawyering is another

    Lawyers are toxic. They look for problems and promote the idea that parties have separate representation set up ready to fight when one is found

    They need to be replaced by transaction managers who look for the best solution for all. I have worked as a tm for a large institution and one of my son’s has a master’s degree in the subject

    The home construction sector recognises the advantages of transaction management attitudes. Home building often works with a complicated hierarchy of subcontracting which would seize up if money did not flow appropriately from one level to another when due. Standard contracts require “the Architect” to play honest broker to sign off works as satisfactory to with fairness to all

    The home moving sector needs a structure for continuous, comprehensive and radical improvent

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