Welcome to 2022. Given the rollercoaster ride the sector enjoyed/endured in 2021, I’m sure many conveyancing firms will be hoping for a few less ups and downs over the course of the next 12 months, or at least a bigger “notice period” in terms of what might be coming down the tracks.
Of course, the large number of transactions that firms completed may have brought with it considerable challenges, with staff working remotely, client expectations and various stamp duty deadlines to contend with, however over 1.5m transactions during the year is not to be sniffed at, and I suspect many firms would like business to continue in the same vein. Albeit without overwhelming those who actually have to complete the work.
2022 has a long way to run but I hope it has started strongly for you. Noises from the market continue to focus on supply-side issues however demand appears to be steady, especially with people still weighing up their housing needs both during this pandemic, and hopefully not too very soon away, post-pandemic.
For us as a trade association, the focus very much remains the same, with key elements of our work programme making their way through the legislative process, and others requiring more of a push. Indeed, in areas like leasehold, some of those measures and announcements made by the Government already appear to have, if not stalled, then taken a Parliamentary backseat.
While it is heartening to see the consultation on the Law Commission enfranchisement, commonhold and right to manage reports from last year, the consultations are very high level and we hope to see further delivery of the promises already made in the leasehold reform bill which will improve the home-moving process for the leaseholder.
In other key areas, we remain absolutely committed to pushing our messages and solutions in order to get the change we believe will speed up the home buying and selling process, cut down on the numbers of aborted transactions, and therefore save all those stakeholders involved the money, time and resources which is lost each year.
We have a continued focus on the provision of upfront information in the property process at the point of marketing, to provide far more certainty to those involved and again to ensure the process is not subject to the weeks of delay it can be, or the very real ongoing threat of not completing at all.
For clarity, we believe that upfront information should include searches – a point that some in the conveyancing community may not agree with, however the CA is adamant of their need. We conducted a survey of consumers and it showed 98% of property owners think upfront information including searches is a good idea, and they would be happy to pay over £300 to provide a pack including searches when they sell.
After all, when the seller lists their property they have every intention of selling the property, whereas we currently expect buyers to pay for searches on a property which they don’t even know if they can, or will, be able to buy. It is therefore cost-neutral for most home movers, and will improve the position for first-time buyers by moving the cost to the end of chain seller who is, after all, realising a hefty asset.
For estate agents it is a no brainer; they currently see around 40% of their customers take their property elsewhere after they have put all the work into listing it, and 30% of the properties they get offers on do not make it to exchange. Having the information upfront creates a very “sticky” customer, means that the transactions are quicker – in Scotland four weeks quicker – there is less chance of fall through.
Again just over the border in Scotland there are just a third of the fall throughs we have in England and Wales; in Australian states, where they have vendor disclosure, it is only 2% of transactions that fall through where information is provided upfront.
Overall, if you have a better chance of selling that property at the price you want to achieve, by providing the upfront information on the property (including searches) to the prospective buyers, then why would that stop you bringing your home to market? You might argue that cutting down on the chances you will go through a process which ends in failure, makes the price of supplying that information worth paying.
And I say again, asking buyers to pay for searches and a valuation on their property – which I would remind you, at that point, they do not even know if they can buy or use as they wish because they won’t have that information – has never stopped people putting in offers on properties coming to market. So, why might it act as a deterrent for sellers putting their property on the market?
Therefore, despite the pushback we sometimes get from a small minority within the industry, the CA and our Policy & Strategy Board is committed to ensuring upfront information includes searches, as that information is desired by consumers within the process, and it is likely to ensure our goal of cutting down on the process time to completion, and ensuring that fewer transactions are aborted, is met. We believe most conveyancers, and their introducers, agree with this and it means we’ll continue to work towards its introduction.
Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)