We’re making property logbooks work – RLBA

Property logbooks are helping conveyancing firms get on the front foot with post completion, encouraging home movers to take greater ownership of their property information and enabling them to present more up-front information to prospective buyers when they come to next transact their property. There are also indications that property logbooks can help firms retain clients and cross sell service into the Wills and probate, and family teams.

The claim comes from the Residential Log Book Association (RLBA) who are currently undertaking trials with 15 conveyancers around the UK. The Logbooks are being used as a post-completion tool to capture transaction data and hold it in the “Register of Logbooks;” a digital record of all properties with property logbooks. Describing logbooks as a “companion for the life of a property” RLBA Chair Nigel Walley, who is also the founder and MD of logbook provider Chimni, said:

“We talk about three potential benefits. An admin benefit: reducing future calls from clients looking for docs already handed over; a much bigger relationship benefit: using the logbook to build longer relationships with clients throughout the cycle of ownership [allowing for] cross selling and upselling other services; and a sales benefit: improving the chances of retaining the client next time they sell.”

“We think it’s a mistake to focus on upfront information without solving the question of ‘where does the data go at the end of the process?’ If we are just binning it then we are back where we started each time.”

Following the launch of a “Digital Deed Pack” Today’s Conveyancer has spoken to two of the participating conveyancers, Letchers and PM Property Lawyers to get more insight into the initiative. Hampshire based conveyancers Letchers Solicitors have been working with digital logbook company National Deeds Depository (NDD) and Sheffield based PM Property Lawyers have launched logbooks with digital logbook company Chimni.

Letchers Solicitors are a long-term client of NDD who are a logbook company that began their service providing an archiving and digitisation service for conveyancers. NDD’s services evolved to include a full digital property logbook and, as founder members of the RLBA, they were instrumental in setting data standards for UK logbooks. NDD are uniquely able to offer digital property logbooks and a linked physical document archive service.

Sean Reeves, Head of Conveyancing at Letchers Solicitors says

“We provide Property Logbooks for all our purchase clients. It’s a digitally-literate and constructive way to deal with the post-completion wrap up of a purchase.

Rather than emailing batches of PDFs, we give clients a tool that has already categorised and stored their documents for future use. For the practice this means we get time-stamped confirmation that documents have been handed over which dramatically reduces future calls from clients looking to find them. As well as being a valuable management tool for the homeowner, it’s a massive timesaver for us.”

When asked about what measures of success they were looking at when working with conveyancers like Letchers, Simon Lumb of NDD commented

“we are working to measure the impact of logbooks on clients’ willingness to recommend Letchers to other people and to see if we can build-in systems to help that process. We are also looking to measure the likelihood that people will come back to Letchers next time they sell.

Logbooks should be viewed as a tool for building client loyalty which provide a post-completion bridge and the opportunity for a Firm to provide other services to the client, such as Wills and Probate, or legal advice outside of property matters.”

Simon Lumb pointed out that NDD are one of the RLBA member companies who has implemented the Upfront Information framework and that an NDD user can update their logbook information for a future transaction at the touch of a button.

Sheffield based conveyancers PM Property Lawyers have been working with Chimni in a similar way, with their team able to launch Chimni logbooks from within their case management systems at completion.Tracy Harding of PM Property Lawyers commented

“We are conscious that the property world is digitising. For us this is about building better, longer-term relationships with clients. The logbooks are an amazing companion to home ownership in the 21C and we want to be the homeowner’s ‘property partner’ on that basis. When we set up a logbook, we set ourselves on course to partner with them through the whole cycle of them owning a home.”

Nigel Walley added

“we should view the logbooks as a platform on which to innovate. The basic integrations around upfront information and post-completion are just the beginning of this innovation. We are keen to explore new functionality and marketing techniques to enable clients like PM Property Lawyers to redefine the relationship they have with their clients.”

When asked about the initial findings of the trial, both NDD and Chimni indicated that take up was varied across client types. Nigel Walley said

“You won’t be surprised to know that Logbook take up is much higher among clients under 45, who just seem to expect to use this kind of tool. Also, buy-to-let clients, particularly those with under 5 properties who probably don’t have professional software to manage their investments. The logbook offer just enough organisation while still feeling homeowner-friendly.”

Simon Lumb added that it was clear that higher net worth clients, where there was a lot more documentation to hand-over, also seemed keen. “There is also a growing cohort of ‘multiple users’ where an older owner will give logbook control to their offspring to help manage their home.”

Both conveyancing companies have integrated their case management systems with the systems of their chosen logbook providers so they can set up logbooks automatically during the post-completion process of a purchase.

Letchers and PM Property Lawyers are now working on further integrations with their logbook partners as they explore the data implications of the whole property lifecycle. More broadly, it appears that logbooks are being adopted via multiple sources. The ‘logbook on completion’ trial described ties in with a move for new build developers to give logbooks as handover tools and there is an emerging logbook user-case around retrofit.

There is momentum behind wider adoption. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has recently announced logbooks will form part of the First Home Scheme and they are now mandatory in France.

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