Conveyancers and the speed of local council searches have come in for criticism as details have emerged of the government’s consultation on the house buying process.
The consultation - which we flashed at midnight Saturday here - was a surprise to many in the industry, not least because it was launched outside conventional working hours.
It seeks to make house moving faster, simpler and less stressful; specifically, it says it wants to assess ways of avoiding, or possibly banning, gazumping.
Support documentation released yesterday after the initial announcement suggests that the government is aware of issues regarding conveyancing.
The documentation says: “We are aware that the conveyancing process is a source of frustration for many buyers and sellers. Around 40 per cent of buyers and sellers [in a government-commissioned survey of 2,000 buyers and sellers] felt that the exchange of contracts was delayed and where a delay occurred, they were likely to blame the conveyancer for the other party. When asked about how the home buying and selling service could be improved, around a third of buyers and sellers wanted a faster service from conveyancers. This is recognised by conveyancing sector and they are already planning to put in place a number of improvements.”
The government also says there is scope for more technical innovation in speeding up the delivery of local government searches, and scope for more competition between conveyancers in general.
“We are aware that there are some firms which offer an online conveyancing service and that there are a number of initiatives already being pursued in both the private and public sectors which could help to facilitate e-conveyancing. To provide a firm foundation for a digital revolution in conveyancing, the government will continue to work with HM Land Registry to explore how data on property, such as leases, restrictions, covenants and easements, can be made available more easily. The government believes that this will improve the transparency of the purchase process and allow the private sector to create innovative ways to use this information” the background notes continue.
On estate agents, the support documentation queries whether complaints from the public are in fact under-estimated. “We are keen to know whether the apparent reluctance to complain about poor service received from estate agents is because people are not aware of how to raise a complaint” says the documentation.
“We are also aware that some consumers are guided by the agent towards using a certain conveyancer or mortgage broker and these agents may be in a commercial relationship with this party and receive a referral fee in exchange for making an introduction. This obviously increases the costs to consumers and may hamper competition” it warns.
On mortgages, the support documentation says the call for evidence consultation process wants to explore ways in which the application process could be speeded up, without exposing lenders to additional risk of default, while giving greater certainty to consumers over whether their application will be successful.
You can see the full documentation here.