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Conveyancers accused of massive delays during house transactions

A ‘disruptor’ tech company claims that large numbers of people are dissastisfied with the conveyancing element of house moves, with many having to repeatedly chase their conveyancers or even take time off work to progress their transaction. 

The company, When You Move, has surveyed 2,006 people and found:

- 18 per cent have had to take time off work, or spend their own personal time, checking on the conveyancing side of their purchase (and this proportion rises to 25 per cent of those aged 35 to 54;


- 29 per cent said that during the sale or purchase, they had to speed up the process themselves by ‘pushing through on processes’;

- 25 per cent felt that lawyers offered the lowest level of customer service that they encountered during the transaction; 

- 21 per cent would not use the same lawyer again because of their poor customer service;

- 12 per cent claimed they wanted to move house but were deterred by the legal process.

The tech company claims that on average residential transactions take some seven weeks longer than expected when an initial completion date was predicted.

It puts some of this down to its claim that out of 10,420 law firms in the UK registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority only 233 specialise in property law, as denoted by their registration with the Specialist Property Law Regulator CLC. 

Poll: This survey is unfair to conveyancers - many parts of buying are too slow


  • Rob Hailstone

    This comment is absolute tosh:

    "Only 233 specialise in property law, as denoted by their registration with the Specialist Property Law Regulator CLC."

    The Bold Legal Group alone has 700 member firms, all of which carry out a significant amount of conveyancing. In fact, between them approximately 35% of all the transactions in England and Wales. We have members regulated by both the SRA and the CLC. There are many firms regulated by the SRA that have large departments specialising in property law.

    There are over 4000 firms that carry out conveyancing transactions and I accept that many (half or slightly more I would guess) do so infrequently, which may add to some of the delays.

    Many of the causes of delays have been highlighted in the response to the Governments recent Call for Evidence on How to Improve the Home Buying and Selling process. Those issues/causes are not only being looked at by the Government but more importantly (in my opinion) by the Home Buying and Selling Group which consists of representatives from the following disciplines, conveyancing, surveying, lending, estate agency, mortgage finance, removals, prop tech and others.

    Changes will be made in the foreseeable future and hopefully those changes will speed up the home buying and selling process, provide certainty earlier on and make the process less stressful for all involved.

  • Peter Ambrose

    The TRULY shocking statistic here is that 82% of people do not check on the progress of their transaction -"18% had to use their personal time to check on progress".

    What are they doing during this time - sitting around eating bonbons? I might be missing something here hey are buying the property - shouldn't they be involved in some way?

    This statistic calls into question what was actually asked during this survey, doesn't it?


    When you pay a professional for a service it is only reasonable to expect it to be carried out in a timely and efficient manner. You shouldn't have to keep chasing them. One of our buyer clients has just lost the property he was buying as his mortgage offer expired. Despite us chasing them frequently, they have spent over six months messing around only to discover a problem that required a land registry change a few days before the mortgage offer expired, ie. when they decided they would get their act together. The buyer is going to have to reapply for a new mortgage now with all the delays and expense that goes with it. It's shockingly bad. We recently sold a property to a conveyancing assistant and it was all done and dusted within 4 weeks, even with a mortgage, It's amazing how quickly they can work when they have the motivation.

  • icon

    Why is it that when "Proptech disruptors" comment about something the property press jumps like a scalded cat? Estate agents have known for decades that buyers and sellers are unhappy with the conveyancing system. It is well known that getting from agreed offer to exchange, which, in the 1980's used to take 4-6 weeks, is now regularly taking 10-12 weeks.

    Many a time I have conversations with solicitors who give the impression that they couldn't care less whether a sale goes through, and how dare estate agents have the temerity to question them?

    A good example of the lack of drive is with EPC's. How often do solicitors write (WRITE!) to an agent to ask for a copy of the EPC? These are readily available to download free of charge from the official EPC reguister but solicitors either dont know this, or take the view, as with a lot of things, that it is not their job.

    Until the conveyancing profession take a long critical reality check nothing will change.


    A vast amount of conveyancers don't care. You are dead right Andrew - the EPC is a good one, yes, we even tell conveyancers the website as a separate enclosure in our contract despatch letter and they still ask!?

    It is why I ask that my team be different and to simply treat their conveyancing files as if they were their own property sale/purchase (i.e would you close the file if it were yours, or is there something else you can do?).

    But let us balance this conveyancing critique up. How many marketing weeks can pass in the hands of an estate agent. Maybe conveyancers should chase agents "so, have you got your Rightmove adverts uploaded, have you given feedback to my client on the last few viewings, have you vetted the buyer's financial worth properly, can I please have an update as you had been marketing for 9 weeks now...etc etc."

    And let's not forget, so many properties sell themselves (e.g London) with almost nil input by the Agent, yet they then want to chase and hassle the conveyancer who does have to do some crucial and career ending work if they get it wrong.

    And then we have the estate agents who give up after an offer has been accepted playing no part in project managing their own deal through the legal stages.

    But back to conveyancers - the standard is so shocking out there, yes. Every day I face a new surprise - e.g Friday I had a Partner at a law firm say 'I know the FENSA website shows your client had their 2009 works accredited, but before I exchange I want you to place an order so their website can print out for £20 that same fact on a nice certificate'.

    SOLUTION? Tackle the quality of the actual human doing the conveyancing; police who is permitted to even look in the direction of a conveyancing file let alone touch one.

    But no one is brave enough. Instead, just rubbish ideas about this IT software/idea, and that IT software idea, blah blah.

  • Rob  Davies

    It is a frequent complaint from people that conveyancers slow the whole process down. However, while that is sometimes the case, it is not universal - just as not all estate agents are greedy charlatans. There are definitely problems to be addressed to speed transactions up, but agents and conveyancers need to work together to create a smoother, more efficient system, rather than the back and forth blame game.

  • Lenny White

    I find local lawyers to be generally excellent and we (as a company) always receommend local lawyers. Sadly, many agents and mortgage brokers tend to refer (for a few quid) out of town conveyancers, who all to often lack the necessary experience and knowledge. This is when the transaction grinds to a halt. My message to the public is pay a bit more for a local lawyer and it will bring savings in the long run.

  • icon

    It's interesting this article comes from an estate agent website. There is no doubt the quality of residential conveyancing needs to improve.
    The obvious solution is to prohibit 'referral fees' paid by conveyancers to estate agents and mortgage brokers so that the conveyancing firms who rely on buying in work fall away, thus leaving only the firms which survive and grow through genuine quality of service. That would be in the best interest of the clients!


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