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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Conveyancers tell agents - don’t blame us for transaction delays!

Conveyancers are sending a blunt message to estate agents: transactions will take longer than usual and don’t chase us with queries and questions.

At the end of a long statement released this morning, three groups - The Society of Licensed Conveyancers, the Bold Legal Group, and The Conveyancing Association - tell the rest of the house moving industry to get off their backs.

The statement says: “The message that conveyancers would like clients and their estate agents to take on board is – understand that transactions are going to take longer than usual to progress and please be patient. Continually chasing your lawyer actually makes them less productive and indirectly is a further cause of delay in the process.”

The statement begins with the three groups saying they have “come together in a concerted effort to manage the expectations of those currently engaged in the home buying and selling process.”

Pointedly, it goes on to say that estate agents know why some conveyancing processes are slow and should “make allowance for them.”

Those reasons include the stamp duty holiday, a backlog of transactions still outstanding following the spring lockdown, and the impact of Covid 19 on individual lawyers.

As a result the statement claims conveyancers are “stretched to the limit” and “working evenings and weekends to serve their clients”.

Bold Legal Group founder Rob Hailstone says: “Covid-19 restrictions mean many local authorities are operating under extreme difficulties and this has affected their ability to supply their own searches and also to provide access to data for personal search companies. In addition many mortgage lenders are experiencing delays in supplying offer letters and the valuer profession is also under extreme pressure.”

Lloyd Davies, operations director at the Conveyancing Association, says members of his industry have “performed wonders” in the light of some staff being furloughed, the challenges of home working, and what he calls a “tidal wave of property instructions.”

The statement signs off with another warning - this time about the future, suggesting the stamp duty holiday needs to be extended “to avoid further disappointment in the spring.”

It’s a long statement which we reproduce in full below:

The Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC), the Bold Legal Group (BLG) and the Conveyancing Association (CA) have come together in a concerted effort to manage the expectations of those currently engaged in the home buying and selling process. A variety of factors are currently contributing to delays in the process, and it is important that home buyers and sellers, and the estate agents serving them are aware of the current circumstances and make allowance for them. 

Simon Law, incoming Chair of the SLC said: ‘Conveyancers are currently dealing with an unprecedented set of circumstances which are constraining the ability to progress transactions. The property market is seeing volumes not experienced since the recession, caused by a backlog of transactions from the period of lockdown, and many people re-appraising where they want to live as a result of the covid-19 epidemic. This is compounded by the current SDLT ‘holiday’ on property purchases under £500,000 which has added fuel to the fire. This and the impact of Covid-19 on the legal profession has resulted in conveyancers being stretched to the limit. 

Rob Hailstone, Founder of the BLG commented: ‘it is not just the demand side that is creating a challenge to the conveyancing profession, but also the dependence on outside parties to progress transactions. Covid-19 restrictions mean that many local authorities are operating under extreme difficulties and this has affected their ability to supply their own searches and also to provide access to data for personal search companies. In addition many mortgage lenders are experiencing delays in supplying offer letters and the valuer profession is also under extreme pressure. I have just received this e-mail comment from one BLG member: “The problems we are encountering are across the board. There are delays with searches, surveys, mortgage offers and pretty much every other aspect of the process. Chasing, on the face of it seems sensible, but the more we chase people the more they get distracted. You might get put to the top of the pile for a few moments but doesn’t seem to last for long.” 

Lloyd Davies, Operations Director at the Conveyancing Association added ‘being able to plan for the current market circumstances has been an enormous challenge. The impact of Covid-19 created a vacuum of activity which has been followed by a tidal wave of property instructions. Not surprisingly during lockdown, most law firms furloughed many of their staff and indeed there were some redundancies. As the lockdown restrictions were lifted, firms were faced with the challenge of making work places Covid secure which inevitably meant that fewer employees could be accommodated at their place of work. The challenge then has been to choreograph home working alongside those back in the office with all the challenges that brings. Whilst firms have performed wonders in making such arrangements work it is inevitable that maintaining productivity is a real challenge, and of course allowance has to be made for the fact that unfortunately some employees have been affected by the disease.’ 

Members of all three conveyancing organisations are working evenings and weekends to serve their clients, and the message that conveyancers would like clients and their estate agents to take on board is – understand that transactions are going to take longer than usual to progress and please be patient. Continually chasing your lawyer actually makes them less productive and indirectly is a further cause of delay in the process. 

All three organisations are working with key industry stakeholders to look at ways at improving the home buying process and in particular the current SDLT holiday which needs to be extended to avoid further disappointment in the spring 

Poll: Whose side are you on?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW

  • Rob Hailstone

    This is NOT about picking sides.

    We don’t say:

    "Don’t chase us with queries and questions"

    "Get off our backs"

    We do say:

    "Continually chasing your lawyer actually makes them less productive"

    As stated, conveyancers also have the same issues when chasing searches, surveys and mortgage offers.

    This is not a case of don’t blame us, simply that we are all in the same boat experiencing very high transaction volumes.

  • Samantha Sullivan

    Some solicitors or at least their admin staff is still on furlough! This is leaving the conveyancers who are at work, double the work load during a busy time. Is that the cause in other areas too perhaps?

  • charlotte Jeffrey- campbell

    We produced an online course with a solicitor to help agents understand what they can do to help speed things up- being aware of any title issues, make sure memorandum accurate and education buyers and sellers in their role. It’s one of our most popular courses on Able Agent so there’s definitely a benefit in training agents to support the process.

  • icon

    Estate agents have got the opertunity to work with their clients to get all the information required ready. They can even get searches ordered if they are in a slow area. This information can now be shared with potential buyers to remove expensive supprises later in the process.

  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    Everyone involved in the business should try to understand the pressures and see what they can do to help out. Some delays sit with third parties not the conveyancers themselves and without other stakeholder taking action very little can change.
    This is not time for everyone to just shout louder at the legal system but a time to help out with what you can do to support it.
    Searches will not be getting back faster any time soon. The Only answer is for clients themselves to get in the queues sooner by ordering Searches when going to the market as a vendor, or, by ordering them on day one of a sale being agreed by the buyer if there is no pack ordered. This has to be estate agent lead.
    Property Searches Direct continue to help with this immediate issue by enabling home movers to access Searches Direct, saving significant transaction time. The Hazard Checker help anyone to understand which Search Pack should be ordered to avoid further delays and are made available to Vendors and Buyers.

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    The sooner conveyancing is taken out of the hands of solicitors and put in the hand of qualified estate agents, the quicker the process will be!

    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    Only if they radically change their behaviours too.
    Are you encouraging your vendors to order Searches when going to the market at the moment? Are your buyers, where a vendor pack is not available, being shown how to order their Searches as soon as the memo of sale is distributed? Or are you still waiting for the conveyancer to order them?
    If so, what chance does a 'qualified' estate agent have to do the conveyancing any better or quicker, when the solutions are already available to Estate Agents to speed up transactions and yet so few are willing to embrace them?
    Making a change to any system is a brave thing to do, but one that it usually only taken up by the progressive few that will lead the way for the rest of the market.
    We are here to help you get transactions moving faster.
    If you would like to know which are the worst affected areas for Search Returns at the moment, please get in touch.
    We can't help you to avoid the car crash that will inevitably happen, but we do supply great airbags for those that want them :-)

     
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    If the searches were the sole problem, your (companies) solution would be a good one.
    Personally, I'm more concerned with solicitors having no impetus to speed the transaction up, their incredibly poor communication skills, and their inability to take any responsibility for anything they do, whilst constantly blaming 'the other side'. An estate agent would have a far more vested interested in getting the transaction through to completion as they can't hide behind getting paid regardless of whether the sale goes through or not.... unless your Purple Bricks that is ;-)

     
  • Andrew Stanton CEO Proptech-PR    Proptech Real Estate Influencer

    Where do I begin? The biggest change to the conveyancing sector since 1925 was HIP's yes ... The one good thing about the SDLT holiday that Rishi decided to unleash on the property sector is that maybe in 2021, the conveyancing industry and the lenders and the surveyors will do some 'joined up thinking' and digitize vast swathes of the business which are not yet covered. Paper and legacy models out, smart, secure, coded digital solutions in.

    With over 1.1M successful completions annually, it is time to accept that the repetitive groundhog processes and minutiae of the conveyancing system can be speeded and enabled by machines, time for those in ivory towers to take a look around, and start to grasp the opportunities, rather than bemoan the bottlenecks.

    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    No conveyancing Tech can speed up the return of Local Authority data for Searches at the moment.
    Te only option is for home movers to be encouraged to order Searches themselves far sooner in a transaction.
    No conveyancing tech will speed up lenders producing mortgage offers.
    No tech will speed up the back log of valuation surveys.
    The Industry needs to change what it is able to change, so as to make a positive impact on timescales. This should not turn in to a blame culture.
    Paper or Cutting Edge Tech conveyancing model will not get Land Charges Data or Building Regs information out of Harrogate Council any faster, or any of the other top 40 local authority offenders either for that matter.

     
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    I read posts like this all the time and they make me so angry. In all my forty years of conveyancing (during which the so called experts with all their technological advances have never once approached me or to my knowledge any one of my peers) I have never seen, and never expect to, any system which betters an experienced, competent, able human being. We are consistently told tech is out there and being used, yet standards in conveyancing are lower now than they have ever been. An interesting correlation? Certainly there is a firm near myself always keen to trumpet their use of technology, yet to (painfully) deal with them you realise they are, below the surface, nothing but a bad conveyancing firm with technology.
    You probably think I am a luddite. But actually I am someone passionate about conveyancing and customer service, and it's the latter I want to see people mentioning more when trying to find ways to improve conveyancing. The poor old client has been forgotten for far too long.

     
  • Iain Harrison

    The issue with conveyancing is the people, not the system...too many solicitors and conveyancers take on too much work which they then cannot process in a timely fashion. It's a myth that the searches are the cause for delays, or surveyors, or mortgage lenders - yes there are issues which slow the transactions down at the moment but conveyancing can, and should be done in a matter of weeks, not months, and if a solicitor was ready with all enquiries dealt with, searches back and contracts etc signed and then waiting for a mortgage offer to arrive they would be giving their client a proper service, but they're not...the system is simple, the people are quite often stuck in the 20th Century though.

    icon

    Well said.

    Improve the actual conveyancer doing the job, and deals fly. They really do. If only I could pick my conveyancing chain lawyers.

    Meanwhile IT this and that nonsense is floated about as some kind of solution or 'tips for speeding up conveyancing', which in the hands of a mediocre conveyancer does nothing.

    It's just a mess out there at the moment. Just improve the person allowed to offer conveyancing, and you have your solution.

     
    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    Iain,
    I am sorry, but I KNOW that Searches are a real issue in some areas and that the delay is exacerbated by when they are ordered in the transaction process. More council areas are getting significant backlogs too.
    Harrogate is taking 70+days, thats an issue for anyone wanting to be in for Christmas I'm sure you can agree.
    It will be a massive issue for anyone needing to complete before the end of the SDLT Relief period when selling in to the new year. There are a number of councils currently struggling to release Building Regs Data and so holding up exchanges. We experienced a 90 working day return that came available last week!!
    I appreciate that it is a comfortable position to be able to ignore these issues as myths and shout at the conveyancer, but SOME things are simply out of their control.
    Even the conveyancing association are stating that c.50% of sales pipelines will be at risk unless behaviours significantly change and are urging estate agents to get Vendors to start the Search ordering process to help out with timescales.

     
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    It does seem to me it is open season on kicking conveyancers at the moment. Yes some of it is perfectly justified when aimed at the thirty or so factory outfits who cause us all problems. Though Estate Agents should not forget that those outfits exist purely because of the referral fees paid to them by Agents in the first place. So careful what you complain about.
    Technology is not the answer that is a red herring thrown around by the inexperienced lawyers straight out of university who want to look cool and hip, or the bandwagon jumpers who try every new idea that hits the market for the same reason. Experience and expertise from staff will always trump technology. Problem is there is a massive shortage of experienced people due to so many retiring after the last recession, and a lack of training being given to newcomers.
    Yes there is no doubt over the years the conveyancing profession has become complacent and a mess. Too many bad firms are allowed to proliferate unchecked and proper regulation is needed. Too many non law people and entrepreneurs have seen conveyancing as a business where they can make a fast buck. None of their investment has added anything to the profession but whilst they are making money they will not care. In a few years they will be gone with their profits but who will be around to pick up the pieces?
    As someone with so much experience who has seen so much I am saddened by where conveyancing is today. Unfortunately years and years of allowing experienced, able, competent conveyancers to leave the profession without listening to their concerns and asking them to give something back, and a failure to train the inadequate administrators that now are the bane of our life with their tick box conveyancing, have now caught up with the profession. There are simply very few good conveyancers left out there, and too many incapable ones.
    I remember back to the early noughties when I was working flat out and we were far busier then than the market is today week in week out. It is simply a fact that conveyancers today have too much time to post on social media that they are busy rather than actually deal with files, and they lack the experience and proper training to be able to properly deal with larger volumes. For instance last month I saw someone congratulating themselves on getting through a busy month and completing thirty files. In our heyday thirty completions was one busy Friday then down the pub at lunchtime and start again the following Monday.
    It is not necessarily the fault of conveyancers they do not know any better.
    As someone who cares passionately about his clients and the wider reputation of the profession I can only apologise to clients out there who are suffering due to years of greed and lethargy. Some of us out there do care, unfortunately we are the ones never asked for an opinion when it comes to putting right this mess of a profession.

  • Iain Harrison

    Daniel - the time searches take ebbs and flows, but the time taken to reach an exchange gets longer and longer, and is rarely due to the time taken for searches to arrive back with the conveyancers. Archaic systems and working practices, too much workload, too little knowledge and experience, lots of waiting on the other side (who happen to be doing the same thing) and a massive reluctance to seemingly pick up the phone...mind you, if conveyancers could do their job well then I probably would be out of mine, one of my main roles being sales progression...so I know where the problem lies, and it's the conveyancers and however much we have some brilliant people that we work with they are hindered by the simple fact that there will be another one in the chain who is useless, not all are young and some should have retired years ago.

    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    Hi Iain,
    I do understand your position. You of all people should then realise tat there is more that can be done to prepare people for a move.
    IF a vendor has a Search pack, completed all of the protocol forms (Property Information, Fixtures and Contents, Leasehold Info etc), amassed their central heating service records, copies of utility bills, Fensa Certificates, Completed a valid ID/AML check, EPC and so on, placed them all in one place...how fast do you then think things could move??
    Surely you must see that if the Ebb and Flow is removed from the conveyancing Job, of the Protocol Forms are completed, If Estate Agents truly assisted in getting people legally prepared, your job would be more secure than ever as you would be forming the conveyance pack rather than chasing for someone else to do it.
    There is no dark art to getting people legally prepared or ordering Searches. Agents simply need to decide whether they are will to get involved and help change the dynamics of the conveyancing industry or just point fingers and blame.

     
  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    Matthew Gilbert, I believe that any small thing that can change to speed up a transaction should be addressed. Why wait for the moment where everything can be fixed. The Sky cycle team proved that incremental change wins races.
    You of all people should then realise that there is more that can be done to prepare people for a move.
    IF a vendor has a Search pack, completed all of the protocol forms (Property Information, Fixtures and Contents, Leasehold Info etc), amassed their central heating service records, copies of utility bills, Fensa Certificates, Completed a valid ID/AML check, EPC and so on, placed them all in one place...how fast do you then think things could move??
    If Estate Agents truly assisted in getting people legally prepared, the conveyance could get off to a much faster start, akin to an Auction.
    There is no dark art to getting people legally prepared or ordering Searches. Agents simply need to decide whether they are willing to get involved and help change the dynamics of the conveyancing industry or just point fingers and blame.
    I appreciate that it is not ONLY searches that are the issue, but that is the one that my business serves to solve. If everyone that could make an effective change made one, there would be a much better and more collaborative system in place.
    The question is, are you willing to help drive change??

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