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Agents back Rightmove allegation of logjams in conveyancing

Two agencies have entered the debate on whether the current frenzied housing market is seeing delays in completions.

Yesterday EAT reported that Rightmove had noted delays of around a month in the time now being taken from the acceptance of an offer by a vendor, and completion. This may jeopardise some house moves before Christmas and, ultimately, may lead to issues around completing by the ending of the stamp duty holiday next March too.

Two agents have been invoked by Rightmove to bolster the portal’s argument.


“We’re very much having to make our buyers and sellers aware that the conveyancing process is taking longer at the minute; there’s a mixture of fewer council staff working so searches are taking longer, mortgages taking longer to go through, and solicitors being inundated with work” explains Ben Hudson, managing director of Hudson Moody in York.

“We’re having to call everyone involved in the sale constantly to make sure things keep moving” he adds.

And Nick Leeming, chairman of Jackson-Stops, comments: “When the property market experiences unprecedented demand, such as the UK has seen post-lockdown, you can understand how potential logjams can form throughout the transaction process.”

He advises vendors to ensure searches, pre-contract enquiries and contracts are agreed in advance.

And he adds: “It is also worth investigating the delivery time scales of your solicitor – do your research, read reviews from other sellers. The last thing any seller wants is to wait for two weeks for a solicitor to reply to an introductory email so it is worth looking into the availability of online conveyancers if time is of the essence.” 

Yesterday Rightmove said there were almost 40 per cent more sales currently in the system than a year go.

“The temporary stamp duty holiday means there’s more urgency than usual for the congestion to be cleared by the end of March, making it vital for buyers and sellers to work closely with their agent and to make sure they’re moving fast to complete a document or answer questions” according to Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property data.

“We’d advise that buyers and sellers factor in at least an extra month for the current delays in the process, if possible, as time is already running short for sales that are agreed now to be completed by Christmas.”

Poll: Do you believe conveyancing is slowing because of volume of business?


  • Rob Hailstone

    As I said yesterday this is part of the problem:

    “We’re having to call everyone involved in the sale constantly to make sure things keep moving.”

    From a conveyancing firm yesterday:

    "We continually inform our clients that they are wasting time by phoning/emailing us every day – but still it continues.

    No amount of “this particular delay is not of our making, we are in the midst of a pandemic” seems to resonate………..we continue to be lectured to by clients/estate agents and others - telling us to chase the search results etc EVERY DAY IF WE HAVE TO.

    What is the point – other offices/businesses are in the same boat – we have to show some common sense and common courtesy in terms of anticipated response times. We are hazarding a guess at as high as 50% +++ on wasted/lost time taking calls telling us to chase others. Time that could be spent far more productively for all concerned."

    Like everyone, conveyancers want to exchange, complete and get paid asap. Seller/buyer expectations have to be more realistic. The bad news is that it could be that after Boris's announcement today, it has been a case of two steps forward and three steps back.

  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    No one needs to see Searches delay a transaction. By asking the buyers to buy the Searches as soon as the sale is agreed, they will come back sooner. No one can make them return quicker.
    We are the only firm to offer buyers direct access to buying Searches.
    As soon as a sale is agreed, send them to our Hazard Checker to confirm the pack they need and suggest they get on and buy it. If they don’t they won’t be ordered for several weeks, and that could cause a delay.
    Go to Property Searches Direct for more information, or get in touch.

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    The problem with the current system is this........we all know that solicitors have no incentive whatsoever in pushing sales through.......why....because if it all goes "belly up" because the chain tires of waiting they just pop their invoice in the post to their client for abortive costs.....and do it all over again when the next buyer comes along........until there is an incentive or they all move to "no completion-no fee" (fat chance) it will never change.

    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    That's a very broad brush you have used there Freedom Road. Surely your pipeline will be unaffected as you will refer your clients to Conveyancers that offer No Move No Legals Fee?
    I believe that most solicitors see themselves as running a business too and would rather a full fee than a very small percentage of it. If that wasn't the case they'd be out of business.
    Sales tend to fall through as a result of delays from third parties such as Lenders, Leasehold enquiries and searches.
    We can provide you and your buyers with a solution to get Searches back sooner if you wish to play your part?

  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

  • Samantha Sullivan

    Nobody has mentioned the backlog and delays with lenders? Especially the ones still producing AIP's for 10% deposit deals that have been pulled.

    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    But no-one likes to get cross with the lenders as it is always the conveyancers fault.....didn't you know? :-)

  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    We are in the process of ordering a Search that involves Thanet District Council and have just been informed of a 40 working day average turnaround. We may not begin to see the final bits of information to complete the report until 17th November. That will still beat the Christmas Deadline, but I wouldn't want to be applying for it any later than today to be certain of it.
    If you have a pipeline affected by that Council, get your Searches ordered as quickly as possible if your clients want to move before Christmas. Don't wait for the Conveyancer to get around to ordering them; Ask your clients to come to Property Searches Direct.

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    From David Jabbari, Solicitor, CEO of Muve
    There is always a tendency in conveyancing firms to get very defensive when this subject is broached, and blame everything but the legal process. This issue has been coming up across the property press recently and I think it is a great opportunity for the law firms to put their hands up and admit they could be doing a lot better.
    One report was suggesting that sellers who do not list this month are likely to miss the SDLT holiday period. It is truly shocking, and frankly unbelievable, that sellers would need to list this month to get in within the SDLT holiday deadline due to the conveyancing process.
    The issue is that conveyancers fail to re-examine their processes: they simply say I am working flat out but never stop to ask whether they are working efficiently, whether they are making mountains out of molehills throughout the process. I had a solicitor on the other side the other day who would not accept a completion payment by the Faster Payment method without an undertaking that we would not recall the money (and this was while the csutomers were in a van waiting for the keys!).
    We did a major review of our processes and created a MuveFast service targeting 28 day exchanges, and we are successful in this in over 90% of cases. The big issue I am seeing is mortgage approvals but this is definitely improving. There is no doubt that lots of law firms were too slow to unfurlough and have not invested in new capacity to keep up with demand. We were fortunate that we raised over £1m new investment during Covid and have ploughed this immediately into new capacity and a new estate agency account management team.
    Never was there a more important time to ensure that instructed lawyers are committed to faster transaction times and have the resources to deliver this. (david.jabbari@muve.me.uk).

    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    I like what you are saying and you sound like a progressive firm David. Can we help your clients to get their Searches ordered on day 1 of you believing that they wish to instruct you by asking them to get their Searches ordered Direct? No one can get Searches back faster than anyone else, but we can definitely help get them back sooner. Property Searches Direct

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    As a conveyancing lawyer of several decades standing its all about the balance, between a lawyer communicating with his or her client, and being allowed to be a lawyer!

    Sadly some clients want technical perfection, at the lowest possible cost, in the shortest possible time. Its axiomatic, that these goals or demands are mutually exclusive.

    No conveyancer I have ever met deliberately sits on a file for the sake of it.

    Inexperience is a real problem, especially with factory line style conveyancing companies. With experience comes the ability to know how to cut corners- safely.

    Sometimes its the little things which achieve the greatest benefits . I got into the habit of cc the agents, when I sent out an email since this had the effect of, how can I put this, promoting veracity!

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    The process used for conveyancing is age old. That is not a criticism, it has always worked to varying degrees and though creaking now it is still fit for purpose. Unfortunately many of the Firms working within that system are not, and even reading some of the comments on this subject it is extraordinary how some see themselves when the reality of dealing with them is completely different. That is the problem, many think they are doing a good job when they are not, so no adequate training is given to staff and we just continue ad nauseum in the same old cycle.
    Throw in a lack of leadership in the profession, which is split into governing bodies anyway and seen by too many as an industry, and it is easy to see why we are shuddering.
    But the criticism is harsh. I would love to know the identity of the firms the two Agents as quoted are using for their recommendations?
    I agree as I said yesterday the majority of conveyancers these days are bad, to be polite. Every day I find myself apologizing to clients for the standards of conveyancing from the firms on the other side of their transactions. But Estate Agents should look at themselves and wonder why that is. If they did not take the cash from Introducers then the thirty or so bad Practitioners we can all name as problem firms would hopefully not be polluting the market with their inadequate attempts to progress files. Be careful what you wish for is something they should have considered when they started taking that money. You cannot have it both ways, if you take the money you create the very issues you are now complaining about?
    Good conveyancers do not cause delays, only bad ones.


    I'm afraid that I cannot agree with all this talk about poor conveyancing practitioners. Reality must set in at some point. If conveyancers wished to maintain conveyancing as a high end legal skills area, they should have done something to resist the race to the bottom on fees which happened over 20 years ago. They did not and so must now build firms and processes which can deliver good service at a competitive price. The City law firms charge at least £800 an hour for commercial legal services; a conveyancing firm will be lucky to charge that for the entire transaction, including post-completion. The truth of course is that there is not much truly complex law in conveyancing - it is all process. Indeed, in my experience, people who claim to be 'great lawyers' in conveyancing often mistake a sort of bureaucratic, 'jobsworth', mentality, with being a great lawyer. Ironically, when they face truly complicated legal questions - e.g. where property law issues may interface with tort, contract or administrative law concepts, they don't have a clue. I worked in some of the world's leading City law firms, with truly great lawyers, and they were always able to cut through bureaucracy and process to deliver exceptional service because they knew the law so well. Conveyancers tend to know forms well not the law and they mistake a 'computer says no' mentality for good lawyering.


    Is it just me but reading this it just basically serves to confirm the point that has previously been made sorry to say?

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    In response to Alan's comment, this may be true, save that the earlier dismissal of so-called 'factory style' conveyancing in this chain is inappropriate. Any analysis of the economics of conveyancing will reveal that it must be provided at volume. Firms that do not understand this - the so-called 'high street' firms - are the wrong side of this particular evolution in the legal market. This is why every year we see the larger firms become larger, buying up large regional firms (as Simplify did again this week), and the number of smaller firms decline. This is simple economics of scale. While there may still be some small service bonus that comes from dealing with the high street conveyancer, prepared to be on the end of every call, every year it gets less and less, as the larger firms invest in better systems. Naturally, if you only take 5 new clients per month you are likely to offer a very individual service but (a) you are not likely to be in business very long, (b) you will be charging a fee that is likely to be not very attractive and (c) you will have no money to invest in the absolutely essential tech needed to respond to the modern customer, and estate agent, demands for seamless communication. The attack on 'factory-style' conveyancing sounds a bit like: "this chap Henry Ford, he doesn't understand the importance of hand made cars: it will never catch on!".

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    No David. Sorry I appear to have touched a raw nerve, but some of the worst conveyancing I have ever seen, has emanated from “factory” style conveyancing firms, with leaseholds remaining a mystery for many .

    Logjams happen for a variety of reasons and it’s a poor polemic to suggest that traditionalism is their root cause.


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