A PropTech supplier says the conveyancing process is “antiquated” and buyers and sellers would be better served if they were ’shadowed’ by the estate agent from the start of the process to the end.
Bryan Mansell, co-founder of PropTech platform Gazeal, says whereas tenants find properties in the same way as buyers with a similar viewing, offer and negotiation process, that's where the similarities end.
"During the homebuying process, once the offer has been accepted, buyers and sellers go off independently which is where many of the problems start … If more of the conveyancing work could be carried out by agents, with them able to guide consumers through the process, transactions could become smoother and more efficient" he says.
"In the lettings sector, there is an onus on agents to provide documentation and information to both sides of the transaction. This moves the process along and ensures everyone knows where they stand. There is plenty more to be done to improve the conveyancing process, but mirroring some of the most effective parts of the lettings system could be a good start" Mansell adds.
He says the protocols, language and traditions surrounding house moving - where activities are split between professionals - means the process is difficult to understand to buyers and sellers who only transact a few occasions in their lifetimes.
"With people moving home less frequently, their knowledge of the conveyancing process is understandably patchy. The language and complexity of documents used by agents and conveyancers is counter-productive as it scares consumers and adds to their confusion.
"The other issue revolves around the price of conveyancing services. If consumers were better educated not to choose their representation solely on cost, this could prevent fall-throughs and reduce the chances of buyers and sellers running into problems before they’ve even started" explains Mansell.
The issue of how conveyancing and the buying process work has been thrown into the spotlight by the stamp duty holiday, which comes to an end on March 31.
Gazeal - which wants to change the process to involve more technology and introduce concepts such as non-refundable deposits - says the current conveyancing system is likely to be stretched severely as the March 31 deadline nears.
Analysis from Zoopla suggests the stamp duty holiday will be responsible for an additional 100,000 transactions in the pipeline in the first few months of 2021.
Rightmove recently reported 613,000 sold subject to contract properties still awaiting legal completion, and that it now took 126 days from the time an offer is accepted until legal completion, with around 100,000 buyers set to miss on stamp duty savings because of delays.
"The conveyancing system has been struggling to cope with demand during an unprecedented period. However, even before the pandemic, there were still significant issues with fall-throughs, delays and confusion" adds Mansell.
"Post-April, there is still likely to be a huge backlog of transactions in the pipeline and a high level of activity could be sustained thanks to an economic boost associated with a successful vaccine rollout.”