A number of my member firms (Bold Legal Group) have reported that, compared to three years ago, the time to get property transactions to exchange has increased markedly, causing additional aggravation and stress for conveyancers, clients and estate agents alike.
As they say on TV, in no particular order, they have cited these possible reasons for this change:
- Increasing delays in receiving mortgage offers, post MMR
- Increasing requirements on conveyancers from lenders, e.g.: around investigating source of funds
- Increasing numbers of buyers receiving third party gifts from family members, which all have to be thoroughly investigated
- Conveyancers, big or small, being stretched and therefore unable to respond and deal with issues as quickly as they would like
- Reluctance on the part of some conveyancers to order searches until a mortgage offer arrives, which when compounded with longer turnaround times at councils, increase the delays
- Longer chains of transactions… which will only move at the speed of the slowest party
- Increasing delays in obtaining leasehold information from managing agents or landlords
- Increasing delays in getting a response from lenders, whether by phone, post or email
- Clients acting more tactically and being less ‘up front’, often changing the goalposts from what was agreed at the outset (either in terms of price, or timescales), and having less regard to the impact that their decisions/tactics have on others in the chain
- Stretched resources. If conveyancing fees were 25% higher, conveyancers could all have fewer files, spend more time on them, and be less distracted by other files/clients
- Modern expectations – conveyancing is sometimes regarded as just a ‘service’ (rather than a professional service) and many clients’ expectations are around speed, efficiency and access to information (not necessarily a bad thing) but the result is that clients are more demanding, and have less regard to legal issues
- Conveyancers being bombarded with emails from clients, solicitors and agents, and then (of course) replying to them, effectively hitting the ball back over the net, and bombarding our counterparts
- Conveyancers being instructed at the last minute
- A shortage of surveyors and valuers, and high demands on their services
These delayed exchanges raise four questions in my mind:
1. Do the delays really matter?
2. Are the above the real reasons for the delays?
3. Are there other reasons?
4. What can be done to improve exchange times?
*Rob Hailstone is Founder and Managing Director of the Bold Legal Group (firstname.lastname@example.org).