Last month the news of the Conveyancing Association’s (CA) newly-launched progression training course for agents and mortgage brokers, reached the news pages of this very site.
Needless to say, and I suspect something to do with the somewhat mischievous way it was written up, the comments were a mixed bag.
I’ll pass over some of the more personal comments hurled our way and focus instead on one of the central criticisms of the Association launching such a course which tended to be focused on the presumption that by doing this we are somehow blaming agents for a slow conveyancing process.
To begin with, let me say that nothing could be further than the truth – most of our members (and I certainly count myself in this group) have been around long enough to fully understand there are many mitigating factors when it comes to taking a transaction through to completion.
For every one that flows seamlessly through the system we’re all aware of another which gets bogged down for a whole host of reasons, many beyond the control of those who are charged with working on the case.
So, we are not suggesting that agents are the reason for delays. What we are trying to do as an Association is to identify within the process where the problems are most likely to occur, and by doing this and pre-empting them, hopefully we get to the point we all want to be that much quicker – namely completion of the case.
We believe that, given we are all stakeholders within the conveyancing process, that having an understanding of what happens when a case is taken on by the conveyancer, can help all concerned.
As you will see this is not just a course for agents but mortgage brokers as well – essentially (along with the lender) these are the key components in a case and will be the ones who have to deal and communicate to the client.
We often talk about managing expectations with a client – this has perhaps never been so important, certainly in the past few months with the stamp duty increase deadline just a couple of weeks away.
Our position is that the more people working and dealing with the client, who are aware of the conveyancing process and can provide clear information on the requirements and the process, the better.
Which is why the course has been designed and it’s why we think that having a more transparent and open communication channel, as a result of that understanding, will be of benefit to everybody.
Now, at the same time, we at the Association are completely aware that not all conveyancing firms are the same.
They’re not and they can be very different in terms of the way they deal with clients, the agent, the mortgage broker and everyone else.
However, what we’re trying to do with the Association and our membership is to encourage them to keep to the best practice standards we are putting out into the market.
For instance, and again I’m reiterating the point, but in terms of keeping that communication channel open, providing regular updates and having a commitment to offering the agent information not just when something happens but, for example, on a regular basis.
Again, if we as stakeholders within the process are clear about what is expected of us and what should be happening next, then we can provide the client with a much more rounded, realistic view of the case progress.
We feel that with a much more interventionist Government, and much more pressure being brought to bear on all practitioners, that by understanding each other’s role and working together we’ll be much more capable in working through those pressures and still getting the outcome we all want, in as quick a time as possible.
Now, some might think this is a rather wishy-washy ideal and that it will be impossible to deliver for all conveyancing firms, and they might be right.
However, in terms of the CA’s membership there is certainly a focus and commitment to improve and, let’s be honest, to ultimately set the top conveyancing standards which will mean more business for our members.
I don’t see anything wrong with this, and I certainly don’t see a problem with trying to work with, for example, those relatively new to the agency world to offer information on how the conveyancing process works.
It should benefit them, their firm and their relationship with the client.
Ultimately, I believe we will improve the process for all by working together – there are those who may believe we are playing the ‘blame game’ but that is not our focus because, quite frankly, to do this gets us nowhere.
*Eddie Goldsmith is Chairman of the Conveyancing Association