Avoid Completion Chaos

‘We all know that midday on a Friday is not the right time to start transferring funds where there is a chain involved.’

Aconveyancing’s founder and director, Natalie Moore, talks through the challenges she has witnessed with firms taking on too much work, leading to broken chains and how she prepares her team for busy Friday afternoons.

While the housing market has been buoyant following last year’s stamp duty incentive, I am starting to see the knock-on effect of firms taking on too much work, which increasingly results in broken chains on the day of completion.  This is incredibly stressful for both conveyancer and clients, resulting in post 5pm completions and – in the worst case scenarios – leaving families sitting in removal vans at 5pm on Friday evenings, with no keys and nowhere to stay. That practice is unacceptable and should never happen when contracts have already been exchanged.   It’s up to our industry to ensure that we are working together to prevent this occurring where it is a case of administrative challenges.

Map out the week

I appreciate it’s hard to think three steps ahead when you’re busy and dealing with a full case load but I encourage all of the fee earners on our team to do just that.  By thinking ahead and being proactive, we rule out any room for error.  We all know that midday on Friday is not the time to start transferring funds from the start of a chain knowing that the end of the chain is helpless until their conveyancer is in receipt of funds.

When you have a number of completions on Fridays, you don’t have time to chase the location of monies in a chain, especially when you are reliant on funds being received as agreed in the contract, usually around 1pm.

Consider whether you can order mortgage funds in advance for files nearing exchange. Mortgage companies state five days’ notice is required and while sometimes they can be flexible, we should never rely on, or expect it.

If the Certificate of Title is submitted at least five days beforehand, mortgage funds can arrive the day before and in good time to help the chain move quickly.  This is a practice we uphold as standard in our firm and I know many other firms who do the same – I encourage others to implement this as standard practice if they don’t already.

If funds are secured ahead of time, consider issuing a Held to Order agreement, allowing the early transfer of funds.  If our client is at the start of the chain, we often set up the transfer of funds on a Thursday afternoon to ensure the funds start moving as early as possible in the day to get the chain moving.

Be respectful

Since when did it become ok to leave a family homeless for the weekend because funds haven’t reached an account to release the keys?  I witnessed this happen in 2020 and had to have the uncomfortable conversation with a client as a result of a partner not willing to work beyond their contractual hours and complete on an undertaking.  The property was also empty!

We’re all professional, let’s act that way.  Keep lines of communication open, be flexible.  I don’t expect any of my staff to work late or weekends, but if there is a file that needs extra support, we will all work together to get things done.

Be open with fellow conveyancers and give them clear expectations on timings and next steps, it often avoids email trails and lengthy hold ups in the process.

Factor in ongoing Covid-19 delays

Covid-19 has added extra strain to many parts of the conveyancing process.

In a chain when time is of the essence, this can add stress because everything simply takes longer.  Third parties are working in challenging circumstances to finalise mortgage applications and deliver search results.  Even signing and witnessing documents, which is an essential part of the process, is taking extra time with lockdown restrictions still in place around the UK.

As there no real end in sight for Covid-19, we must factor additional time into the process as standard.  There is a good chance this will be with us for the rest of 2021 and possibly beyond.

Invest in the best support

Don’t cut corners when it comes to finance and fraud. Ensure you have a reliable and dedicated accounts department who can process payments efficiently and manage the volume.  We use a dedicated firm to support our team – Legal Accounts  – who I would highly recommend should anyone need any assistance.  And, as always, be vigilant when it comes to Cyber Crime and Fraud and don’t compromise on the required checks required when sending large amount of monies.

We might only be answerable to our own client but we have a moral duty to keep things moving for the sake of everyone else in the chain, let’s work together to avoid these scenarios whilst maintaining the highest standard of service.

Today's Conveyancer