Firms should prepare now for the surge in remortgage instructions
With inflation at the top of many people’s minds right now, remortgage instructions have been surging. According to data released by LMS, October saw a 35% increase in instructions from homeowners.
What’s more, with the Bank of England announcing on 16th December a base rate increase to 0.25%, the remortgage market is bracing itself for even more instructions ahead of further potential rate rises.
This all points towards a possible bottleneck for conveyancers managing this case work. And considering the industry is still recovering from the enormous strain caused by the stamp duty holiday, conveyancing firms must ensure they have the processes in place to enable them to scale up operations without putting undue pressure onto conveyancers and support staff.
It is crucial, therefore, that a firm’s technology is optimised to provide the greatest possible value, by automating the most time consuming tasks, removing unnecessary manual entry and reducing the amount of person-to-person communication required with lenders and borrowers.
So here’s my advice on four areas that conveyancing firms should focus on, in anticipation of a surge in remortgage instructions.
Digital ID verification
Digital ID checks have been a thorny issue. While the benefits of remote ID verification are obvious, a lack of clear standards has slowed down adoption. What’s more, some highly publicised cases of legal firms being fined for poor ID verification standards have understandably caused nervousness among firms.
However, with the rollout of HM Land Registry’s digital ID standard earlier this year, not only have clear standards been published, safe harbour is also provided to firms meeting these standards. This means that firms applying these standards won’t be held liable for any cases found to be fraudulent.
This has paved the way for a number of commercial ID verification systems that comply with these standards as well as providing integrations into conveyancing case management software (CMS). Once implemented, digital ID verification can shave off a significant amount of time from each file.
While communication and workflows are often well established between conveyancers and the lender providing the remortgage (with these relationships often being formal partnerships), the process may not be as smooth when it comes to working with the existing lender.
The holdup can often come when requesting the redemption statement from the existing lender, with much of the process frustratingly still completed offline. However, Lender Exchange has been expanding the amount of lenders using its online redemption statement feature. Among these lenders are Bradford and Bingley, Landmark Mortgages and Mortgage Express.
Lenders using this service are able to provide redemption statements within an average of two working days via Lender Exchange, significantly reducing processing time. And with the platform hoping to announce more lenders using this service over the next few weeks and months, conveyancers using this service should be able to optimise a key step in the remortgage process.
Land registry automations
The Land Registry portal and its continual roll out of new features has greatly improved conveyancers’ workflows and administration tasks. However, with the recent roll out of the Land Registry’s API, a lot of the searches and document downloads currently performed by conveyancing staff within the portal can be automated.
A number of CMS providers have been rolling out integrations with the Land Registry’s API, enabling conveyancers to conduct property searches and send the AP1 without leaving their CMS.
The API is still a relatively new feature, meaning that not all CMS providers have released integrations and products that leverage the full benefits of this. If your provider doesn’t currently offer this, then it’s worth discussing with them when they expect this to be rolled out. If it’s a long way off, then you could consider the case for migrating to a new provider.
Smart automations will help to reduce a lot of tedious data entry and other manual administration work, but it won’t eliminate it entirely. And with the current recruitment problems that the industry is dealing with, outsourcing can provide a solution when case work surges.
Outsourcing does of course raise a lot of concerns with quality standards. But being successful with outsourcing comes down to the specific tasks that you outsource, the outsource partners that you choose, and the oversight process you put in place.
This includes ensuring you complete full vetting of the outsource company to establish that their team has the relevant experience and knowledge required to complete the tasks you’re assigning. Also, resist the urge to “leave them to it” once you’re up and running and have reviewed a few work cycles. Maintaining standards and quality is an on-going task that requires constant oversight.
No conveyancer wants a repeat of the logjam created by the stamp duty giveaway. And while remortgages are generally more straightforward than new purchases, firms shouldn’t be complacent with the volume of these instructions continuing to climb. So ensure your workflows are utilising the latest automations and third party integrations, so your team is able to focus more on the tasks that require their expertise and less on monotonous admin.
Written by Hayley Hellon, Head of Legal Practice at ProConveyancing, an online residential conveyancing firm operating in England and Wales that offers high quality, fast and sensibly priced conveyancing to buyers, sellers, and industry partners.