Moving Towards A 21st Century Conveyancing Process

In all likelihood the words, ‘COVID-19 has been a game-changer’, will figure a lot in both the here and now, and in the future. That will certainly be the case for the conveyancing sector, where we were seeing a fairly progressive approach being taken to the changes required prior to lockdown, but where now the imperative for that change being realised has grown increasingly.

At our recent webinar on Virtual Conveyancing and tracking the conveyancing roadmap, it seemed somewhat bizarre that we were still talking about moving towards having a 21st Century conveyancing process – as if we have not already been living that century for the past 20 years and were still required to build it for the future.

The truth of the matter is that, by having to invoke a ‘call to arms’ to produce a 21st Century conveyancing process, it probably tells you all you need to know about where we currently are. Or rather, where we were until fairly recently.

That’s not to say that considerable progress hasn’t been made in terms of some key steps along the road to a real ‘21st Century process’ such as with digital ID, electronic signatures, property log books, upfront information, and the like, but it’s not possible to say we’ve reached our destination. Far from it.

In the webinar, the Land Registry said that COVID-19 had “injected pace” into this journey, particular around e-signatures and ID checking, and it’s clear from our experience over the past few months, that the progress mentioned has to continue. Who else might want to revisit March-May 2020 again; indeed we continue to live with the repercussions of our experiences through lockdown, with the threat hanging over us that this is far from the end.

That should provide the catalyst for all stakeholders to grasp the nettle. We need to keep pushing the agenda forward, working as an industry within bodies like the Conveyancing Task Force to ensure the blueprint for ‘21st Century Conveyancing’ is realised.

As mentioned, to that end, progress is clear, visible and already making a difference. So, in an area like the provision of upfront information – to have that one source of truth within a transaction – we have the potential of the Buying and Selling Property Information (BASPI). A form (although one which we hope will be delivered digitally) to collate all the required detail, with digital opportunities to import the required data, utilising the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) for each individual property, hopefully moving us further to the point where each property has its own Property Log Book.

In an age of big questions around big data, the Log Book can put the property owner in full control of all their property data – providing them with access to it, the opportunity to add to it, and as was mentioned in the webinar, creating an asset of the property.

And tied in with this, and perhaps providing a stepping stone, is our work on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) within the Home Buying & Selling Group (HBSG) detailing the responsibilities of all parties within the sale and purchase process, and designed to ensure that we complete within weeks rather than months, and that we give every possible transaction the best chance of doing so.

Reducing those fall throughs and speeding up the process will provide big administrative gains for conveyancing firms but will also ensure they earn more revenue because the chain and the cycle of business moves faster. And if you were in any doubt of whether this might work, take away the statistic that – on average – it takes 28 days for the conveyancer to be instructed after a sale is agreed. Instruct the conveyancer immediately on listing instead and, well it doesn’t need me to tell you what time-saving you get.

Prior to March, we were ‘getting there’ on all of these issues mentioned above, and so many more, but this COVID-19 period should give us all the impetus to move quicker and with more conviction about what we want to achieve, and where this will take us. There is no reason to hold back any more – our future will depend on it, it is time to grasp the nettle, it is time to be bold and improve the home moving process once and for all.

1 Comment

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    Time spent obtaining Mortgage Finance, coupled to related- sale chains continues to be the main road-block to speedy exchanges and completions not conveyancing time.
    Having a 21st Century conveyancing process, would be a substantial advance, given that during the entire 20th and first 20 years of the 21st Century the profession has shown little interest in adopting and following an agreed process.
    As a specialist conveyancing practitioner, who visits law firms daily, my first question of “can I have a copy of your documented conveyancing process”, is consistently met with “we’ve never felt like we need one, everyone makes their own way”.
    This approach where we consider conveyancing to be more akin to an art form, than a proven science is beyond comprehension.
    With at least 27 key stages to a Sale and 49 to a Purchase, making it up as you go along is primarily the reason for the abnormally high number of Ombudsman complaints re conveyancing and negligence claims resulting in increasing PII Costs.
    Undoubtedly low fees, coupled to junior and unqualified staff working in the area, have led to a misconception that conveyancing is simple.
    Merely automating the data-centric items within the transaction will not materially improve the time taken to transact the buying and selling of properties.
    Many of our Conveyancers struggle to know how to raise pertinent Enquiries, or satisfactorily respond to them. Their ability to compliantly report to a client on title, contract & transfer or lease, searches, and mortgage offer, is questionable at best.
    These skills were historically gained during a “Property Seat” as part of a “training contract”. No longer the route to residential property law these essential skills are being overlooked and not taught.
    Without a documented process detailing step by step what is expected, how can supervisors accurately inspect.
    Until the profession welcomes definition and prescription of process, ensures that ALL staff comply and monitors effective compliance via supervision nothing will change.

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