Strategic Plan sets out CA’s ambitions for the future of home buying

This week marks a major step forward for the CA with the publication of our Strategic Plan entitled, ‘Building the framework for the future’. The document – which can be found on our website under the White Paper link – sets out our proposals, and the work streams we will follow, in order to create a much more positive home moving experience for all.

The document itself follows last year’s White Paper on ‘Modernising the Home Moving Process’ and as it states has three underlying aims namely swifter certainty; fraud protection, and effective communication. If you look at the eight work streams you’ll see this runs through them, like a stick of rock.

Many of those work stream areas will be of no surprise to any conveyancing stakeholder – so, for example, we want to deliver enhanced ID verification that cuts down on the number of times it’s required but at the same time provides far greater certainty around the individual(s) ID. We want to provide much better upfront provision of information, prior to the marketing of a property, in the form of an E-Home Report, which should cut down massively on the time it takes to move a purchase through the process. And we want to deliver much-needed reform in the leasehold process to cut down on the costs and delays that can appear endemic – in this regard, we have already made considerable progress.

Other work streams, as mentioned, focus on providing far greater certainty in the process. Much of the criticism levelled at buying or selling a home in the UK involves the frustration and difficulties of consumers caused by simply ‘not knowing’ how things are going to pan out. The number of transactions that fall-through is considerable, and means there is a great deal of costs incurred for no end result; unsurprisingly we want to improve certainty and provide far greater confidence to consumers that agreements will be stuck to.

This can be a particularly difficult experience for those completely new to the process – first-time buyers, for instance, but as many of us don’t move from one decade to the next, it’s easy to forget the process from the last time you moved.

One of our work streams is, therefore, to provide a standardised reservation agreement – much like we have already in the area of new-build purchases – which would set a period by which exchange must take place. Currently, there is no financial liability held by those who pull out of transactions, but such an agreement could involve an arrangement where money, say £1k, is held by the buyer’s conveyancer, and if exchange is not agreed by a certain date, it goes to the seller to cover their costs.

What we are trying to do here is cement the responsibilities that come with offering on a home and agreeing to purchase or sell it. Now, we all know that transactions can fall through for any number of reasons, but making such a financial commitment should cut down on the number of buyers who make a commitment, raise the expectations of the seller, only then to pull out and vice versa. They, at least, will be compensated for this and we would hope that it focuses the minds of those who currently offer or accept an offer with perhaps a less than 100% intention of completing the transaction.

That ability to create greater certainty in the process also informs another of our work streams focused on ‘completion certainty’. One of our aims here is to develop a special condition or change to the code for completion enabling completion monies to be sent the day before completion; again, as we all know, there is a great deal of stress on the day of completion for home movers especially, and waiting to hear when they’re able to move in is high on this list.

Therefore, having the funds the day before, knowing exactly what time completion will take place and providing that to the consumer should help enormously plus of course it will reduce the wasted resources that come with completion delays. The Strategic Plan again sets out the steps we will take to make this a reality, and we hope that a number of our CA member firms and our stakeholder contacts will be piloting this, along with other parts of the plan.

Overall, we believe there are a significant number of improvements to the process which can be delivered relatively quickly and effectively. Others will take more time and work, but the end goal is to get a much more effective, more reliable process that provides greater certainty for all participants. We are looking forward to working with all stakeholders to achieve this.

Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association

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