The impact of Covid on turnaround times in a conveyancing transaction?

Lockdown, mortgage payment holidays, a rise in mortgage applications and the move for many staff to home working has impacted on turnaround times but improvements are being made.

The Building Societies Association said in some instances the time period between mortgage offer and completion has been longer than normal, but there are also examples where the speed has been astonishingly fast.

A spokesperson for the BSA said:

“Clearly resource management amongst all parts of the chain has been key – particularly as everyone has been impacted by the number of staff who need either to self-isolate or who are unwell because of the virus. Buyers and sellers contracting the virus or needing to self-isolate has also been a factor.”

Nationwide noted that mortgages are taking longer on average to get to offer stage, while solicitors also remain busy and local authority searches are also taking longer.

Peter Izard, business development manager at Investec Private Bank, said:

“On some occasions there may be increased timescales due to parties not always being available but this has been minimal and the timescales to offer has been in the majority of cases very similar to normal times.

“The whole process from application to completion has taken longer which is understandable. All parties involved in the chain are remotely working and hence timescales have increased.”

Chris Pearson, head of intermediary mortgages at HSBC UK, commented:

“We did feel some pressure on our service levels which meant we had to make some changes to how we operated and our range of products to ensure we could continue to offer the best possible customer journey.  I’m pleased to say that our ‘time to offer’ service levels are now very much under control and compare very favourably across the market at the present time.”

Leeds Building Society said it had seen some elongation of application to offer times but it continues to instruct valuers the day an application is received.

A spokesperson for Leeds said:

“We are seeing some early evidence of customers ready to complete who choose to delay completion on home moves. This could reflect some uncertainty but it’s important we continue to aid completions where the customer is ready – if only to ensure sufficient capacity is available at the end of Q1 2021, when the stamp duty holiday is due to come to an end.”

Skipton Building Society said mortgage offers have been impacted slightly where a physical valuation is required and it uses AVMs and desktop valuations where possible so the average time to offer still remains good.

When the market first opened up back in May, turnaround times at Yorkshire Building Society’s intermediary arm Accord Mortgages were impacted. But over the last few months several measures have been put in place to improve capacity and service levels have been kept within an acceptable range. Accord publishes all of its turnaround times daily on its website so brokers can see its position and manage client expectations accordingly.

Santander also publishes its average time to offer online and is currently at 22.3 days. This is slightly longer than usual due to the volume of applications.

Application to offer time at Kensington Mortgages is currently around 22 days compared to around 15 days pre-Covid. Conveyancer instruction has moved from eight weeks to, on average, 10 weeks.

At Masthaven Bank, initial assessments are now being completed within two days and applications underwritten within 11 days.

Shelley Connelly, head of underwriting at Masthaven said: 

“Our average timescales from instruction to completion have remained consistent over the last few months, with reductions being noted in the last two months, largely driven by customers keen to benefit from the current stamp duty incentive.”

At Newcastle Building Society, service levels remain strong with new applications assessed in three days and most offers issued in 11 days. This increased slightly following lockdown when valuers restarted physical valuations and were working through the backlog. Similarly, challenges with Land Registry and conveyancing resource have pushed instruction to completion times out but these are improving.

Hinckley & Rugby Building Society said its turnaround times have remained consistent. It did not withdraw mortgage products en masse and continued to process applications requiring a physical valuation even while it was not possible for valuers to carry these out. This led to a slight delay when valuers resumed their inspections.

Scott Callaghan, mortgage operations director at specialist provider The Mortgage Lender, said:

“It took everyone involved in the mortgage journey time to adjust their working practices at the beginning of the pandemic. Then a degree of normality on service levels returned and today it’s at or very close to pre-Covid levels.

“As a lender we have little influence over completion timescales but we’re experiencing similar service levels and haven’t been adversely impacted in this area.”

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