Upfront property information one way to improve conveyancing process

There has been lots of noise over recent weeks regarding upfront property information. The introduction of the Buying and Selling Property Information (BASPI) dataset by the Home Buying and Selling group on 15th March began a lot of discussion.

Many others in the sector have come out to show their support, with the Conveyancing Assocation’s Beth Rudolf explaining on BBC radio how the information will help to improve the home buying and selling process.

Having the information upfront would be a great step forward for buyers. In a recent poll we conducted on Twitter 93% of those involved believed that upfront information was a great thing.

Those that took part in the social poll commented:

“Absolutely. Consumers need all the information upfront so they can make an informed decision. Particularly about leasehold which currently is almost non-existent.”

“Lack of information at point of sale, especially with leasehold and shared ownership properties a big problem. Conveyancing too slow and expensive as well. Much more info should be held decurely at the land registry for pre sale enquiries.”

“Might have saved a lot of us being mis-sold if everything was upfront and the developers didn’t lie to your face. Needs a full overhaul the property industry.”

“I wouldn’t be a mortgage prisoner if I had access to the required information from the start.”

The 7% who thought the information was a waste of time, felt like the conveyancing sector should focus on other issues that are detrimental to the process.

Here at Today’s Conveyancer we wanted to reach out to the industry to see what many of our readers thought about upfront property information.

Rebecca East, Solicitor at Dutton Gregory, commented:

“I believe that sellers packs are worth having. A huge advantage of new build conveyancing is the large pack of information you receive from the outset from the developer’s solicitor. Aside from some enquiries you may wish to raise, the developer’s solicitor will provide you with every document you will need in order to advise your client on their purchase. Despite handing this pack of information to your client on their purchase, it is incredibly unlikely that they will retain the documents (despite informing them to keep it safe!) upon their eventual sale of the property. By having a seller’s pack it could reduce the number of enquiries being raised, ergo making the transaction more streamline.”

Lindsey Frith, Partner and Head of Conveyancing at Ramsdens Solicitors LLP, said:

“Upfront information is always going to give the conveyancing process a head start but the key is to ensure that there is consistency in what information is provided. On the basis that it is a conveyancer who will review the sales pack/property information, in my opinion, it ought to be a conveyancer who compiles this information to ensure that the seller receives the appropriate advice (where necessary), in advance of the information being supplied. Consistency is key, there is disparity within the industry between what one conveyancer would accept compared to the next. An upfront pack wouldn’t remove this disparity but if a consistent approach is taken in terms of what a standard pack comprises, this would be a start.”

Paul Smith, Head of Conveyancing at Sprift, added:

“Upfront property information is – in my opinion – a VERY good thing. But I’d argue it should be shared between all parties to a transaction, from agents to conveyancers, buyers to surveyors.

“Anything that arms the conveyancer with as much information as possible at the point of instruction can only be positive – as it may flag potential issues that could come to light further on in the transaction process, for example in relation to the title or planning.”

He continued: “Yes they are. Anything that improves the connection or the relationship between the estate agent and the conveyancer is worth having. Their function should be around helping the agent to list a property faster, and the conveyancer being able to get off the mark as quickly as possible – with the aim of better informing the buyer.”

If having the information upfront is so beneficial, why has this reform not been implemented widely across the industry?

Paul Smith, Head of Conveyancing at Sprift, said:

“They have only been made available fairly recently, and the industry is now seeing that technology-led solutions are becoming a reality.

“The current frenzied market and time-pressured conveyancers has meant many have found it so difficult when it comes to adopting new solutions and technology platforms. However, when the SDLT holiday finishes, we’d expect to see many working towards a fresh approach, encompassing digital transformation.”

Lindsey Frith, Partner and Head of Conveyancing at Ramsdens Solicitors LLP, commented:

“A number of reasons I suspect, resistance to change in the way we do things; a desire to change but a lack of time to implement such changes; the cost implications of obtaining information before a buyer is found and then having to renew time sensitive information, if it expires, pre completion. There are ways around these issues but time is a factor in being able to educate our colleagues and clients in the benefits of providing upfront property information.”

Rebecca East, Solicitor at Dutton Gregory, said:

“Client’s aren’t always the most attentive when it comes to retaining paperwork for their eventual sale. If there was a widely used portal that they could have access code/link to, they might think twice about using the same. Whilst I’m sure there are systems being trialled currently, there is no “one” system that has been rolled out to all property owners to use. It may also be prudent to look at giving a client access to this portal during the whole of their ownership so as works are undertaken they can upload the same rather than the current mad panic when you ask for a copy of that certificate/consent/planning permission from 4/5 years ago!”

With so much talk around streamlining the conveyancing process and our social media poll demonstrating that sentiment is felt by others, finding solutions to help improve the processes can take time to implement.

Those in the industry that we spoke to felt that seller’s packs did have it’s advantages when it came to making efficiencies in the process.

Lindsey Frith, Partner and Head of Conveyancing at Ramsdens Solicitors LLP, commented:

“There is a significant time saving for most stakeholders in the conveyancing industry and ultimately a cost saving as well. If a conveyancer can work with a seller, to compile the information a buyers conveyancer would expect to receive, before or even during the marketing phase of selling a property, then weeks could be deducted from the time between accepting an offer and completing a sale. Isn’t that what everyone would like to achieve?”

Rebecca East, Solicitor at Dutton Gregory, added:

“I am an advocate in streamlining the conveyancing process wherever possible. With so many advances in electronic ID reports, electronic signatures and completion of paperwork on smart devices, it think it would really help to move the conveyancing process into the 21st century. I think the problem we face is that we would put the responsibility on the property owner to ensure the portal was kept up to date during works being commenced on the property for the duration of their ownership and I fear that we’d be faced with a similar situation we find ourselves in now in that it is a blind panic to find the relevant paperwork when a client decides to sell their property.”

Paul Smith, Head of Conveyancing at Sprift, said:

“Everything should be centred around a ‘single source of truth’, which is what we are working towards with the Key Property Facts reports for conveyancers.

“A document for the buyer which shows them exactly what they are buying and one for the seller on what they are selling, and which presents the same information right at the outset of the process has to be a positive thing for the industry.

“As I have said previously, anything to arm both parties, and in fact all parties (including the home buyer), when it comes to possible issues down the line can only be a benefit. This has the potential to speed the entire transaction process.

“If the whole property buying and selling process was made easier, then I suspect that people would be encouraged to do this more often, which – in turn – would be hugely positive for the industry and the economy.”

What are your views on upfront property information?

2 Comments

  • test

    I think the upfront information ‘noise’ has been going on a lot longer than a few weeks. Take up is slow because of the extra pressures on the market being so busy. Property Searches Direct has been providing Legal Search packs direct to home movers for over a year. We work closely with Agents and Conveyancers to provide them with a collaborative space in which to promote each other’s business. Sellers should realise they have a big part to play in their sale and should complete ID/AML, protocol forms and order Searches on day 1 of marketing. There are many different property passports that enable sellers to safely store all of the documents relevant to the sale. We will be available when the market inevitably quietens to help Agents and Conveyancers that want a smarter way of doing things that is free to set up.

  • test

    It is a great initiative and a sign of the times that customers expect digital to not only remove friction and make things easier but also to provide value and benefits. With the BASPI not only is the quality of information improved far beyond the agents “ad”, but it also accelerates the sale process.

    Looking at the benefits Open Banking is giving customers, it is clear initiatives that improve transparency will not only improve current processes, but will drive greater innovations that will provide other benefits.

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