Technology the key to transforming the home-buying process, says CLC

“Transformational change” of the home buying process is within reach and does not require legislation, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has told the government.

The property law regulator also urged the earlier disclosure of referral fees paid by conveyancers, rather than a complete ban.

Responding to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s call for evidence on improving the home buying and selling process, the CLC said that making more of the relevant information available much earlier in the process – when a property is being marketed – was “a reasonable ambition and would achieve transformational improvement in the process”.

The response said: “That may require significant upfront investment if it is to be achieved sooner than the 2030 envisaged by the Land Registry. But that investment would deliver a significant public good.

“Government should play a key leadership role, working alongside conveyancers, regulatory and representative bodies, lenders, HM Land Registry, HMRC, established software suppliers and lawtech, proptech and fintech start-ups to galvanise the industry to deliver the transformational change that looks to be within reach.”

On referral fees, the CLC recommended bringing forward the moment at which the client was informed of the referral fee.

“Currently, that is generally at the point at which the conveyancer is confirming their instructions with the client. At this stage, the client is unlikely to consider whether they wish to continue to instruct that conveyancer or seek another who has not been referred because they will be focused on moving their transaction forward.

“If estate agents and other referrers were to be required to inform clients of the referral fee (that it will be paid and its value) when they first take instruction from the client, that client would then have time to shop around if they wished.

“This approach would be much more likely to allow the industry as a whole to evolve as consumer behaviour changed over time. Unlike a ban, it would allow consumers to rely on the advice of an informed player in the industry, taking into account the fee attached to that referral.”

The CLC suggested that, in the event of a ban, any savings could be largely wiped out by conveyancers increasing their marketing spend. It would also destabliise the conveyancing market by forcing firms to rewrite their business models overnight.

On other issues raised by the consultation, the CLC supported allowing conveyancers to act for both buyer and seller subject to appropriate safeguards – which is its current regulatory position – allowing all parties in a chain to track its overall progress, and improving the speed and security of the completion stage and post-completion work, from transfer of funds between the various parties, to updating the title at Land Registry and making the SDLT payment to HMRC.

CLC director of strategy and external relations, Stephen Ward, said: “Technology promises to solve many of the problems that currently beset the conveyancing process. The government does not need itself to take radical action to achieve this, but it must show leadership to support the property industry as a whole in making the necessary leaps forward.”

This article was submitted to be published by The Council for Licensed Conveyancers as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.

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