Under-pressure conveyancing process could be improved by mirroring lettings

The antiquated conveyancing system could be more effective if it mirrored some of the best practice from the lettings process, according to Gazeal.

The digital platform says that the additional pressure on the conveyancing process caused by the stamp duty holiday has highlighted its shortcomings and that evolution is urgently needed.

Mirroring lettings would represent a huge improvement

The conveyancing process could become a lot smoother if it followed a similar path to the lettings system where the agent stays with the tenant and landlord from start to finish.

At the moment, tenants find properties in the same way as buyers with a similar viewing, offer and negotiation process, but that’s where the similarities end.

“During the homebuying process, once the offer has been accepted, buyers and sellers go off independently which is where many of the problems start,” says Bryan Mansell, co-founder of Gazeal, a platform made for estate agents by estate agents.

“Of course, the lettings process will always be faster than sales as a title is not being transferred, but the way in which letting agents are plugged-in to the whole process has a range of benefits.”

“If more of the conveyancing work could be carried out by agents, with them able to guide consumers through the process, transactions could become smoother and more efficient,” he says.

“In the lettings sector, there is an onus on agents to provide documentation and information to both sides of the transaction. This moves the process along and ensures everyone knows where they stand.”

“There is plenty more to be done to improve the conveyancing process, but mirroring some of the most effective parts of the lettings system could be a good starting point,” Mansell adds.

Better consumer education could reduce conveyancing complications

Mansell says that improving the knowledge of the conveyancing process among homemovers would also have a positive effect and help to minimise issues.

“With people moving home less frequently, their knowledge of the conveyancing process is understandably patchy. It would make a huge difference if movers had a better understanding of what they need to do when it comes to providing upfront information and instructing solicitors as quickly as possible,” he says.

“What’s more, the language and complexity of documents used by agents and conveyancers is counter-productive as it scares consumers and adds to their confusion.”

“The other issue revolves around the price of conveyancing services. If consumers were better educated not to choose their representation solely on cost, this could prevent fall-throughs and reduce the chances of buyers and sellers running into problems before they’ve even started,” explains Mansell.

Conveyancing problems likely to get worse over the coming weeks

With the stamp duty holiday deadline fast-approaching, Gazeal says the conveyancing system is likely to struggle in the coming weeks as the rush to complete transactions continues.

As well as the unusually high number of transactions, the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the resources of local authorities continues to cause delays.

Analysis from Zoopla suggests the stamp duty holiday will be responsible for an additional 100,000 transactions in the pipeline in the first few months of 2021.

Meanwhile, Rightmove recently reported that there were 613,000 sold subject to contract properties still awaiting legal completion.

The portal also said it now takes 126 days from the time an offer is accepted until legal completion, with around 100,000 buyers set to miss out on stamp duty savings.

“The conveyancing system has been struggling to cope with demand during an unprecedented period. However, even before the pandemic, there were still significant issues with fall-throughs, delays and confusion,” adds Mansell.

“Post-April, there is still likely to be a huge backlog of transactions in the pipeline and a high level of activity could be sustained thanks to an economic boost associated with a successful vaccine rollout.”