In my opinion problem with conveyancing is not usually the conveyancers themselves, but the fact there are so many moving parts in the home buying and selling process. Many completely outside of the control of the conveyancer; including searches, surveys, mortgage offers, and the whim of the client.
Back in 1978 as a 20-year-old with a few years’ experience behind me, my then boss said, “it will take you 12 years to fully understand, land law and conveyancing”. How wrong he was, 43 years on and I am still trying to fully understand it, I encounter new problems and challenges every day. I really feel for the 21st century conveyancer. Not only do they need to understand land law and conveyancing, they now have more hoops (bureaucracy and red tape) to jump through than an acrobat with Billy Smarts circus. In addition, they are first in line to be sued if something goes wrong. With Professional Indemnity Insurance Premiums rising and low fees and high volumes to cope with, it is no wonder many are cautious. To the unexperienced outsider, often over cautious.
I run an online forum, where 500 conveyancers ask and answer questions between themselves. A few of the questions (shortened) posted recently have been:
- Planning Conditions (New Build), what is the consensus on planning conditions being discharged?
- Company non-compliant AML search. The search has come back as non-compliant?
- Preventing an adverse possession claim. A section of the communal freehold land has been sectioned off by one of the leaseholders and she is claiming that she has good grounds to claim adverse possession.
- Breaches of lease ‘wiped clean.’ I seem to remember that breaches of terms of an existing lease (e.g., alterations without consent) are “wiped clean” when a lease extension is entered into. Is this really the case and if so, where can I find the authority?
- Thames Water Build Over agreement required? I thought there was something now that if you had Building Control Final Certificate you didn’t also need a Build Over Agreement, after a certain date – or did I dream that?
Fortunately, all of the above were answered very quickly via the forum.
And don’t get me started on the nightmare that is Help to Buy, which is one of the most ironically incorrect names you will ever come across.
The Law Society introduced the Conveyancing Quality Scheme a while ago, and whilst a step in the right direction is not really policed and therefore rarely enforced, hence continual discussions over contract clauses, additional enquiries and other routine procedural matters.
Technology helps, a bit; up front information helps, a bit; higher fees and experience help, a bit. What would make a real difference though is, in some quarters, a recognition of the complexity of the job itself. Conveyancers like agents, want a quick easy transaction, and a fast profitable pay day.
This busy market is likely to continue for some time to come, and many lenders and Local Authorities need to up their game sooner rather than later. Agents and conveyances need to work together and try to understand the challenges both jobs entail. The idiom, walk a mile in my shoe’s springs to mind.
Could part of the problem be that very few people actually get to meet each other anymore? Back in the day (last century now) I would regularly meet my estate agent contacts and talk with them and answer questions about conveyancing. I would also meet the conveyancer on the other side of a transaction, sometimes for exchange, and always for completion. Relationships were different then, much more friendly and personal. It is so easy now to critcise (and perhaps dislike) someone you only know via the internet, even if they only work down the road or around the corner. You don’t get a true feeling of someone, their integrity, ability and personality by receiving and sending acerbic emails.
My suggestion is, as soon as is allowed, meet up and talk to each other. Not just one to one, but arrange regular meetings of all local conveyancers and estate agents, so you can discuss the market and the issues that are causing both parties issues, and try to find ways to resolve or improve them.
Maybe we need an app, how about Kindling?!