Can you answer this very simple question about conveyancing?

Yesterday’s news from LSL that conveyancing delays had caused their estate agency division to post a half year loss of £1m instead of a possible profit of £6m highlighted the importance to estate agents of being able to turn their pipelines in the shortest possible time. Four times a year would be ‘normal’ with top-performers sometimes managing five. It looks as if LSL didn’t manage to get even halfway to that.

There’s always been a pervasive view that estate agents and conveyancers/solicitors may have a symbiotic relationship – one can’t do without the other – but that attitudes to one another are usually negative.

In one highly successful agency the conveyancing panel was dubbed, ‘The Sales Prevention Team’, such was the frustration of the managers and negs at seeing deals fall out of bed due to delay and what they viewed as obstruction by an over-cautious and fusty legal process.

But there is no denying that modern-day conveyancing is a lot more complicated that it once was. The demands of mortgage lenders have spiralled upwards over the years; identity and money-laundering rules are extensive; the range of information that is critical to a transfer is wider ranging than ever before.

On top of that the cost of conveyancing has been beaten downwards by the ‘factories’; fewer highly qualified staff are employed – and in many cases fewer overall staffing numbers; margins are down; and workloads are sky high. No wonder the system is considered by many to be unfit for purpose.

On the pages of EYE the likes of Rob Hailstone and Peter Ambrose regularly contribute to the discussions about the state of conveyancing and they often suggest (in terms) that if agents better understood the conveyancing process they would be less frustrated by it and perhaps be able to contribute more positively to the operation of the process.  But so far there has been little evidence that agents have much interest in finding out more about how conveyancing works.

So we would like EYE readers to give us a yes/no answer to this very simple question:

This poll is no longer accepting votes

Do you think it would be beneficial for all the parties to a transaction – agents, lenders, buyers, sellers etc – to have a better understanding of the conveyancing process?
The poll closes at 7pm this evening

We’ll let you know the result in a few day’s time.

Homesearch EOS
x

Email the story to a friend



25 Comments

  1. Rob Hailstone

    It will be very interesting to see the results PIE. And, if a resounding yes, would be happy to help in any way I can.

    Report
  2. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

    More understanding is certainly helpful, although not a silver bullet unfortunately.

    That said – we run free Conveyancing Insights sessions on a regular basis ( did one just yesterday as it turns out ) and the feedback is always brilliant.  It’s more about what goes on “behind the Wizard of Oz’s green curtain” than anything else.

    Oh yes – and it’s got to be a laugh.

     

    Report
    1. aSalesAgent

      Are these sessions online for individuals to log in to, or are they only run for offices or small businesses?

      Report
  3. jeremy1960

    When I ran an estate agency office in Cheltenham we had good relationships with local solicitors. These solicitors were always happy to allow my new staff to sit in with their conveyancing team for a couple of days to give them an insight into the conveyancing process. This worked well and the solicitors were happy to have staff back later in their training too. This allowed my staff to understand the process and explain it to our clients,  win win for all involved.

    Report
    1. aSalesAgent

      I would find this very interesting; does that mean I’m a masochist?

      Report
      1. jeremy1960

        Ha, not at all aSalesAgent! We are predominantly lettings here, the properties that we sell are for landlords but this morning I spoke with a conveyancer at a local solicitor and asked the question “would you be happy to have a new member of my staff shadow you for a couple of days?” Her response was “what a great idea, nobody has ever asked me that in the 20 years I’ve been doing this job!”

        So maybe teh agents are missing a trick here?

        Report
  4. David Jabbari

    There is an interesting quote that I have used many times before when the issue of problems with the conveyancing process comes up: “The great difficulties which occur in selling estates and obtaining money on real security, the time which usually elapses before the completion of such transactions, and the harassing expenses and disappointments which attend them, are universally acknowledged.” I always like to ask people when they think this quote was written. No, it was not from a recent edition of PIE: it was from a report of the Real Property Commissioners in 1830. Yes, 1830 – nearly 200 years ago! So I always say that step one in solving this issue is to stop all the platitudes about the conveyancing system being “shambolic” or “broken” as if this were some recent phenomenon, as if there were some ‘golden age’  in the past when everything went swimmingly, when agents and solicitors ironed out all problems on the golf course or in the pub and the system was wonderful! The problems we face in the process are hardly at all to do with agent/ solicitor communication.  That is a highly simplistic view. They derive from deep seated legal and procedural issues that will not be cured by better understanding, more chats, or even blockchain, upfront information or any other current fad. The idea that connecting the underlying IT systems will solve the problem is rather like the idea that if you connect a monkey to a keyboard eventually he will write a novel. Until the data (of very diverse kinds) that forms a conveyancing transaction is in a completely standardised form, and the processes of what lawyers do with that data is similarly standardised or abbreviated, there is no real opportunity for significant improvement in the conveyancing process. Are we remotely close to that? No. Does that mean we should give up and accept this? Of course not. But let’s be more forensic about this rather than these simplistic statements and approaches. There are things we can do with parts of the process, such as the funds transfer element which realistically could improve things dramatically. There could be better integration with the Land Registry so that the registration process is more ‘real time’. Yet these are all marginal improvements, so we need to keep some realism in our expectations. At Muve we are committed to using technology, but perhaps more importantly workflow, to speed up the bits we can control. What we cannot control is the speed of other actors. I am also optimistic that by the end of this year we will have important things to say about elements of the process which will make a real difference. I don’t want to upset anyone but I think we may be stuck with the system we have for a few more years yet, but hopefully not the next two centuries!

    Report
    1. Woodentop

      Spot on.

      Report
      1. Rob Hailstone

        “as if there were some ‘golden age’  in the past when everything went swimmingly, when agents and solicitors ironed out all problems on the golf course or in the pub and the system was wonderful!”
         
        Well, my memory tells me we got pretty close in the late 1970s and through the 1980s.

        Report
        1. davidjabbari

          I wonder Rob if this was due to the fees then chargeable by conveyancers, often based on a percentage of estate value. This allowed conveyancers to handle much smaller caseloads very profitably. In that context, working on a small portolio with local agents would have been a feasible strategy for conveyancing firms, and I am sure would have allowed transactions to progress more quickly, even with the problems I outline. People forget that the rise of volume conveyancing is not some kind of evil conspiracy but was a direct result of price competition and the need to transact higher volumes in order for the process to be profitable. So yes, I do agree that there was something of a ‘golden age’ then, based on higher fees, but I still think the fundamental features of the process prevent any wholescale speeding up of conveyancing.  One other thing is that people need to see that in the current market we are transitioning from the SDLT frenzy of 2021 to one where buyer and seller expectations are out of alignment (with buyers wanting price cuts and sellers holding on to high expectations about the sale price). A lot of the current delay is due to this, not conveyancing.          

          Report
          1. Rob Hailstone

            Although fee levels weren’t bad David, I think scale fees ended the year I began (as a 16 year old office boy!) in 1974.
             
            Yes we had smaller caseloads, but the job was (in my opinion) easier (as long as you knew Land Law and could navigate unregistered titles).  No ID, no AML, no Source of Funds, less fraud, no constant emails and phone calls from clients or agents. Clients would not just ‘drop in’, they made an appointment. They also listened to what we had to say and appreciated the importance of our role and did not expect to be in the property within an unreasonable time scale.
             
            As I keep saying now, we had about 10 or 12 big plates to keep spinning then. Nowadays, well I leave it to you to give me a number, it is so many even a Greek restaurant probably doesn’t have enough plates available
             
            If there is one defining factor, maybe it is as simple as we were interrupted and taken away from our real work to provide updates etc far less than we are now. Jeff Bezos has a lot to answer for.

            Report
            1. davidjabbari

              Good points Rob, as always!  The AML point is very true: this has added a massive bureaucratic layer to the process.

              No doubt that the volume of transactions is a key component here. A modern conveyancer could easily have 40-50 plates spinning at any one time, and sometimes more I suspect. Unfortunately though there is no way back to lower caseloads because price competition is a genie that will not go back into the bottle.

              I would like to sound a more optimistic note however.  While there are severe challenges in delivering repeatably high quality conveyancing at scale, it is not impossible. While I am pessimistic that digitisation and standardisation will go at a pace to bring about a revolution, I do think that there will be important steps forward in the next few years. What I am saying is that there is little point looking back to a ‘golden age’ because I think we are agreed that there are too many structural reasons why this cannot be replicated, and as you say the modern clients’ demands for instant results and communication is not going away!

              What we must do is make the largescale conveyancing model work. Ultimately it is the kind of logistics challenge faced by the likes of Amazon and it can and will be solved in conveyancing.

               

              Report
  5. Woodentop

    Yes, to what end though? Would it make that much of a difference knowing how good or bad the conveyancer really is by gaining this knowledge which will have absolutely no effect on the ugly conveyancers who will continue to work at their pace and pointless for a good and efficient conveyancer.  
     
    Basically a useless exercise? More curiosity!  
     
    One can argue that extra knowledge can at times be beneficial, hence my yes. But not if it isn’t going to change something. The problem with conveyancing is the archaic process and the attitude of the ugly conveyancer and boy there are many. The story highlights the standards of conveyancing have been dwindling and the complications are increasing beyond the control of an estate agents staff.  
     
    Try and help yes, but it is all down to the person who makes the decision of when, how and when ……… the competence of the conveyancer.
     
    So now I have the knowledge of what the conveyancer should be doing and they aren’t. I haven’t a clue of their workload or the confidentially of information by interested third parties (lenders/chain solicitors etc). What happens now if it isn’t moving as fast as I think it should be? Ever tried to push a conveyanceer that you have no control over!

    Report
    1. aSalesAgent

      Exactly right. Yes it would be helpful for everyone if agents and homemovers had a better understanding of the process (and technical knowledge in the case of agents), but it doesn’t speed up the conveyancers.

      Report
      1. Rob Hailstone

        If the conveyancers were left to get on with their work it might.

        Report
        1. aSalesAgent

          Whatever the reason, whosevers ‘fault’ it is that the process takes months, all buyers, sellers and their chain need constant reassurance that progress is being made. That’s where the agent comes in, and one of the reasons why we need to ‘chase’ conveyancers for updates. A conveyancer might tell their client that searches have been submitted, or that a mortgage offer is in, but they’re not telling anyone else that off their own back. Maybe if they did they would get less calls and emails.

          Pop that on the list of things to speed up the process.

          Report
          1. Woodentop

            And of course the ugly conveyancer doesn’t like being shown up for being inefficient, so hunkers down in a negative way, nor do many others like “you’re only an estate agent” interfering.  Yet it is often the agent that saves the sale and chain from collapsing and forgotten in all of this. Never in decades have I seen a conveyancer or solicitor step over their line to help.
             
            The process can be complex, fix that and we may be getting somewhere but after all these years, it just isn’t happening but adding more and more liability into the requirements to dot and cross.

            Report
            1. Rob Hailstone

              That is probably the nastiest and most ignorant comment (from an estate agent) I have read in my nearly 5 decades in this business:
               
              “Never in decades have I seen a conveyancer or solicitor step over their line to help.”
               
              Have you been living under a rock?
               
              Not only did I “step over the line” in nearly every transaction in my 30-year conveyancing career but I know thousands of conveyancers who did and still do.
               
              I helped some clients out financially when they got their sums wrong, I took calls and had meetings over the weekends and late into the evenings. I even visited one elderly chap at home and reported his carer to the authorities for serious mistreatment of him (he had no money, no heating; he was butt naked when he answered the door, and was living off of biscuits). She was prosecuted, he went into a safe, comfy care home.
               
              You surprise and dissapoint me Woodentop, you really have no idea what the conveyancer’s role includes at the moment.
               
              I have just put this out to my membership:
               
              Conveyancer Bashing has gone on long enough!
               

               
              Conveyancer bashing is now more popular than ever before, but I don’t think, on the whole, that conveyancers are at fault for the delays etc, nor is the process itself broken and beyond repair. The simple fact is, in my opinion, the job has been made virtually untenable. I am creating an animation video (think snakes and ladders) in an effort to visually explain the journey to agents, clients and others. Mortgage offer in, up a ladder, no planning permission, down a snake. I can include the main ladders but there is nowhere near enough room for all of the potential snakes (hundreds). So, I have included, things like missing guarantee, Japanese Knotweed. However, I would like to compile a long list of the most common things that can, and do, de-rail the process, and why you have to be so careful (PII, lenders, LeO etc). Over to you folks still at the front line to start that list for me, please!
               

              Report
              1. Woodentop

                No rock but then your comments were expected. Any criticisms normally gets this response from you. You need to take a deep breath and look at what some of your colleagues in the industry do. So you get involved in the confidential workings of other conveyancers … oh really! As for the carer … what are you going on about! We are talking about conveyancing or should we change the question above to read …. yes or no to all aspects of life.
                 
                There are good, the bad and the ugly people in all walks of life. Which you fit in i’m not oncerned, but many conveyancers fall into one of them and I have never seen a conveyancer go through every part of a chain and save it. Good agents do, but then your collegues complain we are interferring. 

                Report
                1. Rob Hailstone

                  “So you get involved in the confidential workings of other conveyancers” Yes, that is part of what I do.

                   

                  Of course I appreciate that their are some coneyancers/conveyancing firms who need to improve (as there are agents) but, thosands of conveyancers regularly receivce Thank You cards, and gifts from their clients because they have stepped over the line to help. I’ll wind my neck in now because it really is about what the client thinks.

                  Report
  6. Samantha Imray

    ‘So now I have knowledge of what the conveyancer is doing and they arent’ …….

    This is so misguided. You may have *some* knowledge of what you think a conveyancer is doing but you don’t know enough to judge whether they are or they aren’t.

    Ive been a conveyancer for 22 years. My job now is nothing like it was then. I didnt have to worry about source of funds, fraud, money laundering, defective leases, ground rent changes and the list could go on.

    I learn something new all the time. I’m forever learning and keep up with new regulations and changes.

    Last year 40% of all conveyancers left the profession. It is hard. It is thankless. Agents shout at us, clients shout at us. No one reads what we send them. Everyone thinks they can do our job. Everyone knows someone who moved in 4 weeks.

    What would 45 year old me tell 23 year old me ? Run away, do something else because no matter what you do no one will ever be grateful or appreciate what you do.

     

     

     

    Report
  7. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

    They are for anyone but we obviously work with agents so they tend to be for groups of several people but get in touch!

    Report
  8. Alan Murray Conveyancing's voice of common sense

    The answer is obviously yes. Is it going to happen? Highly unlikely. I can remember a time when Estate Agents came into our office and sat for a day to learn what we conveyancers did do they could work with us. Nowadays they don’t want to. But it’s society changing, everyone thinks they know everything and nobody wants to learn it’s all about the now and me, me, me.

    Conveyancing worked far better in the eighties on scale fees but everybody knew their job then. It was more professional not the Wild West it is now since the snake oil salespersons from outside Conveyancing and the profession were let in. It’s everyone’s favourite quote again, “few professionals left in the profession nowadays “. Some even call it an industry which says it all.

    This week on another social media site I have read two exceptional posts from experienced passionate but clearly deeply frustrated conveyancers which sum up far more eloquently than I or anyone on this site ever will the difficulties they are having doing their jobs these days. They should be compulsory reading for all of us but especially those offering no leadership or answers at the top. Too many cooks jockeying for position today, but they are the real people battling issues day after day who know what is really going on but nobody ever seeks out for an opinion. All they want to do is what is best for their clients, something which has got lost in the pile it high, do it cheap era. That is Conveyancing’s major problem these days.

    A good start in my opinion would be to have Conveyancing run by one professional body, made up solely of experienced, able, knowledgeable conveyancers who know their jobs but more importantly know the huge difficulties conveyancers face on a daily basis. It’s a start, and from there maybe solutions could be discussed.

    Report
  9. davidjabbari

    David Jabbari, CEO, Muve. I do think that we must try, however hard, to sound a more positive, less adversarial, note in this debate. People may not like this language but when all is said and done we are a provider of a retail product, that is to say we have customers.  Our cutsomers buy conveyancing in a variety of different ways nowadays and a substantional number now ‘shop around’  to get the best deal on price comparison sites. We can all sit here and say “how awful”,  and why can’t we go back to the golden age, but that is rather like thinking that high street shops are about to mount a successful assault on Amazon: not very likely. The customer focus is important here because what we actually sell – our product – is not legal paperwork: it is getting people moved into their new homes as quickly as possible. Customers do not give a damn about the conveyancing process, any more than we care whether Amazon delivers a parcel to us by land, air or sea. All we care about is when will the parcel arrive. For most people the conveyancing process has about as much attraction as filling out a tax return or a passport application!  I say all this because we have exactly the same aim as agents: to get the whole thing done as quickly as possible. That is what our customers want and it is not unreasonable. We certainly don’t get everything right but my take on it always is to ask how can we improve the process, how can we make it faster, not to dig my heels in and defend the conveyancing process.  It simply is not acceptable that average time from SSTC to completion is around 22 weeks.  Let’s not defend the indefensible. As conveyancers, let’s keep investing in trying to make the process easier and speedier and be focused on everything we can do to achieve that for our customers.  For example, one of the big appointments we are currently looking at is a Head of Product or Chief Product Officer, to focus exclusively on improvements in the process because we think there are definite ways that conveyancing can be steamlined.      

    Report
    1. Rob Hailstone

      I agree, clients don’t normally care about the process until something goes wrong or there is a delay. If my Amazon parcel is going to be late I would like to know when it might arrive and if a while longer, what is causing the delay. If my train runs slowly and I am not told why etc by the driver, I get more frustrated than I should need to. If my car needs a thousand pounds worth of repair work, I don’t want to know how the car works in detail, but I do want to know what is wrong and what is required to fix it so I know I am not being ripped off.
       
      The public should appreciate that we are acting for them and acting in their best interests. We have a duty of care and can be held accountable by several parties.
       
      I still maintain that until some of the rules, red tape, bureaucracy, and hoops that conveyancers now have to jump through are reduced we will be fighting a losing battle, no matter how good our tech is or how good an individual conveyancer is.

      Report
X

You must be logged in to report this comment!

Comments are closed.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter, we have sent you an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Additionally if you would like to create a free EYE account which allows you to comment on news stories and manage your email subscriptions please enter a password below.