Government urged to extend stamp duty holiday as conveyancers ask for patience

A number of property buyers risk missing out on stamp duty savings because of backlogs in the property market, conveyancing bodies have warned.

The introduction of the tax break has proved popular, with transactions and prices increasing sharply.

But delays in the homebuying process could see many purchasers miss the relief when the deadline ends on 31 March.

The Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC), the Bold Legal Group (BLG) and the Conveyancing Association (CA) are currently working closely together to look at ways at improving the home buying process, as well as manage the expectations of those currently engaged in the home buying and selling process.

The three organisations have issued a joint statement requesting that the existing stamp duty holiday is “extended to avoid further disappointment in the spring”.

The conveyancing bodies point out that several factors are currently contributing to delays in the process, and it is important that home buyers and sellers, as well as the estate agents serving them, are aware of the current circumstances and make allowance for them.

Simon Law, incoming chair of the SLC said: “Conveyancers are currently dealing with an unprecedented set of circumstances which are constraining the ability to progress transactions. The property market is seeing volumes not experienced since the recession, caused by a backlog of transactions from the period of lockdown, and many people re-appraising where they want to live as a result of the covid-19 epidemic. This is compounded by the current SDLT ‘holiday’ on property purchases under £500,000 which has added fuel to the fire. This and the impact of Covid-19 on the legal profession has resulted in conveyancers being stretched to the limit.”

It is not just the demand side that is creating a challenge to the conveyancing profession, but also the dependence on outside parties to progress transactions, according to Rob Hailstone, founder of the BLG.

He commented: “It is not just the demand side that is creating a challenge to the conveyancing profession, but also the dependence on outside parties to progress transactions. Covid-19 restrictions mean that many local authorities are operating under extreme difficulties and this has affected their ability to supply their own searches and also to provide access to data for personal search companies.

“In addition, many mortgage lenders are experiencing delays in supplying offer letters and the valuer profession is also under extreme pressure.”

Hailstone recently received an email from one BLG member explaining that the problems conveyancers are encountering are across the board.

The email stated: “There are delays with searches, surveys, mortgage offers and pretty much every other aspect of the process. Chasing, on the face of it seems sensible, but the more we chase people the more they get distracted. You might get put to the top of the pile for a few moments but doesn’t seem to last for long.”

Lloyd Davies, operations director at the Conveyancing Association, added: “Being able to plan for the current market circumstances has been an enormous challenge. The impact of Covid-19 created a vacuum of activity which has been followed by a tidal wave of property instructions.

“Not surprisingly during lockdown, most law firms furloughed many of their staff and indeed there were some redundancies. As the lockdown restrictions were lifted, firms were faced with the challenge of making work places Covid secure which inevitably meant that fewer employees could be accommodated at their place of work.

“The challenge then has been to choreograph home working alongside those back in the office with all the challenges that brings.

“Whilst firms have performed wonders in making such arrangements work it is inevitable that maintaining productivity is a real challenge, and of course allowance has to be made for the fact that unfortunately some employees have been affected by the disease.”

All three conveyancing organisations are asking clients “and their estate agents” to take on board and understand “that transactions are going to take longer than usual to progress and please be patient”.

“Continually chasing your lawyer actually makes them less productive and indirectly is a further cause of delay in the process,” they added in their joint statement.

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  1. smile please

    If these firms communicated more clearly with their clients and agents, we would not have to chase.

    The comments in this story show the arrogance of the conveyancing profession.

    They need to understand buyers and sellers have lives to fit around and need to be kept updated with meaningful updates.

    The service levels they provide in the main are woeful and stuck in the last millennium.

    Take a look in the mirror, improve services levels, invest in technology and staff be it training or headcount.

    1. Alan Murray

      It does seem to me it is open season on kicking conveyancers at the moment. Yes some of it is perfectly justified when aimed at the thirty or so factory outfits who cause us all problems. Though Estate Agents should not forget that those outfits exist purely because of the referral fees paid to them by Agents in the first place. So careful what you complain about.
      However if the Conveyancing Association really want to improve the homebuying process the first thing they need to do is look at all their members and ask themselves why proper conveyancers hate dealing dealing with them with a passion, and what they are doing wrong in terms of customer service. When firms and associations actually believe they are doing a good job then there is no hope of there being an improvement.
      Technology is not the answer that is a red herring thrown around by the inexperienced lawyers straight out of university who want to look cool and hip, or the bandwagon jumpers who try every new idea that hits the market for the same reason. Experience and expertise from staff will always trump technology. Problem is there is a massive shortage of experienced people due to so many retiring after the last recession, and a lack of training being given to newcomers.
      Yes there is no doubt over the years the conveyancing profession has become complacement and a mess. Too many bad firms are allowed to proliferate unchecked and proper regulation is needed. Too many non law people and entrepreneurs have seen conveyancing as a business where they can make a fast buck. None of their investment has added anything to the profession but whilst they are making money they will not care. In a few years they will be gone with their profits but who will be around to pick up the pieces?
      As someone with so much experience who has seen so much I am saddened by where conveyancing is today.
      As someone who cares passionately about his clients and the wider reputation of the profession I can only apologise to clients out there who are suffering due to years of greed and lethargy. Some of us out there do care, unfortunately we are the ones never asked for an opinion when it comes to putting right this mess of a profession.

  2. Rob Hailstone

    We know you and others have to chase, as do we. However, we are finding that when we continue to chase others, it is often counter productive.

  3. scruffy

    Our experience shows a complete inability for conveyancing firms to demonstrate an appropriate work ethic during an undoubtedly busy period.

    Excuses normally embrace the failures of others (it’s not me guv) but these don’t wash. We work in 3 local authority areas who are bemused by this claim of delays in Search responses. Each have maintained a 10 working day turnaround from the lockdown in March and ever since.

    Their own clients and solicitors complain constantly about poor communication and progress. We now have a blacklist where any offer accepted by our client shall be reconsidered if the buyer chooses to use a firm with a poor track record.

    It is galling for clients to see their chosen conveyancer still advertising for new clients when the promised service is so poor. We respect several local solicitors who have occasionally told us they can accept no more clients.

    I am sure we all want to benefit from this boost to our sales. It seems patently obvious that some involved in the process have a single speed and need a reality check if they wish to either thrive or survive.

  4. Conveyancer21

    It’s simple supply and demand. There are not enough conveyancers in the country to deal with the increase in property demand. Yet, it is just so incredibly disappointing that in unprecedented times like this, people are still looking to give conveyancers a kicking. Give it a rest ….  it isn’t helping and you just sound ridiculous !
    It’s the ‘them and us’ attitude which needs to change in this industry. And a clear education piece in Conveyancing for agents to get a broad understanding of whats involved (albeit one for another day). 
    Agents and conveyancers need to work on establishing a working relationship based on mutual respect, so they can project manage sales, together. It’s not going to speed things up in the current climate, but at times like this, focus should be on keeping clients in the deal, as it’s going to be a long ride. Setting unrealistic deadlines and blaming conveyancers isn’t going to help the clients. 
    And for those of you who will come back at me with more whinging, good news for you is that many conveyancers have closed their doors and are no longer taking any new clients. 
    Had I not turned my work away, I would have been heading for a 150% increase in monthly instructions. Hopefully, that will give you an idea of the very scale of the mess we are ALL in ….so let’s drop the blame culture and collaborate and focus on the problem in hand. 

    1. JamesDB

      Well said, and as an Agent, I totally agree….form those business relationships, engage in regular clear communication both ways and better still, agree a day each week to speak to the conveyancer/solicitors for the updates unless it is an absolute screaming emergency.


      I appreciate that there are agents/solicitors out there that are probably far busier than our little corner of the world but, pulling each other apart is not the way ahead – working together is the way forward for us all – even more so now.


      Stay Happy 🙂

  5. RedRebel

    Classic, poorly run firms who have not evolved to use technology to become more efficient. These conveyancers are going to cost agents sales and customers money. Get out of the way of progress please. Be faster for agents to do it themselves.

  6. Nemo Conveyancer

    Is extending the SDLT holiday not just kicking the can down the road? The same problems will persist.

    Every firm I know is run off their feet, and it’s a tough job at the moment. But bleating about it isn’t going to solve anything.

    Each Firm needs to manage themselves through this period.

    – Don’t take on more work than current capacity allows

    – Manage expectations of clients

    – Do your best

  7. AgencyInsider

    It’s a passing problem. Come next Spring, post-Brexit, the economy on its knees, and unemployment rocketing, these overworked conveyancers will be twiddling their thumbs and staring out of the windows wondering where the next case is coming from.

  8. James White

    A fairly thankless task at the moment, being a conveyancer.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be one come next March 31st….

    Start by raising the minimum cost of conveyancing to £1000 + Vat and getting rid of referral fees; they might just then have enough money to invest in new technologies and more staff…..

    1. Alan Murray

      I saw  a post from a factory the other day boasting they had hired 90 lawyers in the last few weeks. Yet the service they are currently providing is worse than ever. It is not quantity it is the quality of the staff hires and that is something the big conveyancing providers do not care about. The other day I saw one advertising for Locum assistance so I was intrigued and put my services forward. Even when being told I had forty years experience they were too lazy to even tailor their response and I received a standard email from their HR Manager telling me the hoops I had to go through to prove I could provide the service they pride themselves on (!) and giving a list of questions I needed to answer to prove my skills. Well bearing in mind their staff would not know the answers to some of them I thought that was a bit rich. So I didn’t bother replying on the basis that if they could not make an effort to prove themselves to me I was not interested. Nor surprised. There is no helping people who will not help themselves.

      Unfortunately years and years of allowing experienced, able, competent conveyancers to leave the profession without listening to their concerns and asking them to give something back, and a failure to train the inadequate administrators that now are the bane of our life with their tick box conveyancing, have now caught up with the profession. There are simply very few  good conveyancers left out there, and too many incapable ones.

      I remember back to the early noughties when I was working flat out and we were far busier then than the market is today week in  week out. It is simply a fact that conveyancers today have too much time to post on social media that they are busy rather than actually deal with files, and they lack the experience and proper training to be able to properly deal with larger volumes. For instance last month I saw someone congratulating themselves on getting through a busy month and completing thirty files. In our heyday thirty completions was one busy Friday.

      It is not necessarily the fault of conveyancers they do not know any better.


    When i intermittently move house I love it when I query the various estate agents I have approached as to why it is going to take so long to actually get the property on the market despite their being experts in commenting how long it takes solicitors to change a light bulb

  10. #ImpressiveConveyancing

    Alan Murray – spot on as usual. I enjoy your posts. 
    Sadly the decision makers are not interested in tackling the quality of the actual conveyancer. Ironic when the imposed code of conduct for lawyers’ must be to have their clients best interests at the heart of all they do. 
    But it is not limited to factory outfits, mediocre is everywhere now. So depressing. 60% of my conveyancing clients are ready to exchange, but we cannot get the other lawyers to exchange I could go on a 2 week holiday and still find them all waiting.
    Why – because too many are mediocre, or they made themselves too busy to cope, or like me, they are caught in a chain with either of the aforesaid (or are caught by the slow (but blameless) pace of Councils, mortgage brokers, mortgage companies and surveyors).
    If a conveyancer is ‘too busy’ they may well be in breach of their code of conduct, as they took on too much to now act in the best interests of their clients!
    True, most conveyancers are busier than they have ever been but being ‘too busy’, that is self inflicted. 
    As we came out of lockdown conveyancing businesses had a chance to make their business slicker and stronger, by making redundancies. Estate Agents too, could have decided to side only with superior third parties. Ridding chains of mediocre conveyancing. Instead conveyancing businesses have rushed everyone back and too many estate agents have gone back to ‘selling’ the public to inferior conveyancers.
    It’s a mess out there. 
    Yet with a looming u-turn lockdown in England which is likely, a property crash post 1 April if the stamp duty holiday is not extended, and….. Brexit, you’d think deals would be flying through to avoid all of that, but quite the opposite.


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