At long last the Government is making some effort to improve the UK’s cumbersome and antiquated conveyancing process.
Last week, the Land Registry published the first of a series of consultations on what Lord Chancellor, Lord Irivine claims will be a ‘world class, speedy and easy to use electronic conveyancing system.’
According to the Land Registry, a fully developed e-conveyancing system would enable authorised solicitors, licensed conveyancers, estate agents and mortgage lenders to carry out business with each other and with the Land Registry through a private and secure nationwide network and to access necessary information online.
Solicitors, meanwhile, will be able to draw up contracts, draft deeds, handle mortgage offers and complete and register sales online.
Hopes for the initiative are high. Experts believe that, in time, buying a house will be as simple as buying a car. After viewing a property and making an offer, buyers will be able to walk into an estate agentcy and exchange contracts within hours. However, if the conveyancing process speeds up as much as the industry anticipates, lenders will have to embrace technology to ensure they can issue mortgage offers as quickly as possible. While some are making great strides in this direction, the rest of the lending community will have to follow suit if they are to remain competitive.
These proposals are long overdue. We currently have the slowest house sales and purchase process in Europe. Back in 1997, when the Government started its review process, the Department of Transport, Local Government and Regions carried out research across Europe ,which revealed the process took an average 65% longer in England and Wales than it did on the Continent ‘ a whopping 10-12 weeks compared with a much more respectable seven weeks in other parts of Europe.
The Government is allowing itself 10-15 years to achieve its objective, but others in the industry are confident that e-conveyancing should be widespread within the next four to eight years.
So, change is definitely a long way off, but the benefits should be worth waiting for, if they take the pain out of buying and selling property.