The biggest problem is the huge variability of conveyancing providers. Many buyers still use generalist high street lawyers. As Mr Phillips correctly points out, many of these still prefer snail mail to communicate, and almost none will have a portal for clients to access case progress, which does add many days to the process.
One factor is that, mortgage lending and broking may lag a little behind, but many traditional high street conveyancers have invested even less in technology and innovation.
Specialisation brings consolidation
The good news is that specialist conveyancing is evolving and as a result the industry is consolidating. In the last five years, the number of firms handling fewer than 25 cases a month fell by 10% from 3,662 to 3,278. And, the number handling over 50 cases a month rose by 31%, from 268 to 353.
While ‘big’ is certainly not always ‘best’, it can be a useful guide to the sophistication of the systems and processes that a conveyancer might have. And, as brokers are likely to be engaged by the home buyer before a conveyancing firm is instructed, they can advise clients what to ask and outline the arguments that conveyancers will use to attract the buyer’s business.
One of the key misconceptions that many buyers have, and one that is propagated by local law firms, is that in some way their local knowledge provides extra surety. Many will also argue that they are able to offer a personal touch, which ironically is what too few do.
Local knowledge less important
As most of the information that a conveyancer needs to process a case is now online, which in itself should dramatically speed up the process, the need for local knowledge is almost irrelevant.
The larger firms employ both technology and people to ensure that cases are processed expediently, but the reality being a phone call is much harder to ignore than an email.
The new ‘Transparency Rules’ for conveyancer pricing may also eventually help buyers to make more informed choices on costs, although this currently seems some way off.
Phillips’ conclusion that the buying process is only as quick as the slowest transaction in the chain is true, but if brokers, who do after all advise on circa 70% of mortgages, can help direct their clients towards conveyancing firms who they know do an efficient and timely job, then the whole industry would improve.