As we move ever closer towards this next stamp duty holiday deadline at the end of June, the level of interest in conveyancers and conveyancing has perhaps never been so great.
There has been a steady stream of journalist enquiries, understandably fuelled by a growing number of consumers who, with just a few weeks to go, are wondering if they will be able to complete in time to secure the saving.
At the same moment, that leads to ongoing interest in just how much work conveyancers have, how they are coping, the fees they are charging, their ability to complete the work before the 30 June, and a whole host of questions around their resources, where the hold-ups might be and, following the end of this month, how will the next stage of the housing market play out?
Will there be the much speculated about ‘cliff edge’ for transactions? Has the threat of that outcome been dissipated by the introduction of the partial stamp duty holiday up until the end of September? Just how much more demand is there to be fulfilled? And so on.
All absolutely relevant questions but I’m afraid some of the answers just can’t be known at this moment – I wish I did know as I’m sure there’s a bet to be won somewhere.
An A for effort
However, what we can focus on is pretty much the here and now. Advisers will no doubt be dealing with clients waiting for their transaction to complete and I think I’m in a very safe position to say conveyancers are doing absolutely everything they can to secure that completion by the end of the month.
Yet let’s also be aware of what the circumstances are currently like – not just in terms of the vast majority of the conveyancing profession still working remotely or from home – but the fact that early mornings and late nights are a normal part of the working day for all conveyancing staff at the moment. And, if you consider how busy you’ve been over the last six to eight months, then you’ll understand what conveyancers are also going through as well.
Which might lead you to understand why some firms have put their fees up recently or may have turned away business which was requested to complete before the end of June, because it is against the regulations conveyancers work under to take on work they cannot deliver. In other words, they had no choice but to decline this work.
And yes, there are also a number of log-jams to be worked through currently which do not help in terms of getting the timescale to completion down. In case you’re wondering, the average transaction now takes over 20 weeks.
It is no-one’s fault, but some lenders currently have hold times of two hours, and some valuers are not able to respond to post-valuation queries, which makes the time to get to completion lengthier.
Which might lead you to say that it would be best to get this period over with before we once again look at the ways we can improve the process. But that’s really not necessary – some agents and conveyancers are already securing all the required information upfront, when the property is marketed, and that is having good results in getting completion times down. There are opportunities to use digital ID, digital signatures, property log books, AI, blockchain, and the like, to move us forward right now.
So, while this period is difficult, while it is stressful – and we should all bear in mind the impact on our mental health because of this stress – there are promising solutions to improve the whole process. We just need to grasp them.