Advisers might read the columns about how the Conveyancing Association (CA) continues to work for the improvement in the process of home buying and selling, raise an eyebrow, and perhaps quite justifiably ask, ‘Why don’t you get on and deliver it?’
We get the frustration, particularly when over the last 15 years or so, as technology has become slicker. As the digital solutions available to us have become more prominent and relevant, we appear to have gone backwards in terms of the number of weeks it takes to complete transactions.
There are, of course, some major mitigating factors here, not least an increased level of complexity for conveyancers, the fact they are responsible for much more with the conveyance, and resource issues still needing to be met. But clearly, what we want to see is a process which can be measured in weeks not months, or even half a year as we are close to at present.
The answer to that advisory question of getting on with it, is of course that we are doing this, and the incremental steps forward are being taken. Admittedly, the journey has taken longer than we would have liked and our pace has not always been fast.
Slow but measured
However, we remain totally focused on this and are working across the piece to try and ensure that more conveyancing firms are, firstly, aware of the digital solutions available – digital ID, digital signatures, and encouraging greater use of the BASPI (the Buyers and Sellers Property Information) – and that they can see the benefits they can bring and what this could mean to overall timescales and efficiency.
The good news here is that more firms are aware of what technology providers can offer them in this space.
They are increasingly using these solutions, plus we have the Land Registry fully engaged in this, and we have a wider group of stakeholders and players – through the Home Buying and Selling Group and the Digital Property Market Steering Group (DPMSG) – who are working with government in order to try and push the case for mandation in this area.
Ideally, we would leave this up to the industry to deliver and we would have total buy-in from every conveyancing firm and every stakeholder involved in the home buying/selling process and chain, and take-up would be a no-brainer with everyone singing from the same hymn sheet and the consumer benefiting completely.
A fragmented system
Unfortunately, in a sector which can be disparate, which is made up of many thousands of firms all completing varying levels of business, all with different thoughts on what they should be doing, and all with different resource, investment and cost issues, the ability to get an industry ‘solution’ is difficult.
It’s one of the reasons why we are calling for mandation in this area, although we recognise this is probably not the government’s favoured option. That said, it would be the one that gets us to where we need to be, with less case fall-throughs, with greater certainty, with less wasted cost and resource – I could go on.
As a stepping-stone in this area, and to help conveyancing firms who want to be guided on what digital services are available, how they can engage with them, how they can utilise them in their service provision, and recommendations for those representing the buyer or the seller to make the most of the digital technology available, we recently published our first Digital Conveyancing Protocol.
The clue is in the title, and we want all conveyancing firms to engage with it, and read why it should be adopted, the application of these solutions and how to approach the process. We believe this can make a big difference in our conveyancing space and the benefits will be felt right across the process.
A collective effort
I mentioned the DPMSG earlier, and the group would certainly benefit from engagement via all stakeholders, such as advisers, because ours is a process which relies so heavily on each and every one of us. If you can engage with the DPMSG, please do.
Also, the DPMSG recently held its first conference in London to discuss all these issues, and many more, but particularly to focus on the tangible solutions that currently exist that can help all stakeholders get a faster, more consistent, more certain home buying and selling process.
For those who did attend the conference, I would urge you to fill out the post-event survey here, because it is vitally important for the entire housing and mortgage market that this group is successful and it carries the messages of this industry back to policymakers.