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Much-needed progress will come with govt oversight of property transactions – Rudolf

by: Beth Rudolf, director of delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)
  • 01/05/2024
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Much-needed progress will come with govt oversight of property transactions – Rudolf
In March, you might well have seen the setting up, and call for written evidence from the Levelling Up Committee in Parliament on improving the home buying and selling process.

This, we hope, is another step towards putting in place the types of measures we believe will not just improve the experience for consumers, but also for all stakeholders, whether conveyancers who we represent, or advisers and lenders reading this article.

We have, of course, many other stakeholders involved in that process – you might well argue this is one of the reasons why the process can be so frustrating, stressful and lengthy – and therefore we need solutions that are going to work right across those firms/individuals and are going to be engaged with thoroughly, as it is only through this industry-wide commitment that we will get the improvements we need. 

The call for written evidence has now passed and the Conveyancing Association (CA) has issued its response, as I’m sure have all manner of firms, trade bodies, organisations and the like. 


Advocating for more transparency 

We hope to be providing verbal evidence to the committee in the next stage of the inquiry, and needless to say, we will be strong advocates for the likes of upfront information to give greater certainty and transparency, the instruction of the seller’s conveyancer on day one of marketing, greater consumer education on the process, the regulation of property agents, and many more.

One area where we could also see significant strides right across the entire home buying and selling process, and that will – in our view – positively impact consumers, but also agents, legal professionals, search providers, advisers, lenders, surveyors, valuers, etc, is around greater take-up of digital processes. 

The CA, like many other organisations, is a member of the Digital Property Market Steering Group (DPMSG), and the protocol document, the Digital Property Information Protocol, is based on our own Digital Conveyancing Protocol, which seeks to set out the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in their adoption of digital property information and solutions across all sectors.


A need for formalisation 

In a recent survey on the protocol, 75% of those stakeholders surveyed said they would find it useful, and there should be sector-specific requirements and responsibilities that can be shared with the client. This would detail the process for those professionals, how that process would work and links to property-specific information.

Four out of 10 respondents said there was nothing standing in the way of them using digital solutions, and clearly in key areas such as digital ID and digital signatures, for example, the benefits and protections this would provide and the duplication this would stop for all stakeholders should be evident.

The fact that this, along with other digital opportunities, will speed up the process will clearly be good news, particularly as we remain in a situation where completion times remain many months rather than weeks. 


The role of brokers in improving transaction process 

As mentioned, intermediaries would be one of the roles covered within the protocol.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you of the benefits that might arise from one source of truth for checking ID or signatures, not forgetting getting rid of the constant to-ing and fro-ing and paperwork or checking, that can add many weeks to the process. 

Up until now, of course, there has been little in the way of mandation from government for these types of measures, but as many in the industry will know – and as highlighted above – left to our own devices, there is a good chance that a large number of stakeholders might not be as focused on taking up these solutions as others.

Effectively, a two-tier system – perhaps many more tiers depending on the level of engagement – would leave those firms who are working at the top end at the mercy of those who have no intention of taking on these solutions, which would improve the process. And, quite frankly, that can’t be allowed to happen. 

The positive news here comes with the inquiry at parliamentary committee level, the fact it is cross-party, and that it hopefully signals a further step forward in terms of getting government support for mandation. If everyone involved has to abide by these measures that will speed up the process, then everyone will benefit.

We can’t have a piecemeal approach, and it is positive to have the support of many stakeholders, who accept that one, joined-up solution relevant and taken on by all, and crucially with legislative backing, is the way to get the improvement we all want to see, and to be able to deliver to our clients.

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