Technology is the key to transforming the home buying and selling process in the UK as a way of providing more relevant information as early as possible, according to conveyancers.
In response to the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s call for evidence in improving the buying and selling experience, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) says it can be done without legislation.
Transformational change is within reach and does not require a major upheaval, it says in its response document and also calls for earlier disclosure of referral fees paid by conveyancers, rather than a complete ban.
The CLC believes that simply making more of the relevant information available when a property is being marketed is attainable and would result in the change needed rather than having to resort to costly and time consuming legislation.
It points out that this may require significant upfront investment if it is to be achieved sooner than the 2030 envisaged by the Land Registry. But that investment would deliver a significant public good.
‘The Government should play a key leadership role, working alongside conveyancers, regulatory and representative bodies, lenders, HM Land Registry, HMRC, established software suppliers and lawtech, proptech and fintech start-ups to galvanise the industry to deliver the transformational change that looks to be within reach,’ the CLC says.
It recommends bringing forward the moment at which the client was informed of the referral fee. ‘Currently, that is generally at the point at which the conveyancer is confirming their instructions with the client. At this stage, the client is unlikely to consider whether they wish to continue to instruct that conveyancer or seek another who has not been referred because they will be focused on moving their transaction forward,’ the CLC explains.
‘If estate agents and other referrers were to be required to inform clients of the referral fee when they first take instruction from the client, that client would then have time to shop around if they wished. This approach would be much more likely to allow the industry as a whole to evolve as consumer behaviour changed over time. Unlike a ban, it would allow consumers to rely on the advice of an informed player in the industry, taking into account the fee attached to that referral,’ it adds.
The CLC suggests that, in the event of a ban, any savings could be largely wiped out by conveyancers increasing their marketing spend and this would also destabilise the conveyancing market by forcing firms to rewrite their business models overnight.
On other issues raised by the consultation, the CLC supports allowing conveyancers to act for both buyer and seller subject to appropriate safeguards, which is its current regulatory position, allowing all parties in a chain to track its overall progress, and improving the speed and security of the completion stage and post-completion work, from transfer of funds between the various parties, to updating the title at Land Registry and making the stamp duty payments to HMRC.
‘Technology promises to solve many of the problems that currently beset the conveyancing process. The Government does not need itself to take radical action to achieve this, but it must show leadership to support the property industry as a whole in making the necessary leaps forward,’ said Stephen Ward, CLC director of strategy and external relations.