Hard hitting report says UK conveyancing system is not fit for purpose

The creation of a secure online portal for all communications needed during the home buying process in the UK would mean greater certainty far earlier in the moving process, it is claimed.

Such a move would be welcomed across the industry and by consumers as it would protect the conveyancer, estate agents, mortgage advisors, lenders and buyers and sellers, according to a white paper from the Conveyancing Association (CA) which says that the current way of operating is ‘not fit for purpose’.

It outlines how a future, more certain and transparent home buying process could operate and sets out its vision for a data sharing, collaborative, digital service and says that planning needs to take place now.

The paper suggests a number of ways in which this can be achieved including centralising the identity verification of all parties to reduce the risk of fraud and money laundering and collating the Property Information and Title Information on the marketing of a property.

It also suggests the introduction of a requirement for a legal commitment on offer to reduce transaction failures and for all funds to be sent through the day before completion as well as a legal change to resolve the current ‘unreasonable cost and delay’ associated with the leasehold sales process.

The CA believes that a home movers online portal is the way forward. This would be a technology driven solution that encompasses, and can be accessed by, all stakeholders delivering all services and driving the process with clear information on progress, notifications and actions to be completed.

Such an online portal would cover all necessary forms, client identification, mortgage details, searches, co-ordination of dates, plus it would keep track of all requirements and ensure each stakeholder can update and amend quickly and effectively in order to achieve the completion end goal.

‘Working within this industry, I believe we’re all aware that at present we do not have a home moving process which is fit for purpose,’ said Eddie Goldsmith, chairman of the Conveyancing Association and a partner at Goldsmith Williams.

‘Since the beginning of the recovery of the property market, conveyancing times have steadily increased from eight weeks, from offer to completion, up to the latest estimate, which places transaction times at 13 weeks,’ she pointed out, adding that for leasehold transactions the length of time is often greater.

‘We freely admit there is a huge ambition to much of the White Paper, particularly around the need for greater digitisation and a joined-up technology hub through which all aspects of the process are accessed,’ she explained.

‘However, there are also a number of potential quick win solutions identified within the paper which, with the right head wind, could be achieved. We recognise this is not going to be delivered overnight however neither are these flights of fancy that haven’t been achieved ever before. The solutions we propose are readily being used in other jurisdictions and it is our belief that by working together we can help deliver them into the process here, providing significant benefits,’ she added.

According to Beth Rudolf, director of delivery at the Conveyancing Association and author of the white paper, evidence from other countries suggest that a fully digital system can be more transparent and faster.

‘To be able to remove delays from the process, changes need to occur across the industry to remove the constraints and deliver the certainty which home movers need to enjoy a positive moving experience,’ she said.

‘Our vision of how the future looks recognises that the industry needs access to a consistent level of digitised conveyancing, enabling the delivery of data packets and the interrogation of data, plus the need to create the beginnings of artificial intelligence. This seems like a huge step forward from where we are now, and it is, but the technology already exists and we now need to bring this together in order to make this happen,’ she explained.

‘We recognise that we don’t hold all the answers however we believe this is a strong starting point for the industry, and a real statement of intent. The CA recognises change has to happen and now we want to invite the industry to debate this white paper and to discuss the issues, the solutions, and how they might be delivered,’ she added.