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Conveyancing Association welcomes political endorsement of home buying process changes

The Conveyancing Association (CA), the leading trade body for the conveyancing industry, has today (25th May 2017) welcomed the recent political endorsement of its plans to modernise the home buying process stressing that ‘19th Century conveyancing is not fit for 21st Century customers’.

The CA expressed support for all political parties who have outlined the need for housing market reform in order to speed up the process, in particular, the commitments made in the Conservative Party manifesto to ‘reform and modernise the home-buying process’ and ‘crack down on unfair practices in leasehold’.

These are two key work streams for the CA, as outlined in its recently published Strategic Plan, and it is keen to see the next Government – regardless of which political party forms it – committing to delivering on these aims.

The CA has also responded to the recent speculation around the potential return of Home Information Packs (HIPs), including the Conservative Party’s subsequent statement that it would not be re-introducing HIPs if it forms the next Government.

The CA recognises the lack of appetite to bring back HIPs in their previous guise, but stresses that the ‘provision of upfront information’ in the home-buying process is likely to provide significant benefits to all. The CA has committed to delivering a Digital-Home Report which would include a comprehensive collection of information, available to prospective purchasers at the point the property is marketed.

It is also keen to see the introduction of binding offers allowing home movers to have certainty that the deal to purchase is binding within a week. This would be similar to the reservation agreements already in place for the purchase of new-build property and would involve an affordable deposit being put down by the purchaser, with the potential for an insurance policy to be taken out by the seller so that if they withdraw, the purchaser’s expenses are covered.

The Association believes a binding offer is achievable providing there is the ability to offer upfront information to the purchaser and they can secure a binding decision-in-principle (DIP) on the mortgage.

On top of this the CA is working on delivering in a number of key areas including enhanced ID verification, completion certainty, local search data, and the establishment of a secure portal for the conveyancing process that would incorporate a ‘Property Log Book’ for each individual property.

It has urged all political parties to engage with the conveyancing industry in order to develop their understanding of what is required to deliver a modern conveyancing process.

The CA’s White Paper on ‘Modernising the Home Buying Process’ and its subsequent Strategic Plan, ‘Building the framework for the future’ can be found by visiting the website here.

Eddie Goldsmith, Chairman of the Conveyancing Association, commented:

“It’s clearly very important that there is political will to deliver on the changes required in the home-buying process which is why the CA has been greatly encouraged by the noises being made by various political parties on this topic, and indeed through our own discussions with those who will be charged with delivering in this area.

“In particular, the manifesto commitments made by the Conservatives appear to address our own aims and ambitions. Since we launched the Association we have been working tirelessly with our member firms to promote protocols and practices to help our clients through what can be a very stressful experience for the customer.

“We believe it is, without doubt, the right time to completely move away from the 19th Century conveyancing process which is in no way fit for 21st Century consumers. At the heart of our White Paper and this year’s Strategic Plan is a focus on cutting out the unnecessary cost and delay which can leave all parties on tenterhooks for two months or more before they can exchange contracts. A period, during which, either party can withdraw without any financial penalty leaving one party high and dry with £800-plus of wasted legal and survey fees.

“It is not acceptable in this digital era that clients have to deal with a conveyancing process which is non-digital, paper-based and keeps them in the dark throughout on the progress of the other parties in the transaction. The technology is clearly there to provide an end-to-end digital conveyancing service and to deliver greater certainty via the provision of upfront information, and the use of binding mortgage DIPs and binding offers on property.

“We believe that recent talks around the return of HIPs are something of a red herring because no-one in the industry would want to see the packs returned in their previous guise – however, by delivering a D-Home Report we believe we can save large amounts of time and put all stakeholders on the front foot before a property is even marketed.

“In that sense, the sooner the UK catches up with countries such as Australia who already offer a fast and efficient digital conveyancing service, the better. Our White Paper  researched a number of other jurisdictions in Commonwealth and other countries and we have a lot to learn from the way they convey property. In Australia, for example, a buyer can sign a contract immediately if they like the property and, while the Title is checked and the mortgage arranged, they at least know that the seller can’t simply withdraw the property because someone else is prepared to offer more money.

“As we approach the General Election, we are urging whichever party (or parties) forms the next Government to consult with the industry, so that we might feed our extensive knowledge and understanding of how the process can be improved into delivering in this area. This truly represents a pivotal moment to deliver much-needed conveyancing change, and the CA (along with all other stakeholders) is urging everyone to grasp the opportunity that now presents itself.”

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