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Opportunities for individual firms to push their own business envelope

Other sectors have something of a ‘Summer lull’ mid-year, but that’s not traditionally been the case in the property market, or the conveyancing sector, which has tended to experience a very busy period, particularly over the last few years.

2023 however might feel a little different for firms, although having spoken to many member firms, there is still a considerable amount of work to be completed, perhaps historically not so much in the purchase space, but certainly in the remortgage sector.

At the same time, it will be quite obvious to all, that there is a very sharp focus on the housing market at present, particularly around increases in interest rates, what this means for borrowers (both existing and would-be) and how the sector/house prices/activity levels, and everything else will react to what is clearly a very different interest rate environment than we have had over the past decade or so.

Given the growing amount of noise around the housing and mortgage markets – those interest rate rises, impact on mortgage product rates, existing borrowers and potential payment shock, plus of course wider issues around housing stock supply for both home-ownership and within the private rental sector and a whole array of other decisions which need to be made, it can be increasingly difficult to gain ‘space’ within the wider Governmental narrative and to ensure it continues to focus on areas which we regard as crucial.

Last month, I looked at the importance of the CA’s policy work in that regard, and how we focus on our priorities and how we continue to work on areas which we believe can deliver positive change, not just for individual conveyancing firms, but also the wider industry in which we work.

After all, no firm is an island when it comes to the housing market. We are all incredibly reliant on each other – whether that is the agent, the adviser, the lender, the surveyor, indeed every single business involved in a property transaction.

Without a high degree of collaboration and agreement across multiple professions we can’t get the change we really need in this space. Lest we forget, we still have over a third of all potential transactions aborting each year before completion, and we currently sit at an average transaction time between marketing and completion of approximately six months.

Both of those facts mean we can have a very stagnated and inefficient way of working, and of course, while many CA member firms already adopt and utilise some of the key aspects of getting those numbers down – in the form of upfront information, use of technology, digital ID/signatures, and other methods – not all firm do this, and many are not even interested in trying to work out where there might be efficiencies and gains.

That’s where the inter-connectivity of the sector can be something of a burden. We often hear from firms – particularly when it comes to chains – about having to work at the speed of the slowest, and that is an issue, but we should also remember that 55% of all transactions are not in a chain.

Therefore, if your firm, or those you work and rely upon within the transaction, are all working in the most efficient manner, choosing to utilise the technology available, focused on delivering certainty at the front of the process, and given your cases the very best chance of completing and not taking six months to do so, then you are certainly going to see the efficiency benefits, and so are the firms who recommend and refer to you, and certainly so are your clients.

That, in itself, should drive more work to you, because it will be obvious to agents and advisers that by using your services, they will be able to offer their clients a much better experience, much greater certainty, and a much better chance of completing in the right timescale. Not forgetting the fact that everyone will get paid sooner.

So, in lieu of any Government mandation, particularly in an area as important as Upfront Information or indeed cutting down on those tasks which are currently duplicated across multiple stakeholders when they don’t need to be, the onus should be on individual firms to push their own business envelop and ensure they are working in the most efficient manner, and working with those who think likewise.

As mentioned, it is taking a considerable amount to break through the other noise in the industry at present, but we are doing so via our membership of bodies like the Conveyancing Task Force and the Home Buying & Selling Group, and that cut-through is working, but it is inevitably a more difficult task right now.

This doesn’t mean that progress can’t continue via individual firms who work in conveyancing or the wider marketplace, and with the solutions to these issues already available, the benefits of being an early adopter should be there for all to take. There is certainly no need for a ‘Summer lull’ in working them into your process.

Nicky Heathcote is Non-Executive Chair at the Conveyancing Association (CA)



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