Over the past couple of months, there have been a plethora of government announcements regarding housing.
But will any of these actually have any impact on the current state of affairs? Last month, Sajid Javid launched a consultation with the aim of streamlining home sales and purchases. He wants to make the home buying process cheaper, quicker and easier, which will no doubt be universally welcomed if achieved.
I am concerned though that the government will fail to take the whole picture into account. In order to encourage faster transactions, change needs to be brought to the entire process, not just the role of agents in facilitating home buying and selling.
To truly address the complexity of the home buying and selling process, the legal side of the transaction must be brought into the 21st century. Our government’s approach to policy is overwhelmingly determined by cost, but we are still using historic and cumbersome systems to buy and sell homes.
Quality has been compromised and this has primarily affected agents and solicitors. As a result, there are a number of law firms providing conveyancing work through what are basically call centres and the quality of the service has been stripped back to the bone.
A machine is only as fast as its slowest cog, and unfortunately in property, the cog is the legal process. More often than not it is paralegals and trainee solicitors that deal with transactions until the end of the process, when a senior solicitor or partner steps in to review. They often, due to limited time capacity or through noticing an earlier fault, cause delay.
A machine is only as fast as its slowest cog, and unfortunately in property, the cog is the legal process
One area where the legal profession must be encouraged to speed up their transactional roles is through the use of technology. The property industry has been revolutionised by the use of technology in marketing, but as soon as soon as a sale has been agreed the momentum is lost.
Lawyers have failed to embrace recent technological advancements, highlighted by the failure of the e-conveyancing platform Veyo. Even the use of email doesn’t seem to have sped up the process enough.
Read more: Would you use an online mortgage broker?
We live in a world where anything can be brought online and delivered the next day – our expectations of how quickly services should be provided has heightened. Solicitors are not necessarily to blame for failing to meet this, but it is an expectation that needs to be addressed.
I am pleased that the government is looking into solving these issues, but the consultation must look at the sum of all parts. Both agents and solicitors have key roles to play in the house buying and selling process. Ensuring more senior lawyers are involved earlier on in the process may go some way to speeding up transactions.
Everyone in the process, from the buyer to the mortgage lenders, sellers, solicitors and agents, currently all have different ideas on timing and getting these aligned will help achieve the streamlined process that Mr Javid desires.