This month we are considering a further push by the government to make the conveyancing process quicker and cheaper. Currently the home buying process takes, on average, between three and four months from the date an offer is accepted until the transaction is completed. Part of the reason it takes this amount of time is because buyers and sellers can struggle to communicate basic initial information. In addition, this failure to communicate well can affect the number of transactions that fail to reach the completion stage.
The government’s proposal is that every property should have a logbook. This would provide detailed information to a potential buyer up front and would involve the owner of a property keeping up-to-date records which they could pass on to a new owner. With this information being at hand at the beginning of a transaction, it would allow a potential buyer to properly assess if they want to make an offer. It would still be necessary for a buyer to check and update the details held about a property, but they would not be starting this process from scratch. Examples of details that could be provided up front might include how many years are left on a lease or what the service charge on a property was.
Matt Prior, a representative of The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, recently explained the logic behind having a property logbook when he said:
“You go through the conveyancing process, you buy the house, you receive a perfect pack of information that describes the property at that moment – and you throw that away. We think that’s quite wasteful. Some of [the information] does not change...
“I've often said, if Conveyancers were running a restaurant, they would spend more time gathering the ingredients than preparing the meal. It's an information-driven business. There are a million different parties to interact with, doing all the things the client wants, worrying about what the other side is doing.”
Calls for changes to the conveyancing process to include the introduction of a property logbook have been supported by the Law Society and Conveyancing Association.
The push to make sellers provide more up-front information about their property before it goes on the market should help to make the home buying process quicker, cheaper and less stressful.
Other points that have been reviewed earlier this year were made in response to a government call for evidence on shortcomings of the existing conveyancing system. On the question of e-buying and e-selling, the ministry asked if the government should be encouraging the development of e-conveyancing, and the overall answer from respondents was 'yes'. It was felt that the sensible use of technology could add value to the conveyancing process but that IT would never completely cut out human experts.
There was also a proposal that buyers and sellers could be encouraged to use the same Solicitor or Conveyancer in a transaction, but this was not generally considered to be a good idea.
The conveyancing system is an important aspect of legal practice, and for some people it will be one of their first encounters with the legal system. A reliable, efficient and inexpensive system is vital, and steps to ensure the system is fit for purpose are to be welcome. We will return to this topic after the government has confirmed what changes it will introduce.