Conveyancing – Are things so much better than they used to be?

Conveyancing – Are things so much better than they used to be?

14:25 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago 17

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I bought my first house 35 years ago and since then have bought (and sold) houses in the region of 20 times. In each of these transactions I have had to ‘instruct’ solicitors to do the necessary legal work.old days

Looking back to the early days, the time frame for selling or purchasing a property usually took a minimum of 2 months to finalise and get to the completion stage. It would seem that not much has changed, or at least not much has changed in the time it takes to get these legal matters sorted.

Yet a lot else has changed.

We now have theses wonderful electronic machines called computers supported by an equally wonderful and ethereal system of communication called the ‘world wide web’. Enabling us to communicate by word with anyone who has another wonderful machine in a matter of seconds. The necessity of letters (snail mail) as a means of communication are now, for the large part, unnecessary. Telephones have been here a long time, but they have their disadvantages as you cannot always get to speak to the person you need to, nor do they support evidential written communication.

It surprises me that alongside this fantastic speeding up of the means of communication the conveyancing process does not seem to have shown much improvement in the time it takes to get things completed. Most of the work the solicitor (lets be honest, his secretary) has to do can be done with the aid of a computer.

So all those letters for the searches, communications with the other legal parties involved, communication with the buyer, the vendor et al, can be done quickly and easily. Typed out and dispatched (and received) in a matter of a few minutes.

Okay, in an ideal world where every party involved gets done what is asked of them promptly and efficiently then yes, it would not be expecting too much for the process to be much more responsive. We all know that government departments are stretched and are never the quickest to respond (unless they want your money) to requests. That people have holidays, are ‘out of the office’, or sick, on a training day etc, etc. All said and done though, with the aid of the wonderful machines is it not unreasonable to expect things to be a lot quicker.

So why am I going on about this now ? Well I am just in the process of selling my Mums flat. She sadly passed away in November and I had to sell her flat. I was advised that as it was a leasehold flat and part owned by a housing association then there would be the additional necessity of work involving the transfer of the lease arrangement to the buyer.

Ok, fair enough. So I was prepared for a lengthier time frame that what I would normally expect. Perhaps another month or so. So I did the necessaries, liaised with the estate agent who already had a buyer for the flat, instructed my solicitor, advised the housing association I was selling etc, Paid them for the transactions involving the lease transfer – did all my bit.

So weeks went by and then I had a phone call from the estate agent involved in selling my Mums flat asking why nothing was happening. After numerous phone calls to my solicitor and the housing association I find out that the housing association would not process the lease because they had not had confirmation of the buyers age! They had been waiting for this confirmation from my solicitor for two weeks.

I phoned my solicitor and told them this and they denied they had received this request, and at any rate the age of the buyer was easy to establish. So who do I believe ? Whatever the reason, be it the housing association not getting the answer to the request, or the solicitor not getting the lease info from the housing association, both parties were quite happy to sit there for weeks expecting something to happen.

Neither of them showed the initiative, or competency, of chasing up on their request to the other party and finding out why they had not got a reply. Yet with the aid of computer everything is recorded and accessible with the pressing of a few buttons.

You can even get your computer to remind you of things ! So yes, we have this wonderful machine that can help you and make things quicker and easier, but at the end of the day it is still has to be used by human beings. It relies on their ability and proficiency to use it to its best advantage.

If those human beings do this, then there should be no reason why things should not be achieved more efficiently and faster than was ever possible.

Well, I feel better for having my tuppence worth. I hope I have not bored you all to death ! I would like to hear from those who have had similar frustrations, agree or disagree, or even say that things are so much better than they used to be.


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Neil Patterson

14:31 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago

Hi Chris,

I have 2 general rules regardless of the business or a personal transaction. These rules make sure I am on top of everything and rarely disappointed.

Rule 1: No one will ever do anything you ask them to first time around

Rule 2: If rule 1 does not apply then they will not do it right anyway

Gary Dully

16:57 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago

I was told that solicitors are like ornamental wheelbarrows in your back garden, they don't move until pushed and even then the wheels don't go round.

I have found however, that the biggest problem is their insistence on original documents and wet ink signatures, instead of electronic.

It's weird!

Sam Addison

18:58 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago

In December 1999 I bought and occupied a house near ours for my sick mother in 9 days despite the solicitors being busy. This involved paying a premium to the solicitors for my case to be dealt with first thing in the morning, me couriering documents to other solicitor to save a day, bank manager being totally on board in organising surveyor for two days after sale agreed (and organising loans to cover amount when mortgage was holding things up).
I have just had our offer accepted on a house (offer on 13th, accepted on 17th) and after 12 days am still awaiting pack from solicitors for me to sign up to them and pay for searches!
Better than they used to be? No, much worse!

Tim Higham

22:17 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago

The reasons for a sale to result in delay are many (most reasons apply equally to purchases too):

1. Sellers don’t think to instruct their conveyancing solicitor when they first put the property on the market. We will not charge more at **MODERATED OUT - NOT A SPONSOR** so get in their early so your solicitor has time to lay the groundwork (i.e obtain title deeds, a mortgage repayment statement (a management pack from your landlord/Housing Association if Leasehold) and generally to check for obvious legal defects by the lawyer you used first time around. Instead, if you leave it too late, yourconveyancer will be on the back foot, and will overlook things in the rush to make up lost time they could have had.
2. Sellers never ever ask when seeking a conveyancing quote whether the person handling their legal work has a law degree….people assume that a solicitor office has only solicitors. Not a single one in an office of Legal Executives nor perhaps a Licensed Conveyancers'. So instead, you assume you have an expert acting for you, but in fact they could be quite junior, recruited on the cheap to maximise profit for the legal business, and you are none the wiser…as you did not make sure you have an actual Solicitor acting for you

3. The Estate Agent, in fact, your Estate Agent might be accepting cash from the most mediocre of conveyancing businesses, if they recommend your buyer to them. Do you even know your own estate agent may be sabotaging your sale by getting a cash bung from a shoddy conveyancer? I would be furious. The cash goes in the pocket of the estate agent. The legal outfit who pays most, whatever their quality, gets the business. And to heck with the speed of your sale.

4. The Estate Agent may own, or be owned by the conveyancers they recommend to you - not good convincers, but because they are obliged to push them on you, and who will have a very poor reputation generally. No legally qualified conveyancers anywhere in the building. Do you know if this is happening to you?

5. The quality of conveyancers ranges dramatically, it is a fact, so you cannot think they are all the same….you may have one who falls into the below categories:
a. Many charge so little, meaning they have to look after 100 clients at any given time, so can barely spend 5 minutes on your file every 72 hours or longer.
b. Also, always ask why a conveyancer charges so little. Good ones don’t have to be cheap. And the cheaper they are, why would they go out of their way to be dynamic, and excel in their performance in your dale, what motivation would they have. A proper fee and you have their right ear.
c. Many are not qualified as mentioned above, and so they do not always understand issues that crop up and will not be able to speedily resolve them.
d. Being overworked means they are more likely to send letters than email to buy themselves time to cope. We have a ban on letters going out if there are no enclosures….always an email. Instant (and saves 60p a time too)
e. Small conveyancing teams mean poor cover for illness or holiday. Check how big they are as a Team. Too massive, and you are just a number, and they are trading on volume.
f. Check for lunch time closing or dead on 5pm…. I consider that can be a sign of mediocre
g. Check their website and see if their conveyancers are ALL identified, with direct telephone number and personal email address…including all their secretaries. If not, avoid! You will struggle to reach them.
h. Does the conveyancing firm have any email addresses on their letterheads, or direct dial numbers? No? Avoid.
i. When the lawyers quote for the work by email, how prompt are they? Slow….avoid.
j. Open Saturdays and Sundays usually smacks of volume and marketing hype to attract work as it it isn’t coming in normally. Conveyancers do not transact at weekends, so don’t be fooled by this advertising.

Just some tips, hope that helps anyone - as the better conveyancers want to transact with good conveyancers, as it makes the transaction go through at pace.

We now target a maximum 4 weeks to exchange in all transactions. We have had enough of facing slow conveyancing. You get your house exchanged, estate agents get paid, and we do not waste anywhere as much time chasing slow conveyancers.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

22:55 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Tim Higham" at "30/01/2017 - 22:17":

Hi Tim

Sorry I had to moderate your company name out of your first post but form of marketing contravenes our "House Rules" - please see >>>

Paul Shears

22:57 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago

I have done my own conveyancing five times.
During that experience I covered most of the permutations that you can have for 99% of houses.
Unregistered lease hold under a head lease, Freehold. Buying & Selling.
Let me assure you that this is an unskilled repetitive task requiring no training whatsoever.
You only get to see the truth of what is happening when you cut out one of the solicitors and do the job yourself.
The only legal people that I have ever encountered that are worse than solicitors are the Law Society who take far longer to do even less and with greater incompetence.
Now let's assume for the purpose of this discussion that a cash buyer is purchasing and empty house.
The truth is that if the buyer and seller sat down together at a table they could do 95% of the work in about 2-3 hours assuming that that are reasonably educated and have never done the job before.
There would then be a delay of a few days whilst the various bodies answer questions.
Then the deal is done.
I can assure you that anyone employing a solicitor is completely in the dark about what is really going on.
By the way, one thing that I realised was that it's in a solicitors interest to slow things up as he will build up a massive float of holding deposits which he will tell you is earning no interest.

Chris wood

23:23 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago

Your comments are very interesting and it suggests you can do the whole thing yourself ? Do you not need a solicitor to stamp or 'sign off' anything ? Or have we all be hoodwinked for a long time ?


Paul Shears

23:30 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Chris wood" at "30/01/2017 - 23:23":

You do not need a solicitor at all.
However if there is a mortgage involved the lender will understandably insist that one is employed to represent their own interests and obviously the borrower will pick up the tab for this.
By the way, please bare in mind that if you do your own conveyancing and the other party employs a solicitor then they will obstruct you.
This little money spinner is not one that they want to lose.

Chris wood

23:35 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Tim Higham" at "30/01/2017 - 22:17":

Hello Tim,
What infuriates me is more about lack of communication than anything else. You're paying for a legal
professional to give you a service yet weeks can go by and you hear nothing - so you don't know what
stage you are at, if their any problems etc. It would be a professional thing to do to send the client an email each week telling them what has been achieved and what is outstanding - nothing complex, just a standard update. At least this keeps the client updated and keeps them off your back ! It would probably act as a good checker for yourselves as well. I think that generally the service solicitors give is appalling by modern standards.

Paul Shears

23:42 PM, 30th January 2017, About 6 years ago

It became pretty obvious to me on one house purchase that I made, that the real work being done by the sellers solicitor was being handled offshore in some third world country. They were pretty illiterate and got the most basic facts wrong. Over several months they use the same excuse twice that they were waiting for details from my mortgage provider. I was buying an empty house for cash. There was no mortgage. The Law Society's subsequent lengthy investigation into the whole fiasco was totally unsatisfactory and quite inferior to the organisation that I was complaining about.
I had a record of every Email that I sent to the seller's solicitor, most of which were completely ignored. All the evidence amounted to nothing except a refund of my money. I did not want a refund. I wanted to Law Society to step up and police the fools.

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