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 5 years ago 17

Text Size

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.



by Adrian Alderton

10:06 AM, 31st January 2017, About 5 years ago

You are absolutely correct, no improvement to the archaic system in england. i recently completed on a property via a limited company. This took 5 months mainly due to dual solicitors and an element of leasehold (garage). At one point there were 4 sets of solicitors involved - mine, mortgage co., developers (pt-exch deal) and original vendors. Total nightmare as they are not pro-active and seem completey unable to prioritise. Only succeeded thanks to the sterling efforts of my solicitor constantly chasing and me digging out information from the developer and local council. Thought we would be there til doomsday.

On a positve note there is a new approach being promoted called gazeal. Tries to emulate the scottish system which appears much better providing certainty at an early stage. see would be interested to hear from anyone who has experienced this process as it sounds good but can they overcome the current process and cultural barriers.

by Luk Udav

13:02 PM, 31st January 2017, About 5 years ago

I found HIPs much more efficient when buying. Of course, surveyors and estate agents scuppered them. And they would have been very easy to computerise. Since I was never a tyre-kicking seller, when selling it was just a cost of business.

I have noticed that in times of low transaction rates the Land Registry suddenly manages to spot tiny errors -can't imagine why!

The scottish system seemed much better to me when I used it, though in reality it isn't quite as "certain" as it purports to be.

by Chris wood

13:30 PM, 31st January 2017, About 5 years ago

I dare say that property118 has some solicitors who are members and have experience in conveyancing ? It would be interesting to hear from any and get their perspective..............

by Tim Higham

21:44 PM, 31st January 2017, About 5 years ago

I can list 100 things where a conveyancer can go wrong - we witness many every day when we see incoming post - when handling the legal work for someone buying or selling a property.

It is such a complicated area of law when tasked with spotting all possible errors in the legal papers - especially on new build or leasehold property transactions - when buying a property, and also on a sale too (as the deal can abort if you have a lawyer who does not know how to tackle any issue or search result that comes up and they grind the deal to a halt and people then get cold feet and walk away, and buy something else.

Yet it is one of the cheapest area of law to employ a lawyer for (always fixed fee too) - weeks and weeks of work for less than an average fee of l£1000........and yet the lawyer carries huge risk if they make the slightest mistake, £000ks worth of damages if they fail to spot:
- too short a lease
- no legal access to the property
- no legal title to a sliver of land on which part of the property is built or drains run
- no Council consents for the recent building work
- a lease which fails to grant a parking space that it should have
....that list can go on and on too.

The sting comes when trying to sell, or months or years into owning when you get a knock on the door from someone who has found the mistake and wants to take action against you.

Just be very careful if you go cheap because you think all conveyancers are the same, or you think it is a simple area of law.

If you do not get a conveyancer who has a law degree or who does not target a maximum 4 weeks to an exchange, you need to ask why.

by John Frith

13:18 PM, 4th February 2017, About 5 years ago

Many years ago, I did the conveyancing on a couple of deals myself, so the mystique has definitely disappeared for me. In the end I decided to employ someone professional as they at least would have insurance if a mistake was made.

Whenever a family member buys for a first time, I tell them about what I consider to be the golden rules to expedite the matter:

1) Your base assumption, from the start and throughout, should be that the deal has gone into limbo, with both solicitors waiting for the other solicitor to do something. By my experience this will be true about 80% of the time.
2) Find out what your solicitor is waiting for, and ask the vendor (or even better their solicitor) what the delay in providing the information is. They will inevitably tell you the reason they can't progress the case is that they are waiting for your solicitor to provides information. Find out what they need and ask your solicitor what the delay is.
3) Wait a week and start at 1 again!

I have worked in a conveyancing office, and they have a big pile of files in their in-tray, and unfortunately if they can move the file into "waiting for a response", they will consider they've done their job.

by Chris wood

14:23 PM, 4th February 2017, About 5 years ago

I am pleased to say I have found a conveyancing office that actually keeps you updated with the progression, and a named person who will do so on a weekly basis. I checked the reviews for the firm and they were good. I am using them for a property I have just had my offer accepted so we will see whether they keep to their word.
However, the fiasco with the other property I am selling continues - my solicitor not being very forthcoming with my request to see evidence that they had requested the information pack from the Housing Association - when they stated they had done so blah blah. Also, they had sent paperwork to the flat I am selling despite me specifically asking that any paperwork be sent to my home address from then on - this was in person with the legal secretary at their office and she wrote down my address ! So it has just been sitting there in the vacant flat. Needless to say they will not be getting my business again and I will be leaving a scathing review.

by Nick Pope

11:53 AM, 5th February 2017, About 5 years ago

When I was a young estate agent, before any form of electronic communication, sales were normally arranged with an assumption of 4 weeks to exchange contracts and 4 weeks more to completion. This would mean that all the legal work save for the conveyance and the movement of money was carried out within the first 4 weeks.
Local searches were done by post and would be back in 7 days. Mortgage applications, valuations, offers etc usually completed within 3 weeks, Lanf Registry checks in similar timescale. Bear in mind everything had to be typed by hand and posted. Provided there were no blips in the sale chains (which were also more unusual then) the deal went through and you were moving in 8 weeks.
I re-mortgage a couple of houses last year. Simple you would have thought as it's all electronic now buit that took nearly 4 months and they got it wrong twice.
For interest I agreed several sales which were completed within 24 hours of the buyer inspection the house (no mortgages and the lawyers charged double fees).
The quickest was in the late 1960's. The sale of a farm was agreed shortly after midnight at a dinner party (certain amounts of alcohol may have been involved), solicitors were called there and then and the contract was exchanged and completion took place (subject to the cheque for the purchase price clearing) before the buyer left the party just after breakfast. Searches etc. were in place as the property was due to be auctioned. The fees were extortionate of course but all parties were very happy, if a little hung over.
This all proves, in my view, that lawyers can do it but that they won't as they are scared that their professional indemnity insurance may be affected.

Leave Comments

Please Log-In OR Become a member to reply to comments or subscribe to new comment notifications.

Forgotten your password?