Improving the Home Buying Process by new Sponsor Landmark

 

Author: Tony Rollason,

Regional Manager

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Back in November, an article was published on the Law Society Gazette’s website that looked at conveyancing and how it was once again bearing the brunt of the overall conversation relating to delays in the property transaction process.

 

What caught my eye was a focus on what was referred to as ‘property logbooks’ and how the government is “anticipated” to “back these” in order to help speed up the process1.

 

This conversation came from the UK Finance's Annual Mortgage Conference where the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government was invited to participate in a discussion on ‘digitising the home buying process’.

 

Logbooks were raised as a potential option, and while the detail on what a logbook would include, it was described as “[providing].. more up front information about their property before it goes on the market to make the homebuying process quicker, cheaper and less stressful.”

 

Of course, this prompted a flurry of industry responses, with many referring to Home Information Packs and a similarity between the two.

 

Back in 2007 when HIPs were being introduced, I was vocal with my personal view on HIPs as I felt they were responsible for bringing speculative property listings to a standstill.

 

From a logbook perspective however, there is a benefit of presenting as much ‘static’ information to prospective buyers as early in the process as possible.

 

For example, the Property Information Questionnaires form and the Fittings & Contents form could be made available upfront, in addition to the property’s official Property Register/ Title from Land Registry.   Then, when an offer is accepted by the vendor, all the key documentation is ready for conveyancers to use, saving time or potential delays.

 

We are already seeing some estate agents utilise this approach, which brings forward a number of tasks that will typically happen after the acceptance of an offer.

 

Importantly, I believe that any ‘dynamic’ data or information, which may be subject to periodical change, should however be left outside of any proposed logbook.  

 

For example, flood risk; it should never be assumed that a property is not considered a flood risk just because it’s not next to a river for example.   Land use changes, topology, groundwater or impact from local developments are just some factors that may change a property’s risk factor over time.

 

As such, the very latest flood information should always be presented to buyers so they have the most current risk picture.

 

I’ll be interested in monitoring the progress of the ‘logbook’ concept, however this whole conversation does bring us back to the topic of electronic conveyancing and in using technology, wherever possible.

 

In my view, the role of digital technology, data, software and online services are pivotal in helping to improve the current way of working, create greater transparency for all involved in the chain, and in helping to solve communication bottlenecks. 

 

In today’s pressured market, where margins are being driven down, customer expectations are as high as they have ever been in terms of turnaround times; I know property solicitors are looking at ways to smooth the process.

 

As I see it, integration and workflow are key as we move ever closer to more seamless, digital transactions.   Integrating existing working practices, for example ordering and assessing property searches directly into case management workflow or practice management software will be just one of the steps that will help to join all the dots together.

 

Environmental reports have also advanced, and today reports such as RiskView or Homecheck Flood, provide online access to interactive maps, so all parties can visually see what risk is present, allowing further investigation to easily take place.

 

So while logbooks may have a place, presenting static information as early in the process can only help; but it is just one cog in the conveyancing wheel.

 

After all, conveyancing is a highly complex, regulated legal service where security and compliance is key. While everyone is behind improvement and speeding-up the process, we do not want to see corners being cut, and this is a topic that will continue to be in the headlines into 2019, and beyond.

 

  1. https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/government-backs-property-logbooks-to-speed-conveyancing/5068216.article
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