I was interested to read your report about the Conveyancing Association’s ‘manifesto’ which showed support for ‘packs’ prepared by the seller’s solicitor. I was also interested to see that one firm was carrying out a small trial with an estate agent.
We were providing what we call a ‘pre-sale health check’ for a long time before the dreaded HIPs were even thought of. We have been pushing these to all estate agents in our area, but the truth is that the take-up is very small. We provide these packs, which include a site visit, a meeting with the client, full investigation of title and a bespoke report entirely free of charge and yet, still, very few estate agents and/or sellers take us up on the offer.
I think there are two reasons for this. First, aside from those agents who receive whacking referral fees, many agents are not really interested in trying to steer the client towards a solicitor who will do a good job, or at least not at the stage they take the client on. They are interested in getting the instruction and achieving a sale. Although they are completely dependent upon solicitors to send them their commission, they do not give enough thought to that at the initial stage.
Second, it is difficult to tell people that the title to their house might have a problem. Although in most cases our reports are clear, there is the odd occasion when there is a problem and, of course, sellers do not really want to know about that. They will think that their solicitor who acted on their purchase did a good job and there is nothing to worry about. Usually they are right, but not always. In any event, that is the not really the point. A properly prepared pack of documents speeds up the sale process.
So what do I conclude? The truth is that nobody will ever do this properly unless it is compulsory (and we know what happened last time). If it is ever to become compulsory again, the packs need to be prepared by the solicitor acting in the sale and not by some unqualified person in a factory who puts together a pack of documents in the wrong order, with uncoloured plans, poorly copied and with no understanding of what they are doing.
Daniel Sproull, Sproull Solicitors, Bodmin