Streamlining money laundering rules, leasehold reform and a big push towards electronic conveyancing are identified as priorities in a manifesto from conveyancers to improve the homebuying process in England and Wales.

In a paper to be published today, the Conveyancing Association, which represents some 50 conveyancing firms, also proposes the use of ‘skinny electronic home reports’ – a cheaper and more relevant version of the home information packs introduced in 2007 and abandoned three years later.

The association notes that transaction times now average 12-14 weeks from offer to completion. ‘Overall there is dissatisfaction expressed by most stakeholders as to the speed, transparency and certainty of the home-moving process.’ A comparison with three usually speedier jurisdictions, Scotland, Australia and the United States, found that the upfront provision of information was ‘endemic’.

In Australia, e-conveyancing became a reality this year, with the first electronic exchange of contracts in August.

First steps towards creating a ‘data sharing, collaborative, digital home moving service’ would include:

  • Making one stakeholder in each transaction responsible for anti-money laundering identification of all parties. This would improve security and prevent duplication ‘which causes delay and frustration’.
  • Collating property and title information to identify any missing documents. A ‘skinny e-home report’ could ensure that search results are available at the point of marketing.
  • As in the US, requiring a legal commitment on offer, with a five-day cooling off period.
  • Reviewing the standard conditions of sale to require completion monies to be sent through the day before completion to provide certainty on the day.
  • Amending the Commonhold & Leasehold Reform Act 2002 ‘to resolve the unreasonable costs and delay associated with the leasehold sales process’.

On electronic conveyancing, the report notes progress in several jurisdictions, led by Denmark. In Australia a ‘middleware’ system linking conveyancers’ case management systems with outside agencies achieved the first electronic exchange of contracts in August this year.

Association chair Eddie Goldsmith said that some of the ideas may appear to be pure blue-sky thinking: ‘But we should not lose focus of the fact that 20 years ago no one would have thought in 2016 routine communication with clients would be via email.’