Conveyancing solicitors are overwhelmingly in favour of ‘pre-contract packs’ to speed up the homebuying process, a straw poll of the sector suggests.
A show of hands among attendees at the Conveyancing Association’s annual conference in London this week suggested that the majority are in favour of packs prepared by the seller’s solicitor for the buyer’s solicitor. Association chair Eddie Goldsmith stressed he was not asking about a return to home information packs, which were scrapped in 2010.
Asked what the pack would contain, solicitors agreed that it should have proof of title, and client documents such as TA6 and TA10 forms. However, they did not think it should contain searches, survey valuations or a ‘conveyancer’s certificate’.
The conference heard from one firm that is ‘frontloading’ some information on the seller’s side, such as the FENSA (double-glazing) certificate and copies of guarantees, as part of a trial with one estate agent.
Victoria Mortimer, a partner at Shulmans, told the Gazette that the process was helping to create efficiency, and cut down transaction time for the buyer and seller.
Discussing problems with the present homebuying process, chief legal ombudsman Kathryn Stone told the conference that complaints were often to do with delays and inaccurate cost information.
Bold Legal Group’s Rob Hailstone said the homebuying process was slow, stressful, adversarial, uncertain, confusing and mysterious to the public. ‘The process has gone backwards over time. We have got to look closely at why and how that has happened,’ he added.
Denis Stevenson, of Rowlinsons Solicitors, told the conference that conveyancers need better communication skills. ‘We qualify without being given any training on those softer skills,’ he said.
He noted that the Disney organisation trains people for two weeks on how to greet people in the car park. ‘That’s how serious they take the customer journey,’ he said. ‘Extensive training needs to be given. The complaints are not about the law or technical knowledge. It’s about the lack of those softer skills,’ he added.
Client communication was also key to managing clients’ stress levels, Stevenson said. ‘Moving house is very stressful. It is important we explain at the outset how the process is going to work and keep in contact with them. Some firms do not contact clients for two or three weeks.’