Conveyancing doesn’t have its own moniker to rank alongside ‘FinTech’, ‘PropTech’ or ‘RegTech’ but there seems to be little doubt that all three of these are likely to shape the future of the sector, with many stakeholders suggesting that the conveyancing process is ripe for a complete technological overhaul.
Whether that comes to fruition remains to be seen because, lest we forget, the whole conveyancing process has changed very little even during my lifetime, and we still have large numbers of conveyancing firms essentially completing very small numbers of cases and reliant on the old systems and paperwork of the past in order to do this.
But there’s no doubting that, with the changes currently underway as part of Land Registry’s Digital Street project, plus a lot of tech-based propositions eyeing up the UK conveyancing market in order to ‘disrupt’ it, we are likely to see a number of fundamental developments. Plus of course let’s not discount the changes the government wants to see in the process, particularly in terms of speeding it up, making it more transparent, and giving the end consumer a much better experience. I’ll leave its quest for ‘cheaper’ conveyancing for another time.
Technology will however reshape a number of conveyancing-related areas, specifically when it comes to ID verification – which can seem over-engineered and cumbersome – tracking cases, and making all stakeholders aware of what has been done and what remains to be done, plus more efficiently moving funds up and down a property chain.
All these areas can of course be improved and if we, as an industry, are not looking at how technology can speed up a process which can, on average, take four-five months to complete, then I might suggest we need our collective heads’ examining.
Advisers will certainly be aware of what might work in this space, specifically when it comes to dealing with lenders, and I’ve seen recent calls for much more work to be done on ‘real-time case tracking’ in order to inform both the adviser, and the client themselves about where we are in the process.
While ‘case tracking’ tends to be offered by pretty much all lenders, there is much dispute about the ‘real time’ nature of this, and how this is communicated to advisers. Waiting on a manual update which then must be manually sent across to the adviser/client concerned, is not ‘real-time’ – far from it – and therefore this can lead to misinformation passing from adviser to their client about the state of the case.
Plus of course, without ‘real time’ tracking we are looking at the adviser (and the client) having to continually chase both the lender and the conveyancer for up to date information. Far better, to have this delivered quickly, efficiently and immediately to all parties, and of course the way to do this is by having technology and a system which can handle these requirements and deliver on them.
I am also pleased to report that our Parent, ULS, is very close to finalising a market leading end to end conveyancing technological process that encapsulates the needs of all of the key stakeholders- end customers, brokers, agent, lenders and law firms alike. Digital Move has the power to galvanise the conveyancing process. More news to follow.
I’m pleased to say that the conveyancing firms we work with get this, and they are working with their lender counterparts to ensure such systems are much more up to date and work in real time. The idea of course – and one that would be music to the ears of lenders – is to cut down on the number of post-valuation queries they get from all sides. This takes up an inordinate amount of time and resource on the lenders’ side and any tech which cuts down on the number of phone calls and emails they have to answer, would be most welcome. As, I’m sure it would, to all stakeholders.
So, we are likely to see a greater use of tech within the process in order to match the needs and requirements of clients, regulators, the government, and the like. Whether this will result in a radical tech-based overhaul to the entire conveyancing process remains to be seen but, it’s clear, that advisers have a strong role to play and should be looking to up their advice recommendations in this area so they can continue to be at the centre of this communication hub.
Mark Snape is managing director of Broker Conveyancing