At our business, we speak to a lot of advisers who have got to the point where they are recommending conveyancing firms, and – thankfully – their clients’ cases are working themselves through the process.
However, to get to this point, and indeed to move on from here, is nothing like plain sailing at present, and judging by the shifting sands of market activity we see every day, this is not likely to change in a short period of time.
If there is any consolation, it does (sort of) come with the level of competition at play in the market. Of course, lenders have been pricing themselves out of taking new business with somewhat alarming regularity, but the positive is that this doesn’t seem to be any result of funding or appetite constriction.
Instead, for the most part and as far as I can tell, this is all about service and resource, and indeed having to respond to the changes made at competitor lenders because of the problems they are having with the self-same service and resource.
It means that, while this is clearly a discombobulating market to have to work through at the moment, the likelihood is that when lenders get themselves on a more even keel in terms of how they can process and service business, we will see a move back into product areas and some level of price competition.
In the meantime, it seems to me that we have to put a lot of our faith in market competition, and the good news here is that we do have that.
One of the core strengths of the lending market is the fact that advisers are not merely reliant on the high-street operatives. They can turn to the smaller, more niche players who are hopefully not having as many problems from a service point of view as others are experiencing.
However, this of course comes with a caveat, in that those lenders will have limited tranches of funding to push out, plus of course, with price so important right now – as rates continue to rise – it tends to be the larger players who can offer (even for a limited time) the better rates.
The problem is that there are no guarantees in taking that rate, that you don’t end up in a very large pot of business, desperately hoping that yours is the case which runs through the system in a timescale which works.
And, when you are currently looking at a situation where many lenders’ service levels run into weeks rather than days, then this is a tricky route to navigate for advisers, and to explain to clients.
But, if rate is not the be all and end all for the client, then advisers hopefully have options elsewhere. Although I freely admit that, when inflation is running at double-digit levels, then most borrowers are going to want to prioritise securing the mortgage which offers them the lowest monthly payment available.
Around this of course, is the sheer amount of work that advisers have to do for cases which do drag on, and which require them to be reworked. Again, making the right call about which lender to recommend at the outset is going to play a huge part in ensuring you don’t have to revisit this case again in the future if, heaven forbid, the offer runs out.
Ideally, these would be conversations that happen once in a blue moon, but this perfect storm of, or rather lack of, resource-driven problems seems to currently be a constant part of our market. Perhaps the summer will give some respite in that regard, with holidays ensuring demand dips a little? Perhaps this period will allow lenders, and others, to get up to speed in order to return to normality in the autumn?
What I do know is that this is tricky ground for advisers to cover. It won’t be helped if clients are left to their own devices when they get to the stage of needing a solicitor/conveyancer. We’re all acutely aware of the weeks that can be added to the process if you don’t recommend a specialist conveyancer, so there seems little point in allowing this to happen or allowing your client to choose a firm that is not up to the job.
At a time, when time is everything, chose those who are in the best spot possible to deliver an effective and efficient service. Whether it’s the lender at the outset, or the conveyancer at the tail-end. Clients are choosing you to do exactly that; don’t opt for anything else from anyone else.
Mark Snape is chief executive officer of Broker Conveyancing