In this industry we talk a lot about transparency when it comes to service levels, mostly because of how incredibly important they are – particularly for advisers – when determining which recommendation route likely to be taken.
At this current time, and with the level of activity we are seeing and with the added impetus that the stamp duty holiday brings, the service levels of all those involved in a purchase transaction are not just vital, but will in all honesty probably make the difference in terms of whether a case can be completed before the end of March next year.
As we move into November we are at a critical point, and as an industry we now need to be honest with potential purchasers and our clients about what is achievable and what isn’t within the current environment.
I have read recently, from several well-informed sources, about what constitutes the ‘last date’ that those who want to purchase, and take advantage of the stamp duty holiday, should have in mind.
It’s now come to my attention that, depending on your source, most of those ‘last dates’ have now been and gone albeit they differ in terms of just exactly what stage a purchaser should be at. Should they have had their offer accepted by the vendor? Should their transaction now be at the conveyancers and being actively worked on? Should they have had the valuation completed, their mortgage offer delivered, their searches back, etc?
There is also the point to make about every case being different as well. If you are not within a chain of transactions then the time required might be a lot less, and vice versa, if you’re within a lengthy chain where the requirements are that much greater and a transaction tends to move at the pace of the slowest.
Over the next couple of months in particular, there are going to need to be some very hard conversations taking place, particularly between advisers and their clients if there is no stamp duty extension on the horizon, and if a major part of that individual’s reason for purchasing is to take advantage of the saving currently available.
Because, as time moves on, and we begin to see lengthening timescales for getting transactions completed, at the same time as we move ever closer to the deadline, there is a far greater likelihood that a completion prior to the 31st March begins to move further away.
It’s perhaps no wonder that industry insiders, trade associations, commentators, and the like, are calling on the government to relook at the current data, the chances of many thousands of transactions not being completed, and asking if an extension or a tapering of the deadline isn’t going to be the right answer for all our circumstances.
Those calls will get ever louder when it becomes widely known how many cases are currently within the pipeline, how long many Local Authorities are currently taking to return the searches, the growing length of time it is taking many lenders to look at paperwork let alone provide a DIP or offer, and the impact this period is having on conveyancing firms who are trying to deal with record numbers at the same time as their organisational capability and resources are being severely stretched by the pandemic/lockdown/working from home arrangements, etc.
With all this going on, I think that much-needed service transparency is required more than ever, especially when in all likelihood many potential purchasers will still be attempting to make their transaction happen over the coming weeks in the lead up to Christmas. Might we all have to be upfront with these individuals in terms of their ongoing ability to complete a transaction within the required timescale?
To do that, you will need the service data and a clear idea of just how long transactions are taking overall, but also those individual milestones that need to get hit in order for a case to stay on track with the deadline.
I would not be surprised to see lenders moving away from purchase marketing in the coming weeks back towards remortgaging because of the issues everyone is facing and the decreasing likelihood of those purchases ever getting through the pipeline in the time remaining.
Be aware of that as you talk to purchase clients, and make sure you have as much service information/data at your fingertips in order to provide a realistic appraisal of what is going to be possible in the months ahead.
Mark Snape is managing director of Broker Conveyancing