While the last few years have been incredibly challenging, one of the positives to come from the various lockdowns and restrictions has been the way we have made use of technology.
Across society – and particularly within the property industry – we have found ways not only to continue to function, but in some cases actually operate more efficiently.
It’s been enormously encouraging, but also eye-opening. As someone who works in the conveyancing industry, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that while other areas of the property buying journey have embraced the improvements technology can provide, the conveyancing sector has largely stood still.
At eConveyancer, we’ve been very clear about the way that technology can result in a slicker and more enjoyable experience for those buying or selling a home. Our DigitalMove platform, for example, has made a big difference on this front. It brings together all of the stakeholders in a deal, helping to keep everyone in the loop over progress, and most crucially what’s holding a case back.
With so many clients somewhat in the dark over what conveyancing even is, it’s been an important way of removing some of that mystique and adding some badly needed transparency to what can be a very opaque process, as well as helping to speed up completions.
However, I believe that the smarter use of technology can make more fundamental changes to the way conveyancers operate, to the benefit of everyone involved in a transaction.
A perfect example lies in the sharing of data. As things stand, the process is entirely back to front. When a property is put on the market, none of the relevant information about that property is available, like the ground rent or lease information. Instead, it’s only once the ball is truly rolling on a deal, with a buyer secured and a price agreed that we start seeking out these details.
Wouldn’t it make far more sense to reverse this, so that conveyancers are able to establish this information at the outset?
Not only would it mean prospective buyers are armed with the relevant information, but it would also cut out the possibility of delays further down the line when it comes to carrying out searches. Given the fact that some local authorities are now taking the best part of seven weeks to provide this information, this could make an enormous difference.
We have already seen other areas of the mortgage journey where the sharing of data has been improved through technology. Open Banking has made it far easier and quicker for lenders to establish the income and affordability of borrowers, while digital identity verification has greatly improved the way that we go about establishing a client really is who they say they are, for example.
There is no reason why similar advancements could not also play a fundamental role in improving the way conveyancers operate.
While positive action is being taken on this front – and at eConveyancer and our parent company Smoove, we are determined to keep investing in innovations which can speed up the conveyancing journey – there is clearly a long way to go. Ultimately it is going to take everyone involved, and not just the individual conveyancers, to help us reach the stage where buying a home is an enjoyable rather than stressful experience.
Intermediaries are educators
It’s often overlooked that intermediaries serve as educators for their clients. This is most obviously the case with first-time buyers, those borrowers who are new to the mortgage world and need to have every element – from loan-to-value to early repayment charges – explained to them.
However, it’s equally true for those later in their home owning journey or who are investing in additional properties. Intermediaries are there not only to find the right products, but to enlighten clients on the elements involved which perhaps they had not considered.
One area where intermediaries could play a further role when it comes to education is conveyancing. That stretches beyond just highlighting what conveyancers do, but also – given the current challenges – establishing the sort of timelines to expect, as well as why contacting the conveyancer does not always help progress of a case.
After all, if the conveyancer is receiving calls for updates from both parties in a transaction, as well as the intermediary and estate agent, then inevitably things will drag. By setting the scene for your clients, we can cut out that unnecessary contact and ensure that cases complete as swiftly as possible.
Karen Rodrigues is director of sales at eConveyancer