New Year: New Conveyancing Survey
Conveyancing surveys are a bit few and far between.
I recall the Law Society doing the odd one over the years.
The Conveyancing Process is stressful and can take too long so finding something insightful may be a waste of time and resource.
Anyway, along comes an “independent” survey sponsored by Veyo where 2002 people were asked their opinions on the home buying and selling process.
Who or What is Veyo?
Veyo a Joint Venture between the Law Society and Computer giant Mastek UK.
Veyo is the (self-styled) faster and more efficient way to manage the process of buying and selling a home online – although it doesn’t yet exist.
Veyo will launch in Spring this year and provide one portal for all the conveyancing processes to mingle and cross-pollenate.
I cannot yet confirm that the music in their adverts will be:
“Veyo, Vey E Oh, Daylight Come and I Wanna Buy a House!
Anyway, I digress, what better time to conduct a survey into why (I’m guessing) such a Portal is needed to make Conveyancing faster and more efficient.
Key Findings of Home Buyers’ Survey
1. How long does it take to move home?
Consumers say that the waiting is one of the most stressful aspects of buying and selling a home.
The survey says the average time is about 11.3 weeks or 80 days or just under 3 months. You choose which sounds better or worse.
1 in 10 people say buying a property is the most stressful life event they have experienced.
In our experience moving times fluctuate between 4 and 16 weeks.
The fewer the links in a chain of transactions and the fewer mortgages required, not unsurprisingly, the less time it will take to sell or buy your home.
So, if you’ve agreed a sale to a buyer who is paying cash and not in a related transaction then a matter of a couple of weeks should be all that is required.
A chain with say 6 or 7 related transactions including 6 or 7 mortgage applications just will take more time.
Nothing much anyone can do about it.
But, dealing with Conveyancing Solicitors and Conveyancers throughout the process leads on to another key finding of the Survey.
2. Dealing with Solicitors is a Key Stress Point.
Dealing with Solicitors is seen as one of the most stressful aspects of buying and selling a property.
Let’s just think about that one for a moment.
Who is involved from start to finish?
That would be the Solicitor!
Lenders, Estate Agents and Surveyors, Search Companies come and go and their input and intensity will vary at certain times of the transaction.
But the day to day contact will be with Client and Solicitor. It’s a bit like saying that Doctors are seen as one of the most stressful aspects of going to hospital.
But, in fairness, that does lead on to an important question: how are clients treated throughout their Conveyancing transaction and can improvement be made?
What experience can a client expect when many delays are inevitable?
3. 29% of respondents felt out of touch during the Conveyancing Process and 36% have a very limited knowledge of the Conveyancing Process.
We agree communication throughout the Conveyancing Process is vital.
We, Solicitors, can all be guilty of being blasé about a process which we know inside out but yet remains an arcane process for most clients.
Conveyancing tends to be a very reactive process.
A transaction can be waiting for an exchange of contracts for many weeks and then suddenly everything must be actioned in a short space of time. You can gear yourself up but still it is relatively labour-intensive when it occurs.
We introduced our Clutton Cox Experience last year to give more information and knowledge about the Conveyancing Process for our clients throughout their transaction.
We feel it is important to communicate what happens next, what you should be thinking about, greater information about all aspects of the Conveyancing Process.
Managing clients expectations is a challenge.
We compiled on SlideShare, as an example, a Conveyancing Jargon Buster called “What’s the Name of That Legal Thingy?” (10,249 views so far) and also a Guide to What to Do Between Exchange and Completion called “How To Get All Your Ducks in a Row Between Exchange and Completion” which we published earlier this month (already 815 views in just a couple of weeks)
We have had great feedback from clients as we are communicating with clients regularly even though there may not anything actually to report.
4. Significant Repeat Conveyancing Business is Lost
The survey revealed that a whopping 42% of respondents were unsure or unlikely to reuse their Conveyancing Solicitor or Conveyancer next time they moved.
This percentage may not be as surprising as it first appears.
The Conveyancing Market has been skewed over recent years by Estate Agents receiving referral fees from Conveyancers just to get their business.
Many “National” Conveyancing firms now deal with Conveyancing matters many miles from their clients. If it is an impersonal, distant (literally and metaphorically) transactional service clients receive, then there is little doubt in my mind that they may not feel loyalty to that firm which a more local law firm might expect.
Where Estate Agents and Solicitors genuinely work together referral schemes can work in redefining and streamlining the Conveyancing Process.
But, is it any wonder that where Solicitors pay the highest referral fees (and the Estate Agent is only interested in receiving the highest referral fee) that the quality of the Conveyancing inevitably suffers and the inefficient Conveyancing firms are rewarded?
5. Price As A Factor in Choosing a Solicitor
27% chose their Conveyancing Solicitor solely on price i.e. the cheapest.
This is slightly up on previous surveys where some 19% said they chose solely on price.
Unfortunately, the Survey did not ask, of those 27%, how satisfied they were with the levels of service they received.
My hunch is that it’s this category which found dealing with Solicitors as one of the most stressful aspects of buying and selling a property.
What incentive would there be to give a first class service when you are paid the least? Cheap and fast are not comfortable friends, much more likely friends are cheap and shoddy.
That still means that for just under three quarters of people price is not the most important factor which is in line with our own experience.
A pity perhaps that the survey did not ask ancillary questions around perceptions of “good value” rather than just price and how Solicitors fees fared for value against Estate Agents fees.
6. Price and Speed as a Factor in Choosing a Solicitor
75% say they wouldn’t pay extra for speed which means that about 25% would pay more in Conveyancing fees for a faster service.
The problem being, as I have mentioned, when you are in a chain you can only go as fast as the slowest or last person to confirm they are ready to exchange and complete.
With beauty in the eye of the beholder perception is everything.
Certainly, streamlining of procedures would help the perception of faster Conveyancing.
In my opinion, most Conveyancing firms including my own ( for the moment) do not differentiate their pricing offerings and seek to substantiate what they do in any meaningful way.
7. Who or What is the First Port of Call for Information on the Home Buying and Selling Process?
Most people turn to an Estate Agent as their first port of call for advice on the process of buying and selling a house ahead of the Internet, a solicitor or friends and family.
Although interestingly the demographic of first time buyers (digital natives?) are more likely to turn to the internet first.
The Survey is noticeable in its absence of a category for the Internet which in our experience is being used increasingly to pre select law firms.
Word of mouth and recommendation will never disappear.
Increasingly, however, clients and prospects use the Internet to ask around; to be better educated and get information in advance of contacting and instructing a law firm.
Prospects are looking for more depth and a more detailed understanding of the law and legal process, what it entails, what to look out for, any tips and advice before making key decisions
Clients can ask questions, read reviews, digest content and start conversations with people they’ve never met.
And, clients want to make their own minds up using the social proof available on line as their modus operandi at any time of the day or night.
I’ve been a bit hard on this particular survey as there is a clear business objective in announcing the new Veyo Portal to the public.
Yes, buying and selling a house or flat can be stressful.
Solicitors and Conveyancers can improve and make the experience more enjoyable and memorable in a good way as we have done with our Clutton Cox Experience.
Pricing can and should be more sophisticated and reflect the aims, wants and aspirations of the client rather than what the law firm thinks their client needs.
It is hard to argue against the main thrust of the Survey’s findings that the key area for service innovation include:
- More Regular Communication and Updates
- Better explanation of what’s involved in the process
- More hand-holding through the negotiation process
- Being proactive and driving the process on behalf of the client
There is room for improvement and a Conveyancing Portal may go some way to providing welcome innovation, but, there are provisos.
As in cooking a Sea Bass in Salt–Crust pastry, any tear in the pastry will allow air to escape and the result ruined.
To work Veyo will need every Conveyancing firm to sign up and add little to the overall cost of buying and selling. Not guaranteed.
What’s In It For Me? When it comes down to it when you lose your buyer or seller for any reason and you’re worried the rest of the chain will collapse would you ask your Conveyancer to update the Portal to make that unfortunate outcome all the more likely?
Will knowing a little more about a chain and why it’s not going according to plan will actually lead to more stress – ignorance can be bliss on occasion.
Not enough to stop progress I admit but let’s not get carried away and caught up in the hype that Veyo is the faster and more efficient way to manage the process of buying and selling a home online.
No matter what the results of a Survey lead us to believe.