Last month the government closed its consultation on how to improve the home buying and selling process. This is part of its wide ranging plans to reform the housing sector and, to quote the Prime Minister, ‘fix the broken housing market’.
Fundamental to improving the customer’s experience when buying and selling a property is the relationship between all parties involved in that transaction – the buyer, seller, mortgage broker, lender, surveyor and conveyancer. While some parts of this network are beginning to see real progress in digitalisation with the objective of improving speed and efficiency, others remain too heavily reliant on archaic processes.
In our own response to the government’s consultation we focused, unsurprisingly, on the role that conveyancers play within the home buying process and, being predominantly a technology company, on how digitalisation can support a better customer experience.
Among the need for standardisation of disclosure and information gathering between the legal, valuation and finance sectors, we also identify a need for lenders and conveyancers to work together to bring much of documentation exchange online.
Part of this must come from closer scrutiny (and therefore better and more granular disclosure) of performance data by individual conveyancers and firms. Currently there is too little use made of big data and analytics in this market, whose efficiency could be vastly improved by it. Government must be at the forefront of making this disclosure mandatory – it has already been seen through the failure of private endeavours such as Veyo, that the market cannot make this work without help.
But similarly, there are several more basic and operational changes that should become our focus and happily these are more within the bounds of our own control.
We believe that the interface between mortgage lenders and conveyancers needs to be completely electronic. Mortgage offers should be sent to conveyancers electronically; certificates of title should be sent to and accepted by lenders electronically; and redemption figures should be made available instantly and electronically.
Lenders, conveyancers, the Land Registry and firms like ULS are actively working on these solutions, but government can help by promoting those lenders and conveyancers that can demonstrate this ability along with the technology providers that facilitate it.
We believe that the entire conveyancing process from offer accepted to exchange of contracts should take one week. Ultimately this means focusing on how a full mortgage offer, subject only to a valuation, can be delivered instantly. Working faster on delivering this together should help prevent the need for further government intervention that may or may not achieve its stated aims.