Gone are the days when a home buyer could be certain that the conveyancing lawyer of their choice could also act for their lender. Hardly a month now goes by without news that yet another lender has culled its conveyancing panel by removing hundreds of firms. And, it’s no surprise that an SRA survey revealed that 76% of law firms said they’ve been removed or threatened with removal from at least one lender panel. There seems no end in sight for panel shrinking.
Still, conveyancing firms are not the only ones feeling the “pain of panel pruning”. An estimated 100,000 borrowers have seen their transactions delayed or derailed each year after discovering that their preferred lawyer is not on a lender’s approved panel. It’s a discovery that adds to an already frustrating process and often results in additional, wasted expense for the borrowers. All this, though, is about to change.
Lawyers now have a new online tool to let borrowers and estate agents know which lenders have approved the solicitor to act. LenderPanel.com is a channel for lawyers to reach borrowers at a key decision point in the conveyancing process. The web-based directory shows conveyancing lawyers and their approved lender panels, providing an effective marketing and customer contact solution. The listings are displayed by geo-location to those firms nearest to the borrower.
“We’re addressing a frustration of borrowers and estate agents with a simple, but effective solution,” said Simon Seaton, CEO of Lexsure Ltd., the London-based risk management software as a service provider. “Until now, there was no easy way to search whether a specific firm is on a specific lender’s panel.”
Lexsure recently commissioned a survey of UK estate agents which revealed that they had recently seen 18% of their transactions delayed or derailed after discovering a buyer’s lawyer was not on their mortgage lender’s panel of approved solicitors. Completions were delayed in those cases by as much as 21 days. With MMR predicted to further delay transaction times, having to change lawyer is going to feel all the more painful to all parties concerned.
“Lawyers have spent significant time and energy to get onto a lender’s panel and they should be marketing that status to get the most from their investment,” Seaton said. “The last thing a law office needs is to not be visible while a local competitor is.”