A voluntary cross-industry agreement to improve the home-buying process – including earlier instructions to conveyancers – is being mooted.
The Home Buying and Selling Group (HBSG) – a stakeholder body of around 120 organisations advising the government – has drafted a ‘memorandum for the smooth operation of the residential property market in the UK’.
It said “some industry groups representing significant numbers of conveyancers – solicitors and others – are advocating” the memorandum of understanding to try and improve conveyancing processes during the pandemic and afterwards.
Its voluntary set of guidelines, if widely adopted, “could have significant implications for firms undertaking conveyancing work, as well as buyers and sellers”.
Among its provisions are that if the seller or buyer do not have a lawyer, they should be advised by the selling estate agent to appoint one as soon as possible, before the property goes on the market and prior to receiving an offer.
Once the property is agreed for sale, the selling agent should send the sales advice note to both sides’ lawyers “as soon as possible with a target completion indicated of approximately between six and eight weeks later (if appropriate)”.
This should include the property information, official copies of the title and title plan, search results and leasehold or shared amenity information, if the selling agent has them.
“Where searches have been provided by the seller’s property lawyer and are in date, it is recommended that the buyer’s property lawyer need not repeat the searches provided that they were undertaken either by the relevant authority or a regulated search provider and acceptable to the buyer’s lender.”
The Law Society recently consulted members of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme for their views on the memorandum. Among the questions were how likely they would be to accept search results on this basis and were less than six months old at the point of exchange of contracts.
The HBSG is pushing forward a range of improvements to the process, such as reservation agreements, designed to lock in buyer and seller financially to a transaction early on, the Buying and Selling Property Information (BASPI) initiative – a move to present the buyer with a dossier of information at an early stage in the process, and more recently property logbooks.