Conveyancers should charge more – or not pay referral fees – so they can reduce their workload and improve transaction times, the head of an estate agents body has argued.
Iain McKenzie said members of the Guild of Property Professionals had told him they would sacrifice a referral fee if it meant a faster transaction.
He added that, with transaction times longer than ever and the market beginning to quieten, “it is vital that both transaction times and fall-through numbers are reduced”.
The guild is a network of over 800 independent estate agents across the UK and Mr McKenzie, its chief executive, noted how conveyancers’ workloads have increased “dramatically” over the last 20 years or so “and it would appear that technology has not yet been able to keep pace fully with those increases”.
He continued: “Until new technology solves the problem, or the pressure on conveyancers subsides, then increasing fees – or not asking for a referral fee – and enabling individual transaction numbers to reduce makes sense.”
Mr McKenzie said reduced workloads could also help retain and attract conveyancers – the sector has experienced something of an exodus in the wake of the huge caseloads during the post-lockdown stamp duty holiday in 2020-21.
Rob Hailstone, chief executive of the Bold Legal Group, backed the call. He said: “Unless something drastic is done soon, transaction times will get longer and longer.
“Conveyancing is not the job it used to be 15 or 20 years ago. It is far more involved, complex, stressful, and burdensome. Many conveyancers are not able to process transactions as they would like to for their clients.”
He said there were several reasons for this, “but the main one is that conveyancing used to involve about 12 main steps, it now involves 30 or more”.
Add delays at HM Land Registry, requests for advice on stamp duty land tax “that should only be within the remit of experts”, and increased client and estate agent requests for updates “and it becomes clear that the conveyancer’s role is, at times, almost untenable”.
Mr Hailstone said he recently surveyed delegates at the Society of Licensed Conveyancers conference, at which 86% of the more than 200 delegates said they did not enjoy being a conveyancer as much as they did in the past, while 97% said clients and other property professionals did not understand their role.
Mr McKenzie added: “Not only have the requirements that conveyancers have to adhere to increased but also those of estate agents. Better understanding and collaboration between the two groups is essential going forward.”