A national panel of law firms is being created to allow estate agents and members of the public to find conveyancers prepared to provide buyers with upfront property transaction packs.
Rob Hailstone, chief executive of the Bold Legal Group, said 50 of the group’s member firms were interested in joining the panel, which is set to launch this summer.
Mr Hailstone told Legal Futures that the panel, to be called Bold Legal Move, would be free for estate agents and the public to use.
“Estate agents and conveyancers like talking about providing upfront property information, but hardly anybody actually does it,” Mr Hailstone said. “It can be like finding a needle in a haystack.”
But he said he knew that there were both estate agents and conveyancers “out there somewhere” who did provide upfront information, and he had a “light-bulb moment” when he realised what the solution was.
He said the key was “not being prescriptive” about what went into the sellers’ packs, which could range from onboarding the client and carrying out ID checks, to providing title deeds and the property information questionnaire, and even providing searches and a review of the pack.
Mr Hailstone said panel firms could use the new BASPI (Buying and Selling Property Information) dataset if they wanted, but most conveyancers used the Law Society forms. It would be up to firms to decide how much they charged sellers for producing the packs.
He said law firms who were members of the Bold Legal Group would not have to pay to join the panel, though they might be charged a small annual fee to cover costs in the future.
Mr Hailstone said it was “very promising” that 50 firms were interested in joining the panel, given how busy they were in the current property market.
Some of the current delays in conveyancing transactions have been put down to the impact of Covid on local authorities and delays in them providing search results.
“Estate agents are saying that they can’t get lawyers to provide upfront information, and lawyers are saying the same thing about estate agents. We’ve got to get the process embedded in everyone’s psyche.”
Mr Hailstone added he planned to launch the panel “within two or three months”, once the technology was ready.
The BASPI is designed to be a “single source of truth” that contains all the information about a property before it goes on the market.
The data is intended to be made accessible to all the parties in a transaction, cutting down on the need for duplication of tasks and information gathering and reducing the time between acceptance of an offer and exchange.
It has been developed by the upfront information working group of the Home Buyers and Sellers Group (HBSG) – a stakeholder body of around 120 organisations advising the government.
Following a pilot of the BASPI early last year, the HBSG announced last month that downloads of the completed dataset were available.
The HBSG said conveyancers and other property professionals would now be able to “add the required questions into their technology which will allow home movers to fill in all the necessary information”.
Kate Faulkner, chair of the HBSG, commented: “Far too often sales fall through after an offer is accepted due to a lack of information provided to the buyer and part of the reason for moving home taking 20 weeks is that we don’t collate enough information upfront.
“The BASPI together with the Pledge recommending sellers instruct legal companies on day one of marketing can go a long way to improving the home-moving process for consumers and also for the daily lives of those in the industry.”
In a separate development, a survey by property search company poweredbypie, a Dye & Durham company found that 80% of 338 conveyancers contacted had experienced a decline in their mental health as a result of the pandemic.
Almost a fifth (19%) referred to a “significant” decline in their own mental health or that of a colleague.
Nearly half of conveyancers (45%) said the pandemic had “changed customer expectations” when it came to accessing services online. As a result, a similar proportion (43%) said the situation had “significantly” increased the pressure they were under at work.
Jeremy Dorkins, director of customer success at poweredbypie, said: “Remote communication, the SDLT holiday, furloughed staff and managing increased workloads during the past year has resulted in huge pressure for conveyancers.
“Our findings are concerning and reveal the extent of the issue faced by colleagues in our industry.”