“Mixed messages” from consumers on online conveyancing

Conveyancing: Make subject to contract offers legally binding, consumers suggest

Only 19% of home buyers use online conveyancers, despite the dominance of online searches as a way of finding property, a report has found.

However, young people were much more likely to use online conveyancers – 30% of those aged between 18 and 24, compared to only 10% of the over-55s.

The study by IRN Research of 562 consumers who bought a property in the past two years, found that 63% used national websites like Rightmove, Primelocation and Zoopla to find their property.

However, when it came to their conveyancing, exactly the same proportion relied on a solicitor with a physical office location.

A third (34%) used a licensed conveyancer with an office and 19% an online conveyancing service provided by either a solicitors’ firm or licensed conveyancer.

The researchers commented: “Online may be the channel for property searches but online conveyancing services have yet to take a significant market share.

“There are mixed messages from the survey regarding online conveyancing services.

“A majority say that they are an important choice factor when looking for a conveyancer but responses to a later question asking about possible improvements to the conveyancing process show only limited interest in these online services.

“Our research results emphasise that law firms and solicitors will continue to deal with the majority of conveyancing advice requests but online conveyancing is likely to increase, either on national sites or sites from individual law firms.”

Consumers were given the choice of 16 options on ways to improve the conveyancing process.

The most popular option, favoured by four of ten, was making subject to contract offers legally binding, the second, backed by 39%, involved transferring the onus for finding defects from buyer to seller, and the third, supported by 34%, was the introduction of a property log book.

Online-based improvements, such as being able to fill in financial and legal details online, attracted interest from no more than a quarter of consumers.

Unlike other areas of law, most home buyers (58%) did shop around and compare offers from various providers.

However, the largest group (45%) said they had “used the same solicitor or conveyancer for years”, while 40% received recommendations from friends, relatives and work colleagues. Only 31% found a conveyancer via online search engines.

The most popular additional service was “24/7 online access to keep track of the conveyancing process”, used by 35%.

A fifth (20%) had access to a dedicated telephone helpline, while 8% were able to use a mobile app.

The dominance of fixed fees in conveyancing was underlined by the 92% of consumers who paid this way.

However, nearly one in four buyers (23%) were charged a fixed fee higher than the one originally quoted. A much smaller group of 10% were charged a lower final fee.

The report found that consumers gave the different elements of their conveyancing services high satisfaction ratings – the lowest, for keeping them updated on the progress of the transaction was 73%.

IRN concluded: “While the market as a whole is volatile, our research suggests that consumer behaviour regarding their conveyancing choices is more stable.

“For example, law firms and solicitors continue to be the preferred choice for advice and experience and relevant qualifications are what a client looks for most in an adviser and this has always been the case – previous surveys have consistently produced the same result.

“A majority would go back and use the same conveyancer again if another house purchase or sale arose and this reflects a generally high client satisfaction with services offered.”

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