The recent paper from the Department for Communities and Local Government calling for evidence on the residential conveyancing process heralds the possible reform and review of the home buying process. The document seeks input on a number of areas, although it was the possibility of measures aimed at addressing gazumping that seem to have caught the public’s attention and made the most headlines.
Whilst the document itself makes no specific proposals at this stage as to what the government might be considering in terms of reform, it certainly raises hope of a specific intention to address a number of issues which many perceive as blighting the workings of the residential property market and the conveyancing process.
The document seeks input from the key stakeholders in the residential property market and is ambitious in its scope. The areas covered by the document include the role of estate agents, referral fees, delays in the conveyancing process, how the public select their conveyancer, speeding up the mortgage process, increasing consumer awareness, having documentation and information “sale ready” at the point of marketing, increased sharing of information between the buyer and seller, speeding up leasehold sales, the marketing and sale of new build properties (specifically in relation to addressing the sales process and the expedited exchange of contracts requirements) and, understandably, how digital technology can be harnessed to improve the process.
Perhaps inevitably from this type of preliminary statement, and without the benefit of any flesh on the bones, it feels a little like some of this ground may have been covered previously. The suggestion that sellers have their property “sale ready” and the drive to make better use of digital technology for example, whilst both unquestionably desirable for all involved in the process, have echoes of previous initiatives which have not been realised. That said, there is little doubt that the call for a more efficient, clearer and better integrated process in which both buyers and sellers can have greater confidence will no doubt meet with unanimous approval. The challenge will of course be turning well-meant intention into reality.
The announcement is also interestingly timed given the recent news of the first exchange of contracts online using blockchain digital encryption technology. It is being claimed that this technology is set to revolutionise the market and will bring massive innovation in terms of speed and security. Its use is at an early stage in the UK market and more detail is unquestionably required before it may well gain traction– it’s no doubt worth watching this space.