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Head to Head: Does the homebuying legal process need change?

YES

Emma Hall

Emma Hall, head of sales, GWLegal

The future of conveyancing is digital and I am delighted that the Government is ensuring this becomes a reality by giving the green light to HM Land Registry’s digital transformation.

Nowadays, most services – whether watching television or filing a tax return – are online. Usually, consumers want quick and easy processes that can be accessed from home. Likewise, professionals (very reasonably) demand that the bulk of their job can be done without lengthy phone calls or trips outside the office. Why should the property industry be any different?

There are aspects of buying a property that cannot be done digitally, for practical or legal reasons. However, it makes absolute sense that the basic processes, such as registering a property with HM Land Registry, be made available online.

In the Government’s press release on the land registry changes, some key words used to describe this include: “flexible, speed, simplicity, faster, open, cheaper” and more “secure”. As such, the registry will now allow digital signatures on mortgage deeds, immediate registration of a lender’s change, searches available online, and so forth.

HM Land Registry’s digital focus reminds us that we must all act now if we want to survive in the changing conveyancing landscape.

Case management, for instance, must rely on digital infrastructure. Soon, clients won’t choose your firm without it. At GWlegal, for instance, we use an in-house case management system called GWlive, enabling brokers and clients to access their case online, 24/7. Brokers can submit information and documents online and watch as the solicitor at the other end processes it. It’s fast, cost efficient, convenient and open – everything a modern service should be.

Tech-Technology-Computer-Binary-700.jpgHaving this infrastructure is not enough. There must be a talented IT team maintaining it. Friendly sales or admin staff should be on call to provide support. Your marketing executives must promote your forward-thinking services to the world. Your website and social media presence have to be up to date, too.

Unless we commit ourselves to a digital present and future, the conveyancing industry will not survive.

NO

Peter IzardPeter Izard, business development manager, Investec Private Banking

The legal process in England and Wales often comes under criticism from everyone involved with the buying and selling of property, and no more so than when a deal falls through at the last minute after months of work and costs and frustrations.

The process is not without its faults, but I do not believe that wholesale review and change are required.

The system we have today is well established and has served our housing market for many years. Governments have tried to amend the process: for example, remember the Home Information Packs that were tested and proved to be a failure? It is interesting to see that these are being considered again, no doubt with learnings from the previous pilot.

The housing market is made up of many components, all of which are essential in their own way to ensure the successful purchase and/or sale of most people’s biggest asset and cost. The fact that the market has flexibility under the current system ensures a free market that allows all the different parties to work towards a successful conclusion.

House-Keys-Mortgage-Estate-Agent-700.jpgTechnology has made huge advancements to the housebuying process, with online estate agents, property websites such as Right-move and Zoopla and of course lenders who use technology to produce mortgage offers in an efficient way.

The Land Registry also has plans to make its services fully electronic and more solicitor firms are embracing the latest technological advances.

The legal fraternity is often criticised as being the element that slows down the process, but this should be considered in light of the fact that the legal side of the transaction is the most complicated element of the housebuying process.

The real answer is simply for all the parties to continue to embrace technological advancements to ensure the process develops and grows in its current format but with the creases ironed out. Wholesale changes are not required and, when they were tried before, were not a success.

The old saying is ‘Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.’ And that has never been truer than in recent times, especially with the outcome of a certain Brexit vote…

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