As demand for conveyancers continues to outstrip supply, those in the business should consider intermediaries their allies and teammates
With the Chancellor announcing that stamp duty rates are to increase for second properties in April, will conveyancers be able to cope with the expected surge in transactions?
Chancellors have a habit of introducing announcements on new rates for stamp duty without giving any prior or sufficient notice to the conveyancing sector. Most of the time we pull together and get on with it but the difficulty we will face this time round is that the Treasury has just issued a consultation paper, 30-odd pages, long setting out various scenarios on some of the more complex areas and is looking for the consultation to run until 1 February.
Confirmation of the final design is to be announced at the Budget on 16 March, which is two weeks before the new rates come into play. This is not a lot of time for clients to see if they can organise the status of their transactions so as not to suffer any unintended consequences of the increased rates.
There is going to be a lot of pressure in any event from clients and agents who will ‘demand’ their transactions complete before 1 April, so while I expect the conveyancing community to do its bit, there will be some unhappy clients whose expectations will not have been met. Conveyancers will face complaints about this.
What other issues is the conveyancing community facing in 2016?
As the housing market continues to improve overall – inevitably with some highs and lows – there remains a chronic shortage of good quality conveyancers. The recession in the property market in 2007/08 had the same negative impact on the conveyancing sector as it did on the broker community, with a dramatic reduction in the number of conveyancers – many leaving the profession for good.
While firms are recruiting, and the Conveyancing Association is offering a suite of comprehensive training manuals to help conveyancers get up to speed, the reality is there are still not enough conveyancers to go round. This means clients’ expectations have to be managed in terms of timescales, and mistakes will be made, unfortunately, because of the poor skills of some new conveyancing staff. Also, prices will go up because demand currently exceeds supply.
Fortunately, the big firms who are members of the Conveyancing Association have the resources to deal with recruitment and training better than perhaps the traditional high street firms, and that means this period is an opportunity for the larger firms to increase their market share.
What can brokers do to help improve relationships with conveyancers?
As a partner in Goldsmith Williams, which has always worked in tandem with the broker community, I am very aware of how helpful it is to consider the broker and the conveyancer as part of a team. We both want the same end – a satisfied customer and a stress-free journey. As always, the broker is at the heart of the transaction and they can not only keep in touch with the conveyancer but also help to manage the clients’ expectations. They also know who the good conveyancers are, which is knowledge that the clients will not necessarily have.
Throughout the past 30 years of dealing with brokers, I have always found their involvement fundamental to the transaction and I am sure this will continue to be the case.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
My long-time business partner, Chris Williams, told me not to worry about how well or badly the competition is doing but just concentrate on our own services and offerings.
Who is your all-time hero and why?
My father. Not only did he serve in the war as a captain in the Middle East but he built up a successful legal practice in Liverpool before and after the war. He was a cautious man but always gave me good and measured advice – some of which I followed.
As a child, what was your dream job?
I wanted to be the assistant to the TV deep sea diver Rick Nelson – a talent lost to the world of diving when I chose not to pursue this ambition!
Do you have any secret talents?
I am an enthusiastic amateur guitar player with a secret regret that I didn’t become a session musician.
Headcount: Top 100 solicitors and licensed conveyancers, plus a number of affiliate members
Address: The Conveyancing Association
3 Priory Court, Pilgrim Street, London, EC4V 6DR
Tel: 020 7618 9141
The Conveyancing Association was established in 2011 to focus on issues that matter to conveyancers. Its membership comprises the top 100 solicitors and licensed conveyancers, who collectively conduct around 20 per cent of property transactions and 70 per cent of remortgage transactions in England and Wales. It campaigns to improve the conveyancing process and make changes where needed. It ensures the best interests of its members and clients are at the heart of legal policy making, providing a forum for leaders in the conveyancing industry. The association seeks to provide an environment where ideas, knowledge and business opportunities are shared and friendships are made and enhanced.