Help to Buy scheme boosts conveyancing recruitment

October 30, 2013

The Conveyancing Association has said that the government’s Help to Buy scheme has meant conveyancing firms have had to recruit new staff to cope with demand for conveyancing services.

The government boost to the property market has led to another shake up for the conveyancing market, which in recent years has undergone a transformation, with lenders setting up their own panels of conveyancing firms and cheap, online conveyancing becoming increasingly popular with homebuyers.

Chairman of the Conveyancing Association Eddie Goldsmith has, however, expressed concerns over the shortage of conveyancing staff of the right quality. Mr Goldsmith said:

“There is a dearth of really good staff. It’s a nice problem to have, but it’s still a problem.”

The Help to Buy scheme is aimed at first-time buyers and is a government-backed scheme which enables homebuyers to purchase a property with deposits of just 5% of the purchase price, up to £600k. It is hoped the scheme will not only boost the number of people able to afford their own home, but also help boost a stagnant property market, which recently has seen more overseas buyers snapping up homes as buy-to-rent investments. In turn, this has meant more people having to rent properties or even remaining living in the parental home until well into their twenties and thirties.
Homebuyers new to the property market may well opt for cheaper online conveyancing rather than a high street conveyancer, which can be simpler and faster, but in recent years has caused concern over the potential for conveyancing fraud.
The system of lenders such as high street banks and building societies setting up their own conveyancing panels was encouraged by the Law Society as a response to an increase in the number of complaints about conveyancing companies. Some lenders now insist that homebuyers use a conveyancing firm from the lender’s own conveyancing panel of approved member companies.

The conveyancing profession also has its own professional guidelines set out under the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) established by the Law Society of England and Wales. Conveyancing firms online or on the high street which adhere to this and make a commitment to providing excellent standards of service display the CQS logo on their website or in the window of their office.

However, there have been an increasing number of complaints to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority about conveyancing firms and even bogus or scam conveyancing firms online, which may not even be based in the UK but operate from a call centre overseas and so escape regulation under the law of England and Wales or Scotland.

Since the announcement of the government-backed Help to Buy scheme, some conveyancing firms are now increasing in-house training for conveyancing staff, in anticipation of the boom in conveyancing services that the Help to Buy scheme is expected to fuel.

In October, major high street lenders such as NatWest and the Halifax began offering new mortgages under the Help to Buy scheme, although some critics of the government scheme fear it may fuel another property bubble, as seen in the 1980s.

Latest figures on property prices from the office of National Statistics House Price Index showed that in the 12 months to August, house prices increased by 3.8%, representing a 0.5% increase on the figure of 3.3% for the 12 months to July 2013. Compared with August 2012, house prices in August 2013 were 4.9% higher on average across the UK.

Many conveyancing deals are agreed according to property prices, and even cheap conveyancing deals (some as little as £99.99 plus VAT) can incur extra charges according to the amount of work required; meaning that house buyers should shop around for the best conveyancing deal, even if they have opted for cheap online conveyancing.

The benefits of online conveyancing

The benefits of online conveyancing not only include the generally cheaper cost, but also the fact that homebuyers do not need to see their conveyancer face-to-face, saving on time and money for meetings. Traditional conveyancing used to take a minimum of around eight weeks from instructing a conveyancer to completion, and much of this time could be spent waiting for hard copy documents to be located for searches or from the Land Registry.

Nowadays most property deeds and documents are stored and retrieved electronically, meaning the online conveyancing process has become faster and cheaper.Delays can still occur in online conveyancing, however, if the searches reveal unexpected information and further investigation or queries are needed.

First-time buyers new to conveyancing services should ask for a detailed breakdown of any conveyancing quote to make sure that they know what they will be getting as part of the agreed conveyancing deal, as extras can be added.

These might include extras for telephone calls or postage, photocopying or even the conveyancer’s professional liability insurance cover. Any extra work required might also be charged at an hourly rate and before agreeing to a conveyancing service, it is best to make sure extra work will be charged at a set rate and this is agreed in advance of any conveyancing work starting.

Home buyers should also make sure that if the online conveyancer they choose is not CQS approved, there is a traceable landline phone number and a dedicated member of the firm’s conveyancing team is available in case it is necessary to speak to the conveyancer at any stage of the process.

Most conveyancing goes smoothly, however, and with online conveyancing, homebuyers are able to check the progress of their conveyancing via an online client account which will be updated regularly showing how matters are progressing.

If you are unsure about any firm of conveyancers you have obtained a quote from, check with the Law Society that the firm is registered in England or Wales; or if the firm is not a solicitor but a firm of licensed conveyancers, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) will be able to advise further.

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Category: Online Conveyancing

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