In July 2022, Smoove, a company that provides revolutionary software to the conveyancing sector, released its inaugural Home Mover’s Report. According to Smoove, the good news is that the market is booming, with home buying activity rising significantly over the past year. New conveyancing instructions are up by an average of 36% year-on-year, and first-time buyer instructions are up by around 54%. However, the sector is struggling to meet this demand, with many firms suffering from capacity constraints. And, when you add rising inflation to the mix, consumers face mounting legal and homebuyer survey costs (the average legal fee has increased 11% to around £1,413).
Adding to buyer and seller woes, despite some industry-wide advances to modernise the home moving process, the report doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the failings of our “broken” system. Highlighting a range of conveyancing inefficiencies and pain points, Smoove reveals that “nine in ten people find the process of moving home stressful”. Furthermore, in a finding that grabbed attention across both property and national media, according to Smoove, a staggering one in three house purchases fell through during 2020-21, leaving prospective buyers out of pocket by around £2,000 when a sale collapsed.
Here are some of the report’s other key findings.
- At no stage in the buying and selling process do people feel utterly secure that their transaction will take place (until contracts are exchanged)
- The sheer time it takes to complete the process is the key reason why people find home moving stressful (40%)
- Other stress factors include uncertainty during the process (34%) and waiting for exchange and completion dates to be finalised (33%)
- 55% of homeowners are unlikely to move again within the next five years
- 19% would choose a different solicitor firm or estate agent when they next move home
- The average time between instruction and completion takes over five months (an increase of 23% from 2019).
While overall (61%) homeowners are satisfied with their soliciting firm, a key takeaway from the report is that, when it comes to delivering a system fit for purpose, conveyancing has a long way to go. The time needed to complete forms is a particular aggravation for homeowners. The antiquated, analogue process is letting down consumers, estate agents and conveyancers, and there is simply too much paperwork and not enough automation.
While there are predictions of falling house prices, the property market is booming despite soaring prices and rising interest rates. And according to Smoove, with the removal of affordability stress tests and potentially falling prices (at least to a degree), the market is unlikely to fall below buoyant pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. But there are not enough solicitors to service demand.
Furthermore, with conveyancers receiving around four queries per instruction, often requiring a detailed response, any increase in demand will only hold up the transaction process further. So, if the sector does nothing to help conveyancers cope with an increase in clients, service levels will drop, leading to more delays and greater frustrations.
But there are ways providers to the property industry can better support the sector. According to the report, “one way to reduce costs and stress for all parties would be to digitise some of the legal processes, giving back time to conveyancers to focus on legal insight and client support”. Indeed, using technology to better support conveyancers is one way to minimise stress levels, expedite paperwork, alleviate pain points, and potentially reduce the number of transactions falling through. And, as firms start (or continue) their digital transformation journeys, Smoove provides some insight to pinpoint where to focus resources.
Highlighting the key things people look for in their solicitor, Smoove found that, in addition to cost (42%), the critical factors for buyers and sellers are:
- Quality (38%)
- Length of time to complete (36%)
- Speed of communication (35%)
- Clarity of communication (31%)
- Reputation (25%)
- Ease of process (22%)
Firms that want to better appeal to clients, while making things easier for employees, should look at what they can do to streamline and improve in these areas. And, as conveyancers and estate agents struggle due to capacity issues, it is vital that those creating solutions for the sector take the time to listen to firms and find out what it is they need to help support them more. Because, we all have a role to play when it comes to addressing the “fundamental systemic issues with the home moving market”.
Legal Eye is a subsidiary company of Smoove plc.