I’ve never really been interested in playing ‘the blame game’ when it comes to determining who might be responsible for delays in the property purchasing process.
Ultimately there is generally a combination of factors that all go to contribute towards the timescale for exchange and completion being lengthier than we would like. However, this doesn’t appear to stop some in the industry attempting to lay the blame at the door of, quite frankly, anyone who isn’t them.
Last week I came across the word ‘slowlicitors’ being used to describe a view of the conveyancing profession. It was being put out there by a group of estate agents to describe their view of conveyancing solicitors who they believe are holding up property transactions because of a perceived lack of resource which is adversely impacting on the whole process.
In effect, in this world view solicitors have not got to grips with the increase in property transactions since the middle of last year, have failed to bring in enough staff to cope with this greater workload, and therefore clients (and no doubt estate agents) are suffering as a result.
While I don’t whole-heartedly subscribe to this view I do believe that many of the smaller conveyancing solicitors are struggling with the new environment and having cut their cloth accordingly when the bottom fell out of the property market five/six years ago they have not been willing or able to add resource in order to deal with any uptick. My own view is that the bigger conveyancing operators are however coping and have put in place structures, process and recruitment drives in order to solve their own resource issues.
I think therefore it is somewhat unfair to put the blame for delayed transaction times squarely at the door of conveyancing solicitors. There are of course resource issues across the board – valuers, surveyors, perhaps even advisers are in shorter supply than they were pre-credit crunch by a large amount and there were always going to be issues when the market eventually picked up.
That pick-up can probably be traced back to the middle of last year and I have some sympathy with firms taking a view in 2013 that they were going to see if this improvement was a temporary blip or something with legs. Thankfully, it appears to be the latter and therefore I see no reason why firms are not looking to up their resources if their business levels have improved and their process times have lengthened.
The big question for brokers recommending conveyancing firms of course is whether they have the knowledge about which firms are suffering resource issues and which are not.
The last thing you want is a client going off to use a family solicitor that has one conveyancing specialist who just so happen to be on holiday at the moment with no-one else able to work on the case. Brokers need to use fully resourced solicitors otherwise they run the risk of being next in line to be blamed should the case not proceed as intended.
Harpal Singh is managing director of Broker Conveyancing