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Have an opinion about buying houses in England?

(21 Posts)
Nessalina Mon 23-Oct-17 07:06:06

The government are giving the public just eight weeks to give their opinion on what should be improved about the buying/selling process in England.

Please take 5 minutes to add your opinion to the survey - if you've bought or sold recently you'll know what an absolute bag of shite the current system is!!

IMHO the requirement for solicitors to use email for all correspondence (with all parties copied in!) should be absolutely mandatory...

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/improving-the-home-buying-and-selling-process-call-for-evidence

wowfudge Mon 23-Oct-17 07:30:14

Hmm - what do you mean by all parties? Also, what about those people who don't have access to email?

Nessalina Mon 23-Oct-17 07:39:43

If people don't have access to email, then obviously snail mail would be the only option, but I'd say this should be disclosed at point of offer as it will inevitably hold up the conveyancing process. There's very few people who genuinely don't^^ have access to email these days, though there are people who choose not to access it, which is short sighted IMHO when it could significantly speed up enquiries etc in the conveyancing process.
By 'all parties' I mean, if my solicitor emails my vendors solicitors with an enquiry, then I should be copied in (so I know what's been asked and I know that the ball is in my vendors / vendors solicitors court) and the vendor should also be copied in for the same reason. Currently if a solicitor has an enquiry, they post it to the other solicitors, so a) the interested parties do not have sight of it, and b) they do not know when it has been received/read, and if the enquiry needs the response of the vendor then their solicitors still have to get in touch with them.
With email it could all be resolved in hours instead of days.

These are just my opinions btw, the whole point of the survey is to give your own, especially if they don't agree with mine so you can have your 2p worth wink

LazyDailyMailJournos Mon 23-Oct-17 08:05:46

Wowfudge I'd say that access to email now should be a rarity rather than the norm. And given that e-conveyancing would significantly speed up the process and save money, it would be worthwhile signing up to a free email account just for that purpose.

I agree with what Ness has said about disclosing suitable channels of communication. At the risk of sounding cold-blooded if I had a choice between two buyers in similar situations but one had email and one didn't, then I'd go for the email every time. We're currently in the middle of pass-the-message-on hell and have so far wasted 3 weeks because of it - an e-conveyancing platform where all parties received email updates would have avoided the issue we're now trying to deal with.

As far as I am concerned the reform of our buying and selling system can't come quick enough.

Spickle Mon 23-Oct-17 08:55:11

One of the problems with everyone having access to the emails sending across enquiries and responses is that a lot of the enquiries are of a legal nature and many clients do not understand the terminology (not saying all!). When we have copied in clients to email correspondence, it seems to create further panic and stress with buyers and sellers getting very upset that there could be something wrong with the property. If you find it stressful now, I don't think copying every email to you is the answer. You are paying a conveyancing expert to look over the documents and make sure you are purchasing a good property - if everyone was able to pitch in (whether or not they have legal experience), it would take longer and longer to sort out. Plus, the lender also appoints the solicitor to act for them so a certain amount of correspondence between the solicitor and lender about your mortgage is done, for which you really shouldn't have access too.

Our firm does have a tracker system designed to help our clients know what has been done and what is still to do. Still doesn't stop our clients phoning in every day looking for progress reports.

One thing that would help would be that every seller completes the Fixtures & Fittings form, Property Info Form and Leasehold Info Form and lodges these forms with the EA so a prospective buyer can look through these prior to making an offer. You then at least have more knowledge of the property. Also, sellers of leasehold properties need to be made aware that no matter how much information they hold from the Management Company, they will need to provide (and pay for) a Management Pack. This costs somewhere between £200 and £400 pounds which is why some sellers are reluctant to pay for it if they are not sure about the commitment of the buyer. However, the transaction cannot progress without it, so I think it would be a good idea if the Management Packs were obtained much earlier on. The difficulty is that they quickly become out of date, but sellers need to know that they are required and they do have to pay for them and the earlier the better.

EAs do need to make sure that the sales particulars reflect the true picture. This is especially true of parking spaces, length of lease and whether the shed is part of the sale, an optional extra or it's going with the sellers to their new place. I have been looking at flats with my son and the amount of EAs who don't know how long the lease is or whether the parking is allocated or not is unbelievable. I know I can download the Lease from Land Registry, but how simple would it be to include this with the sales particulars? How can you make an offer based on not knowing these important facts?

I do understand that the process needs to be shortened. I would say though that a lot of the delays in the early stages are down to the client not returning forms promptly, not paying for official copies from the Land Registry, not paying for searches, not providing documentary evidence of work done etc etc. While I may be stating the obvious, it's obvious many clients still do not understand this. It's important to note also that when you receive letters/emails from solicitors that you read them! Believe it or not, many people don't, including the Client Care letters at the beginning which sets out what you have signed up for!

LazyDailyMailJournos Mon 23-Oct-17 09:02:48

I don't think all emails should be copied to everyone - so I agree with you there Spickle. What I'm suggesting is an online system where there is a certain amount of status updating and information - and that any changes/updates on the system are notified to all parties by way of an email alert.

So if one firm has updated its status to say "Searches received - queries raised" then everyone would be alerted to the change. It would save 99% of the chasing phone calls where people want to know what's going on. It wouldn't involve giving people too much information (as I agree, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing!). But introducing this, along with a time and date stamp of when the status was updated, means that any chasing can be focused accurately - rather than the game of pass the message on that we currently have to go through.

Spickle Mon 23-Oct-17 09:08:36

Our firm already does this. Searches received - queries raised etc etc. Doesn't stop the phone calls. The problem is we can let our clients know what is happening at our end, but of course they want to know what is happening at the top of the chain/bottom of the chain and we don't know.

LazyDailyMailJournos Mon 23-Oct-17 13:30:14

Which is why a common platform which everyone is signed up to, would address this. So if I sign on using my unique details (issued by my conveyancing firm) I would be able to see the status of each 'link' in the chain. No sensitive personal or confidential detail - just fields in relation to each name showing the statuses I mentioned in my last post. That way each client can see precisely who is doing what - and who still has things outstanding and the date it was last actioned.

The biggest issue for me is the lack of transparency. I thought I was in a chain of four. I only found out 2 weeks ago that there is someone else at the top of the chain because my vendor's EA lied to me - and that detail only came out when I started pushing for a reason as to why we couldn't exchange contracts. Turns out that the mystery person at the top of the chain isn't ready - but I have zero visibility of when the outstanding query was last looked at or what the conveyancer at the top is doing to push it along. All this despite the fact that 4 other people are ready to go and living out of suitcases because they are waiting for a date.

Instead we have to do a daily round of phone calls up and down the chain to relay information - some of which invariably gets lost in translation. So my starting query of "what date did you last chase this and please ring again today" ends up being relayed as "they want an update" and I get another day of being fobbed off with "we're dealing with it" but no specifics!! The hours and time wasted on this are ridiculous - it's such an inefficient and unproductive way of doing things! At least if I had an online portal to view, I could be reminding my solicitor that they need to put pressure on because the status update hasn't moved for 10 days...

wowfudge Mon 23-Oct-17 14:26:08

Good communication doesn't have to mean by email. Signing up for a free email account is no good if you do not have broadband or a smart phone either. I know it's become the norm, but there are still many people who are not online.

I agree with @Spickle over not copying emails to everyone and that having the forms filled out to form part of the sales pack would be a great idea. Our vendors took ages to complete the forms and did a half-assed job too.

Pixiedust1973 Mon 23-Oct-17 15:24:59

Done. Boy thats a long survey. I had a LOT to put down!

Nessalina Mon 23-Oct-17 17:42:48

Yes, there's really no reason why a Property Information Form shouldn't be completed in advance of marketing a property. F&F is a bit harder - we didn't know what we were taking until we knew what we were buying!

LazyDailyMailJournos Mon 23-Oct-17 18:32:51

Wow sorry I'm not making myself clear I think. I don't mean to rely upon email specifically as the only form of communication, but for email alerts being triggered by an online platform to inform people's communication.

At the moment I am completely dependent on phone calls with my conveyancing firm to tell me what the hell's going on with anything. A good 50% of those phone calls could be cut out if I had access to something online to tell me what stage everyone else was at. Then the phone calls that I do make to my conveyancer are specific - and therefore more effective and efficient because I'm not having to ring for general updates.

We were lucky with our property info form in that we got it quite quickly - I do agree this should be something done as a matter of course though and there should be a minimum standard of completion.

The whole thing is a shitfest from start to finish and I don't think anybody 'gains' from it being the way it is. My EA hates the system, my solicitor loathes it, our vendors are pissed off and we're on the verge of a meltdown!!

Spickle Mon 23-Oct-17 19:20:32

One of the issues with having an online portal with updates from all parties is as you have stated above Lazy - I could be reminding my solicitor that they need to put pressure on because the status update hasn't moved for 10 days.... Solicitors know how to do their job and will not appreciate their clients reminding them.... Bearing in mind most solicitors are dealing with hundreds of transactions, this kind of interference will not be welcomed.

This involvement reminds me of the days when children went to school and parents were largely excluded from the classroom and approaching teachers, except at an open evening. Nowadays, parents are involved in every aspect of their children's schooling which may benefit the parent, but not necessarily the school.

The same seems to be happening with conveyancing. More and more clients have a little knowledge of the process and then think that they are "helping and doing the work" instead of the solicitor. Actually clients can hinder the process rather than progress it. I do understand the need for a swift transaction and if emailing and scanning documents helps in this respect, then I'm all for it, but we do communicate a large portion of our work this way in any case. Obviously we do have a proportion of clients who are elderly (house being sold as the owner has gone into a home, and/or died) and relatives of the owner may not know much about the property or are unable to provide documents requested. They also may prefer to send things by post or vice versa. Just one person in the chain like this will hold the whole chain up. As time goes on, this will shift as many people can and do have email and internet access and this will increase year on year.

We all realise that the process of buying and selling needs to be simpler and I am in favour of transactions being binding at a much earlier stage and gazumping to become illegal, but client involvement has to be managed properly. Certainly the idea of a portal where all parties can view the updates from each other may be possible. What would not be possible however, is for clients to be able to comment on the portal as this would be a breach of confidentiality between solicitor and client.

I also think EAs may become extinct apart from the online ones in the future. It is expensive to have High Street windows, and the competition from online Estate Agents is gaining in popularity. It will become much cheaper to sell your home but the personal service you get now will disappear. So that will be internet based. Whether an online agent will telephone up and down the chain to pass on information and provide updates is debatable, which might stop the scaremongering or might mean you're kept further in the dark.

In the "olden days", once you instructed a (local) solicitor to act on your conveyancing matter, you generally left them to get on with it and they contacted you to go and sign things as and when they were ready. The client was very much led by them, was kept in the dark, and didn't argue or moan about how long it was taking (approx. 6 months). By contrast though, it was very much less stressful. Worth thinking about, don't you think?

HarryPottersBroomstick Mon 23-Oct-17 19:35:50

Email can be and is hacked by fraudsters. Many specifically look out for and monitor emails which may be conveyancing transactions and provide a "change" of bank details allowing the money to go to the fraudster instead.

Depending on the circumstances the solicitor (or their insurance) is not always liable.

So email is not always better. CHECK with your solicitor if you receive an email like this.

LazyDailyMailJournos Mon 23-Oct-17 19:49:07

Solicitors know how to do their job and will not appreciate their clients reminding them.... Bearing in mind most solicitors are dealing with hundreds of transactions, this kind of interference will not be welcomed

But that only works when everyone is as effective as you. And they aren't.

In my situation I was told, right up until the Friday before, that I was completing on the 16th - and yet a week later I am still living out of suitcases. So I don't think it's unreasonable to be on the phone every day wanting an update. I tried the nice and soft approach - left a message for my solicitor to ring me back and trusted the message that I received that she'd be in touch before the end of the day. A week later I caved in and rang her again - at which point she freely admitted that she would always prioritise the people who were persistently chasing her. Being nice and understanding simply got me put to the bottom of the pile.

It's taken 6 years of working 2 jobs and a lot of overtime to get to this stage - this is literally our life savings that we are spending. Every day of delay costs me additional money and I can't afford to start again. I understand what it's like to be chased and to have legal processes to go through - I deal with it in my working life. The difference is that I return phone calls when I say I will and - crucially - I don't lie or fudge the truth when speaking with people.

Anything that introduces more transparency can only be a good thing. As you've already said, your firm provides online updates - so all firms being signed up to the same process can only be a good thing. It means that the light would be shined upon firms who aren't doing what they should be and would provide some reassurance to the buyers and vendors in the chain.

I know you're speaking from your professional standpoint and I am sure that you are your firm do a great job. You'll have to forgive me if I sound tetchy; I have been at this for 6 months now, with no end date in sight and vendors at the top of the chain who don't give a shit about the effect on the rest of us and their solicitors - who refuse to release any information to anyone (including their buyers' solicitor) about what they are doing and what stage they've reached. I have a constantly upset stomach, I'm not sleeping properly and my hair is - no joke - falling out. To the point I wish I'd never put my property on the market.

bilbodog Mon 23-Oct-17 20:45:35

Ive just filled in the form.

ForalltheSaints Mon 23-Oct-17 20:58:54

I think we should adopt the same as Scottish law for house sales, unless someone can come up with something better.

Nessalina Mon 23-Oct-17 21:07:18

In the "olden days", once you instructed a (local) solicitor to act on your conveyancing matter, you generally left them to get on with it and they contacted you to go and sign things as and when they were ready. The client was very much led by them, was kept in the dark, and didn't argue or moan about how long it was taking (approx. 6 months). By contrast though, it was very much less stressful. Worth thinking about, don't you think?

This was definitely how my first purchase 11yrs ago happened, we just did as we were told by our solicitors! But I do think times have changed incredibly in that time, and people no longer have the patience for things that take forever and that they have no control over. Social media and endlessly available internet means that people have shorter attention spans and much much less patience than ever before, and I think solicitors do need to move with the times or conveyancing (just like estate agents) will gradually move to online platforms with greater transparency and convenience to the client.
I've been using PPL for my sale and purchase, and it's been excellent. Everything updated in real time on the portal, down to showing calls and emails made by my conveyancer (not the content, just the fact that it's happened!). So easy to upload and view documents and all enquiry paperwork is viewable and responses are uploaded. It's definitely the future! And it's not been stressful at all because I know what's happening, and anyone in the office will take my calls and be bang up to date. Unfortunately the other party's solicitors have been causing the log jam by completely failing to pass on communications by my solicitors hmm

MillieMoodle Mon 23-Oct-17 22:15:44

Spickle I completely agree with everything you have said.

Another conveyancing solicitor here and I think that most clients genuinely don't have a clue how much pressure we are under. The likes of online conveyancing firms have driven legal fees down further and further so that we are having to take on more and more files in order to be profitable. That slows the process down in itself, as we can only do so much in a day.

People are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a property to have the legal paperwork glanced over by a non-qualified 'legal assistant' because it'll only cost them £300. Then when the shit hits the fan and they need an actual lawyer to unravel the mess that's been made, they can't understand why it'll cost money and take time to sort out. I understand the frustration with the conveyancing process though - it's incredibly stressful for everyone involved but it shouldn't and doesn't need to be.

I absolutely agree that the whole conveyancing process needs a complete overhaul. But I also think firms offering conveyancing services need to ensure that files are dealt with or at the very least, properly overseen and supervised by, a qualified lawyer. The standard of some of the legal work I have seen is utterly shocking. The lack of understanding of legal issues, the lack of ability to take a pragmatic approach and even the lack of understanding of the conveyancing process itself are problems I come across on a daily basis when dealing with other conveyancing firms. I often find other firms won't engage in trying to solve a problem that has arisen on a transaction because they don't know what to do or where to start.

I just hope that when the process is overhauled, the government listens to the professionals involved in it before they make any drastic changes. Their previous interventions have been disastrous - help to buy being a prime example. Masses of red tape and administration, an area which is open to abuse of the regulations and the only extra we're allowed to charge is £50 plus VAT for probably 4-5 hours work.

scrabbler3 Mon 23-Oct-17 23:04:33

I really like some of these ideas. We definitely need to be making better use of technology.

Never scrimp on solicitors. My eagle eyed solicitor spotted a problem buried in small print that saved me a ton of money. No way would some "legal executive" have done that.

ScrubbyGarden Tue 24-Oct-17 13:07:04

Agree with millie! My excellent, and not bargain basement, solicitor came in at less than the estate agents fee (which was the lowest I could get, shopping round and bargaining) This doesn't seem like the right way round!

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