Improving the Home Purchase Process

How law firms can take ownership

There have been multiple attempts to improve the home purchase process. Most have failed but there are, finally, signs of progress from the emergence of an array of ‘prop-tech’ start-ups through to some compelling proposals from the Home Buyers and Sellers Group.

Whilst encouraging, it will be hard to secure widespread adoption of new working practices across a siloed transaction that is governed by multiple regulators, hamstrung by conflicting commercial interests and typically generates low margins. And that’s just some of the challenges that those who are trying to drive change, face. It is, therefore, likely to be several years before we see the universal adoption of some of the more recent proposals.

In the meantime, savvy law firms are recognising that they can, independently, improve the consumer experience of a property transaction and that it makes commercial sense to do so.

Why hasn’t the conveyancing process evolved?

Conveyancing has, in many instances become so low cost, that it is in effect a ‘lost leader’. The principle of a lost leader is based on the theory that you secure a customer with a great offer and then having undertaken one deal, you sell them a higher margin product or service.  Unfortunately many law firms have forgotten the second part of the equation and are conveyancing hundreds of matters a year, at a loss, with no likelihood of, or strategy for recouping the loss from the consumer by selling them another service.

Managed well, conveyancing represents a great opportunity to upsell; to generate referrals from satisfied clients and to boost increasingly important trust pilot rankings. Over time this can help reduce reliance on lower margin referred business.  For those firms that rely on referrers, the ability to demonstrate, to referrers, that the firm’s client service makes a tangible difference to transaction times, reduces abort rates and results in a happy customer, is becoming more important in an increasingly competitive market.

However the challenges associated with re-engineering a low margin process, dealing with the challenge of legacy systems, securing internal support for change and aligning innovation with regulatory requirements has meant that many law firms have struggled to justify the often complex and expensive process of adopting technology that makes a tangible difference to the consumer experience.

A simple solution 

The emergence of ‘off the shelf’ consumer portals, like tmconnect, is making it easier for law firms to rapidly adopt platforms that have a positive impact on the consumer but also enhance efficiency, freeing up conveyancers to offer valued advice rather than dealing with  myriad low level tasks that can be managed via a portal that also provides consumers with meaningful updates on their transaction.

Well-designed portals also provide a secure environment for the completion of documents and key stages in the conveyancing process from anti-money laundering checks through to search ordering.  Furthermore, choosing the right provider can mean that a law firm gets invaluable advice from a partner with technology and property transaction know how meaning that some of the challenges, for example integration with legacy systems can be easily overcome.

The drive for change does not end with a consumer portal

Those reading this article will be all too aware of the fact that residential property transactions in England and Wales don’t work as efficiently as they should.  Consumer portals won’t, in isolation, mend a broken process which is why we are proactively working with all the key stakeholders in the property transaction to lobby for change and to help property professionals align myriad solutions and systems to provide a better consumer experience.

We are encouraged by the output from the Home Buyers and Sellers Group and we are actively working on initiatives that improve the collection and distribution of data at both the start of and throughout a transaction.   However we do see regulation and the challenges of aligning the systems of multiple parties as a barrier to delivering really meaningful improvements, particularly in areas such as Anti-Money Laundering.

There is and will continue to be a real need for all those involved in delivering and regulating property transactions to work together to deliver a truly streamlined process which allows property professionals to provide valuable and meaningful advice where it’s needed to those who need it most.

About tmconnect

Developed by tmgroup, the UK’s leading provider of property searches for over 20 years, tmconnect is a secure and customisable conveyancing platform that allows multiple parties to access and share one view of a transaction.

With thanks to Emma Vigus, CCO, tmgroup

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