January usually sees conveyancers taking stock – with spring in prospect, new instructions start to trickle in after the hectic pre-Christmas period. But – like the world generally – this year is different.
I know I am returning to an already busy caseload which will stay that way until at least March. The south west property market was one of the most active in England & Wales throughout 2020, stimulated by the stamp duty holiday and by people rethinking lifestyles and living arrangements due to Covid and lockdowns. Agents, surveyors, local authorities, conveyancers, lenders and removal companies remain under huge pressure to get transactions completed in challenging and extraordinary circumstances.
With this in mind, here is my New Year’s conveyancer’s wish list:
- An early indication from the Chancellor – ideally, before his 3 March budget – as to whether he will stick to the current ‘drop dead’ end date for the stamp duty holiday of 31 March 2021 or will extend or phase it out. We need clarity and certainty, as soon as possible.
- A crystal ball to predict with certainty when transactions will conclude. They have many moving parts and everyone must do their bit: conveyancers for both parties; surveyors; lenders, local authorities and even clients themselves.
- A magic wand. With one wave, lenders will answer phones instantly, local and other search results will pop into my inbox and the other party’s conveyancer will respond promptly without being chased.
Without the above, here are some ways that clients can help themselves:
- Be prepared. If you are selling, find paperwork from when you bought even before you market your property. Ask your conveyancer ahead of accepting an offer to prepare the contract pack. If you are buying, fill in engagement paperwork, provide ID, proof of address and money on account swiftly. Our regulators require this before we can start acting: valuable time is often lost while clients delay. Ensure you apply for mortgage funds at the first opportunity.
- Be patient. Conveyancers generally deal with over 50 or 60 matters concurrently, often more. Constant telephone interruptions for updates cause delays for all our clients so email is best. Your conveyancer will progress your matter and keep you informed of key milestones.
- Be realistic. Pre- 2020, the predicted timescale for a property transaction was around 8 – 12 weeks, more with long chains. Home working for many lenders’ staff and local authority staff continues, with surveyors and agents operating under greater restrictions. Clients themselves are at risk of having to isolate or being furloughed. Timescales are accordingly less predictable and harder to achieve.
If everyone plays their part and communication is good, we can achieve the best outcome for you at the earliest opportunity. Moving has always been a stressful business but never more so than now!