At Austin Property Services, we’ve witnessed the heightened level of demand for homes relating to the stamp duty holiday. However, with so many people looking to move, there is a strong chance a backlog will occur.
A property transaction has many parts, all which need to be concluded. Also, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, many transactions take longer to conclude. This is why so many bodies are calling for an extension to the stamp duty holiday.
Simon Law, incoming chair of the Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC) said; “Conveyancers are currently dealing with an unprecedented set of circumstances which are constraining the ability to progress transactions. The property market is seeing volumes not experienced since the recession, caused by a backlog of transactions from the period of lockdown, and many people re-appraising where they want to live as a result of the covid-19 epidemic. This is compounded by the current SDLT ‘holiday’ on property purchases under £500,000 which has added fuel to the fire. This and the impact of Covid-19 on the legal profession has resulted in conveyancers being stretched to the limit.”
Delays are caused by external parties
While the level of demand is causing a problem, the need for work to be completed by outside parties is an issue too. Rob Hailstone is the founder of the Bold Legal Group (BLG) has discussed this issue.
Rob said; “It is not just the demand side that is creating a challenge to the conveyancing profession, but also the dependence on outside parties to progress transactions. Covid-19 restrictions mean that many local authorities are operating under extreme difficulties and this has affected their ability to supply their own searches and also to provide access to data for personal search companies. In addition, many mortgage lenders are experiencing delays in supplying offer letters and the valuer profession is also under extreme pressure.”
Conveyancing delays can slow the process
The problems experienced by conveyancers are outlined in an email which Hailstone received on from a BLG member. The email read; “There are delays with searches, surveys, mortgage offers and pretty much every other aspect of the process. Chasing, on the face of it seems sensible, but the more we chase people the more they get distracted. You might get put to the top of the pile for a few moments but doesn’t seem to last for long.”
Lloyd Davies is the Operations Director at the Conveyancing Association, and he said; “Being able to plan for the current market circumstances has been an enormous challenge. The impact of Covid-19 created a vacuum of activity which has been followed by a tidal wave of property instructions. Not surprisingly during lockdown, most law firms furloughed many of their staff and indeed there were some redundancies. As the lockdown restrictions were lifted, firms were faced with the challenge of making work places Covid secure which inevitably meant that fewer employees could be accommodated at their place of work.”
Lloyd continued by saying; “The challenge then has been to choreograph home working alongside those back in the office with all the challenges that brings. Whilst firms have performed wonders in making such arrangements work it is inevitable that maintaining productivity is a real challenge, and of course allowance has to be made for the fact that unfortunately some employees have been affected by the disease.”