In yet another ‘lockdown special’ we caught up with Chris Salmon, Operations Director at Quittance Legal services to find out what impact COVID-19 is having on the conveyancing process.
Q1: The property market has more or less come to a standstill during the lockdown, what have you been doing to fill your time?
For years, we’ve argued that clients should instruct a conveyancing solicitor as early as possible in the process, even before an offer is accepted. Under lockdown, this argument is truer now than ever.
We’ve spent our time spreading the message that the market “standstill” is something of a media creation. By completing property forms, sourcing managing agents packs and other paperwork and drafting contracts, sellers, in particular, can front-load the legal process. This will save considerable time when they do find a buyer.
Q2: How do you think the property market will react once lockdown measures are eased? Will we see an immediate bounce back or a more gradual increase?
The consensus is that the pent-up demand that emerged shortly after the 2019 election will gradually resume.
It’s very likely that in-progress transactions will suffer a logjam as capacity challenged property services firms struggle to fulfil a rush of requests for searches, surveys and managing agent information. We anticipate significant delays for up to a few months after the lockdown eases.
Q3: What do you expect the long-term effects of the lockdown to be on the property market and conveyancing process? Will it change anything?
Conveyancing has been gradually moving away from the traditional high street model to a remote working, cloud-based service.
For many firms, the lockdown has created the perfect test conditions for rolling out homeworking generally. The results have been very positive.
Conveyancing is a low margin business and firms will seek to restructure to take advantage of the cost savings offered by homeworking.
Overall, COVID-19 has accelerated emerging trends in the sector rather than prompted a revolution.
Q4: Is there anything those looking to move in the near future should be doing now, in order to prepare?
If you are on or are thinking of going on the market, we’re pushing the concept of “legal kerb appeal”. Sellers will be entering a buyers market, and must do everything they can to improve their chances not only of finding a buyer, but also completing the sale.
“Legal kerb appeal” refers to the things you can do to identify and resolve issues before they become legal problems during the conveyancing process.
For example, if the property has a roof terrace without planning permission, the buyer’s solicitor will pick this up. Instead, the seller’s solicitor can identify a suitable indemnity policy and offer it as part of the sale. This proactive approach will reassure buyers and avoid delays later in the process.
Q5: What would you say is the single most important thing people should consider when choosing a conveyancing solicitor?
Proactive communication. What you want is a solicitor that will drive the process forward, chase other parties up and down the chain, and anticipate and resolve issues before they become problems.
It’s difficult to identify a solicitor’s approach to client communication before you instruct, but there are clues. Ask yourself: Do they respond quickly? Do they offer direct phone numbers and use email (as opposed to snail mail)? Are you able to speak to someone knowledgeable before you instruct? Did they seem engaged?
Q6: Tell us a little bit about Quittance Legal Services, where did the name come from?
We wanted something a little memorable. The word “quittance” was used in a legal context for centuries, but has fallen out of everyday use. There was an opportunity for us to own the word as a brand.
It’s an old-fashioned word that we hope resonates with clients who are looking for “old-fashioned” personal service values.
Quittance was founded around a mission to add certainty and speed while reducing stress in the home buying and selling process. We’re achieving this by combining the best of the traditional, client-focused approach with the efficiencies offered by technology.
Q7: And what about your role within the company? What does a typical (pre-lockdown!) day look like for you?
It’s a cliche, but there was no such thing as a typical day, before or during lockdown.
My role is to implement and oversee processes to achieve the best possible outcomes for clients. That could mean optimising the content and information journey for clients on one day, working to provide a better website user experience on another, or handling specific enquiries from clients in more unusual circumstances.
Q8: What would you say to someone considering using Quittance, what makes you stand out? Why should they choose you?
Quittance believes that empathy, professionalism and an uncompromising focus on results are all key parts of a first-class legal service.
Above all, it is proactive, regular communication that makes the difference between a stressful experience and actually enjoying some peace of mind.
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