The role conveyancers have to play after lockdown

Peter Joseph, - The Moving Hub
19th May 2020

As the UK prepares for the re-opening of the economy, many conveyancers are starting to wonder what the future looks like after lockdown.

Although no one can be certain what lies ahead for the property market as a whole, there is no doubt that there will be changes that have a lasting effect. These changes will affect buyers, sellers, conveyancing firms, estate agents, surveyors, and every other person within the property market.

In order to stay ahead, it is important to be prepared for a post-lockdown world, whatever it may bring. This means being guided by the Government in terms of all regulations and requirements and staying abreast of trends in buying and selling, especially when it comes to assisting clients through these uncertain times. Buyers and sellers turn to conveyancers in the expectation that they are able to answer the many questions they may have on how lockdown and its after-effects will impact property transactions. When guidelines are followed, the sales and purchase process can be done in a way that guides current and future transactions.

Similar to the 'Boris Bounce' that occurred after Brexit, a surge in purchases and sales is expected after lockdown comes to an end. This comes down to numerous factors, from buyers waiting to complete their purchase to those looking to upgrade to a property offering office space for remote work. While it is still too early to say what will happen once the market reopens, having some idea of how to approach post-lockdown conveyancing and specifically the role that conveyancers will need to play will greatly help.

The role of conveyancers after lockdown

Some of the challenges that conveyancers may experience when the market reopens include:

· A surge of completions and exchanges that have been stuck in the pipeline during lockdown;

· Communication bottlenecks resulting from closed firms and firms inundated with exchanges and completions;

· Agents and panels struggling to get completions to speed up the process and increase cashflow;

· Teams trying to get up to speed on files after coming back from furlough;

· Outdated files resulting from reduced staff, untouched files or paused transactions;

· An increase in enquiries across all legal areas;

· Reduced cash flows, depleted reserves, delayed furlough payments, increased wages as staff return to work, rent payments, and other unforeseen costs.

While navigating these challenges, conveyancers will also need to continue to support the sales and purchase process, setting clients' minds at ease and helping them complete transactions. This can be done by continuing to support unoccupied property sales wherever possible, supporting clients needing to change dates to complete transactions on occupied properties over lockdown, advise clients not to exchange contracts on occupied

properties until provision has been made to minimise risks posed by COVID-19, and, wherever possible, prioritise support for clients self-isolating to arrange new dates under their current circumstances. The Moving Hub will continue to help wherever we can, through our comprehensive conveyancing panel that brings together estate agents, financial advisors and mortgage lenders together.

Will Choosing a Solicitor Change Forever?

The economy is set to open again after lockdown ends in early May. For the property market, this means moving forward after a long pause on all completions and transactions. It remains to be seen exactly how the property market will be affected after the impact of lockdown is finally realised. What we do know, however, is that there are likely to be many changes in the process of buying and selling property.

Over the course of lockdown, the Government has put numerous measures in place. These include moving house unless it is strictly needed and even then, moving only into unoccupied property. Various other regulations were also in place, such as a pause on non-urgent surveys in occupied property, agents and solicitors working remotely, and many other requirements designed to protect clients, agents, and solicitors. Social distancing has paved the way for an entirely new way of transacting, which may well open up new opportunities for viewings and even valuations.

A new era in property soliciting

When lockdown was officially announced and put into place, property transactions effectively came to a halt. All UK residents were instructed to stay home, whether they were clients, agents, solicitors or any other party in the property market. The Government gave specific instructions to those in the process of purchasing or selling, advising them to pause all transaction where it was possible – especially when it came to occupied properties. In the case of occupied properties, buyers and sellers were encouraged to agree on alternative moving dates. In the case of unoccupied properties, transactions were permitted, provided basic precautions were followed. As property was not listed under essential services, the result was a resounding pause across the entire industry.

Now that lockdown is coming to an end, this pause is expected to result in a spike in property transactions. Completions put on pause will be able to continue and many new properties are predicted to be added to the market. There are a few reasons for this, including the fact that there will be a rise in remote work, with more people seeking property that can be adapted to include home offices.

Another unfortunate reason for the boom will be the 'Christmas effect'. This occurs when families spend an extraordinary amount of time together over a timeframe such as Christmas or enforced lockdown. When this happens, the divorce rate sadly spikes, leading to an increase in sales as couples look to move. For those considering property purchases or sales, there has been a big wait while the market was paused. Once lockdown is lifted, it is

predicted that this pause will result in a surge of listings over the next few weeks as buyers and sellers are finally able to make transactions.

What does this mean when it comes to choosing solicitors?

For starters, it means looking at those who can work within the current property climate and also think ahead. Along with the surges expected to take place after lockdown, there will be new ways of transacting. Emerging trends such as virtual viewings and valuations are just one example. This could be the first step that potential buyers will take in a world of social distancing. As traditional in-person viewings are not always feasible, even after lockdown, virtual viewings will offer a way for agents to provide video walk-through tours, making these an excellent tool until in-person viewings resume. Virtual valuations are also being done by surveyors, offering the same contact-free advantage until the time that on-site valuations can be done.

Smart solicitors are not only navigating the current waters; they are also adapting to the changing climate of the property climate. Working with a solicitor who understands the many changes faced by the property industry as a whole is the best way to ensure that you partner with a professional that is able to work with you long after lockdown comes to an end. This is yet another reason to work with a conveyancing panel that provides full panel management services along with a comprehensive network of property professionals. In today's world, we can no longer expect things to stay as they were.

Whatever the impact of lockdown may be further down the line, working together is essential to boost the property industry.

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