With the criminal barrister strike grabbing the headlines, the burdens that conveyancers in the UK are currently facing has somewhat fallen under the radar. Indeed, the Law Society Gazette warns of a “looming succession problem not dissimilar to that faced by the criminal bar.”
There are multiple factors to blame: market conditions, overwork, and underutilisation of technology, to name just a few. This blog analyses these issues in more detail before explaining how technology, such as cloud technology and conveyancing case management software, can ease the burden on conveyancing firms.
The average cost of conveyancing UK 2022
If you’re a UK conveyancer, it’s worth starting with some numbers to assess how your typical fees compare to the market. The average cost of conveyancing in the UK in 2022 has reportedly risen by a fifth over the past year.
The average residential conveyancing fees for purchasing a freehold property has risen to £1,090.32, while it costs an average of £1,092.89 when selling a property.
Of course, this fee varies greatly depending on the firm, its location, and the work required to sell or buy a home.
The average conveyancing time UK 2022
Do you know how long your typical conveyancing process times take compared to your competitors? If not, these are the average conveyancing times for the UK in 2022.
While the time taken varies depending on several factors, currently the end-to-end conveyancing process takes an average of eight to 12 weeks in the UK. There are exceptions to the rule. For example, if there’s no chain and a cash buyer, then the process is less complex—so the average time from offer to exchanging contracts is just 4-8 weeks.
If there’s no chain, but the buyer requires a mortgage, then it takes four to 10 weeks on average. If there’s a chain, then the process generally takes 10-12 weeks (regardless of whether it’s a cash buyer or the buyer is obtaining a mortgage).
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The current state of play for UK conveyancing firms
As the market stands right now, conveyancing firms in the UK report feeling underpaid and overworked—and are ignoring the potential benefits offered by conveyancing software. Understandably, these factors are all placing huge pressure on the sector. So, how have things ended up like this?
There are several factors to blame.
First, conveyancers worked around the clock during the pandemic as house sales skyrocketed due to the stamp duty holiday. Unfortunately, however, this didn’t result in increased profits.
According to Paul Rogerson, Editor of the Law Society Gazette, “Conveyancing has become commoditised. Some would say deskilled. Profit margins were—and remain—low”. He goes on to state that conveyancers are also facing the “perennial headache of obtaining affordable professional indemnity insurance, as the risks that conveyancers face multiply.”
Some professional indemnity insurance (PII) firms have even set ceilings for the percentage of conveyancing work that they are willing to cover from prospective clients.
Second, conveyancing firms are typically worryingly behind the curve regarding digital technology adoption. Recent research from Infotrack (one of Clio’s integration partners) suggests a busy conveyancing team can save days, weeks, or even months over the course of a year though efficiency and accuracy gains, particularly when it comes to the pre-completion and client onboarding stage.
Their research suggests that the largest proportion of conveyancers have attained the highest level of digital maturity at the post-completion stage; however, this accounts for just a third of those firms included in the research.
Third, government action is placing increased pressure on conveyancing firms. The government’s recently announced stamp duty land tax (SDLT) cuts will likely increase conveyancers’ workload in a similar fashion to what happened during the pandemic. Today’s Conveyancer reports, “This has led to concern from within the conveyancing sector—which is already stretched to its limit—that an uptick in demand may see their workload soar.”
Indeed, recent data shows that the average firm has faced a 60% annual rise in property transaction activity over the last year—and that the average caseload for a conveyancing firm has more than doubled over the past decade.
Conveyancing firms are grappling with low profits, an unsustainable workload, and haven’t yet adopted conveyancing software that would significantly ease the burden they currently face. It’s a perfect storm for pressure in the sector—but there are things conveyancing firms can do to counteract this.
Why conveyancing software is more important than ever
Conveyancers must act quickly to turn the tide. There’s little they can do to prevent the likely increase in market activity due to the SDLT cuts—but they can take proactive steps towards increasing internal efficiency. By doing so, they’ll be better placed to help their clients purchase/sell their properties with minimal hassle or delays. Conveyancing software will also ease the burden on time-pressured conveyancers, which in turn, will reduce mistakes—and may lower their PII premium over time.
Consider how Clio Grow could expedite the client onboarding stage, which Infotrack noted was an area where conveyancers currently lack the requisite digital technology. Instead of asking solicitors to manually onboard new clients (emailing back and forth, arranging meetings, and updating details into their firm’s CRM), Clio Grow automates this entire process.
Firms can use shareable, online intake forms tailored to different conveyancing client types. Clients can book appointments with Clio Scheduler, which will automatically sync with your firm’s intake and case management calendars. When your clients are ready to engage, use e-signatures; no need to worry about printing, signing, scanning, and so on.
However, onboarding is just the first step. When it comes to day-to-day conveyancing work, Clio Manage—our cloud-based case management software for conveyancers—helps firms stay on top of all different matter types: Sale, Purchase, Remortgage, Buy to Let, Right to Buy, Transfer, Landlord and Tenant, among others.
Clio Manage provides a single, cloud-based source of truth where conveyancers can access everything they need to do their job.
The benefits of a conveyancing case management system
Conveyancing firms are struggling to deal with a rising caseload, tight profits, and inefficient workflows. And thanks to the government’s recent SDLT cut, pressure on conveyancers will likely increase further in the near future.
By implementing conveyancing case management software like Clio, conveyancing firms can ease the burden on their solicitors. Clio Grow helps firms standardise and automate their client intake, while Clio Manage allows firms to more easily stay on top of their cases, documents, and deadlines.
As Clio user, Natalie Foster, Founder and CEO of Inspire Legal Group, states, “We’ve had Clio since day 1 of our firm because we want technology to underpin everything we do, it’s what clients now expect. The secure client portal that is included in Clio’s case management offering, combined with the InfoTrack Digital Conveyancing Portal, means we can support our clients with no interruptions or delays.”
While there are no perfect solutions to the current conveyancing market, technology can help. To see how Clio’s legal software works for conveyancers, schedule a consultation with a member of the Clio team.
We published this blog post in September 2022. Last updated: .