Conveyancing: “2016 could see the most significant change for generations”

In 2015 the conveyancing sector took significant further steps towards digitalisation, including the launch of conveyancing portal Free2Convey and the landmark float of online ’24/7′ estate agent Purplebricks.

The trend towards transparency within the conveyancing sector will drive the delivery of new online product offerings in 2016, according to property search company SearchFlow, which predicts that this year may see “the most significant change in generations.”

Maud Rousseau, SearchFlow’s group marketing and communications director said: “With the advancement of agile technology and big data analytics, search companies are seizing upon the opportunities to drive through major changes. Data and technology providers are working together to create a one-stop-shop to not only streamline the process but help improve risk management.”

Notably last year saw RAVN Systems announce that Berwin Leighton Paisner had become the first RAVN ACE ‘artificial intelligence’ client, using its solution to speed up Land Registry checks, picking out company names and charges on titles and inserting them into spreadsheets in order to issue light obstruction notices.

Rousseau added: “The emergence of online estate agents has been debated for years. Now, with Purplebricks listed on AIM in December 2015 with a valuation of around £240 million, the impact of online estate agents is set to be a major topic of debate this year. The conveyancing industry needs to be prepared to adapt quickly if online estate agents achieve their ambition of being ‘highly disruptive in the world of estate agency’.

The forecasts come after last year saw the demise of the Law Society’s online conveyancing portal Veyo in favour of the Legal Software Suppliers Association’s disruptive rival offering Free2Convey.

In addition to activity among suppliers, this year could see impact from a number of planned consultations and Rousseau said: “The Government’s consultation on the privatisation of the Land Registry will be closely monitored. And in advance of the review of Legal Services Act which is scheduled to be reviewed during this parliament, the Government has announced its consultation on alternative business models entering into the legal sector. The Government claims that it wants to ensure that innovative businesses are able to enter the market, providing greater choice for consumers.

“The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is responding in kind and has announced they will be reviewing their regulatory model, whereby they plan to give legal firms greater freedom to run their businesses as they need to.  The industry certainly can’t afford to play catch up.

“There is no denying, 2016 could be the year the conveyancing industry sees the most significant change in generations. There is a sea change underway and we are in the midst of this transition.  Conveyancers are a crucial part of the homebuying process and they will have to adapt to the changing sector; to fully embrace the digitalisation of the industry by utilising data and technology to create efficiencies, improve risk protection and customer satisfaction to enable them to compete.”

The developments come following a buoyant housing market in 2015, with consumer confidence expected to remain high in 2016. According to SearchFlow’s ‘conveyancing sentiment tracker’, 27% of conveyancers believe transaction levels will increase by up to 20% this year.