" If you have a ‘free legal’ offering and are pushing this business through certain conveyancing firms, then the borrower should perhaps be given details on what they are signing up for."
Advisers are never too far away from questions of price, service and quality – indeed you’d go as far as to say that this is the raison d’être of every single advice professional and it is these attributes that draw in customers and make the advice channel the dominant force for mortgages at present.
It might therefore be rather bizarre for advisers to look at the current debate that is taking place in the conveyancing sector which appears to be driving towards a greater transparency around ‘price, service and quality’ – as mentioned above, attributes which are already fully-ingrained in the adviser profession.
Let’s be upfront about this – there is no push-back from the vast majority of conveyancing firms in terms of their need to deliver on the above, even if it’s a requirement from the regulator(s). Instead, what has tended to grip the sector is just how they go about delivering on these aims because, in all honesty, this can be an incredibly complicated sector with all kinds of commercial relationships impacting particularly on the price that is paid by a consumer.
Indeed, transparency of fees is the big talking point just because of how very different these can be, based on where that business has emanated from. Those clients that come direct may well end up paying a very different fee than those who have come through an introducer/ panel manager, and it’s just how the firms themselves provide that information to market that has caused a degree of concern.
In all of this, of course, we also have the role of lenders and advisers, who have also come under scrutiny in terms of their ability to offer information to customers on the ‘price, service and quality’ of the conveyancing firms they are providing access to. Just recently, the Council of Licensed Conveyancers suggested that lenders, in particular, should be providing better information to customers on their conveyancing panel firms.
Interestingly, the lender trade body – UK Finance – rejected such calls suggesting it wasn’t the role of the lender at all to do this and pointing to the fact that conveyancing accreditation schemes exist. That, to my mind, seems like an odd tack to take – for instance, if you have a ‘free legal’ offering and are pushing this business through certain conveyancing firms, then the borrower should perhaps be given details on what they are signing up for.
Certainly, as an adviser, you would expect clients to want to know the ‘price, service and quality’ of the conveyancing firms you recommend to them, and you would therefore need to deliver information to them. For instance, if the client wants the cheapest conveyancing available, I would suggest that advisers might make it known that this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get the quickest or best service.
Is it such a huge step for lenders to be doing the same? Indeed, this might give the adviser community even further ammunition to use against the use of ‘free legals’ – if the lender offering them can’t vouch for their service and quality, then should the borrower be taking up such an offer? Perhaps they would be better off opting to take the cashback – if this is available – and using the adviser to secure a conveyancer that can deliver on all three?
As a provider of conveyancing we feel it’s absolutely vital that we monitor the ‘price, service and quality’ of those firms who appear on our panel, and indeed in the past we have removed firms who have not made the grade, plus we have turned down relationships with those who we believe would not fit our criteria. If we can do this, then surely lenders are able to justify and monitor those conveyancing firms it offers to its customers?
Overall, we feel the new measures and the steps that are being taken by the conveyancing profession are truly in the right direction, and we wholeheartedly buy into the greater transparency this will bring and the greater information and knowledge this will deliver to customers. As we buy in to it, and so do the advisers that use us, it would certainly be odd for lenders not to deliver in the same way and inform those customers who opt for their conveyancing options. If this is truly not the responsibility of lenders, then one would suspect this will move even more customers into the arms of advisers for their conveyancing recommendations.