Nobody will doubt the disastrous effect this new pandemic has had on us as a conveyancing community with data showing circa 373,000 transactions equating to £82bn being put on hold.
However, most of us will agree the housing market was put on hold by a force majeure event meaning the appetite in the housing market was in line with traditional market conditions but stalled from unforeseeable circumstances.
The overall impact of this unnatural hold is yet to be seen with positive forecasts and predictions being discussed yet offered with an air of caution as the lockdown restrictions are slowly lifted.
Despite its terrible effects, COVID-19 gave conveyancing departments a rare opportunity to focus solely on post-completion affairs, which sometimes is the cause for complaints, non-compliant issues and negligence claims.
I am sure applying the furlough scheme to staff members was a hard decision, but applying it to a whole team would have been a strategic move for some firms.
Some may say furloughing the post-completion team was just an inevitable choice due to the limited income stream and therefore from a business point of view there were other staff members who were best positioned to keep a full or even part-time role.
On the other side of the coin there are those who may have seen COVID-19 as a time of opportunity (as mentioned above) and looked to re-vamp its inefficiencies and perhaps made full or partial use of their post-completion team.
Regardless of your choices I think there are three lessons that could be learned during lockdown.
Lesson 1: Organisation
Where staff were still working and not furloughed there may have been time to focus on post-completion formalities. For example to evaluate your OS1 list, submit outstanding applications, address all pending requisitions, send out overdue Title Information Documents to your clients, make sure your panel managers such as Lender Exchange and Legal Marketing Services are up to date and identify which staff members require training as a result of high requisition patterns.
If the above was not done then I applaud you for having an extremely effective post-completion department, but if no applause is deserved or this was not possible due to resourcing issues, then I urge you to consider what changes you can put in place now to organise and tidy up your post-completion department once the floodgates of the housing market are fully unlocked.
Lesson 2: Dependence v Independence
The lock-down period was unique for conveyancing because (subject to having available staff to direct towards these tasks) it allowed a law firm to focus solely on post-completion and ensure when we all go back to work; we go back to a conveyancing department in reverse. What I mean by this is that for the first time it should be the pre-exchange team who are reactive as opposed to the post-completion team, who ideally would have cleared any backlogs if lesson 1 was implemented and are now waiting and ready for new completed cases.
Post-completion is the only part of the transaction that is both dependent and independent of the conveyancing process.
A dependent post-completion team works in harmony with the pre-completion team. For example, the same amount of completions in a month should translate to the same amount of applications submitted to the Land Registry in that same month (although it is appreciated this cannot always be the case).
An independent post-completion team works reactively trying to play catch-up, which creates the independent factor from the rest of the transaction.
When exchanges and completions are in free flow once again your aim ideally would be to create a dependent post-completion team.
Lesson 3: Culture
If the culture in your post completion team is ‘to submit your application’ as opposed to ‘submit a perfect application’; then training is required. The culture of perfection and focus needs to be held by each and every team member of the firm regardless of the department they work in. I can go as far as to say without an effective and productive post-completion team your business will certainly suffer.
Thus, to summarise the three lessons we can extrapolate as a result of COVID-19 are:
- organise your post-completion team whilst transactions are at a low,
- the post-completion team should be dependent and not working in an independent fashion as this highlight’s inefficiencies,
- adopt a culture of perfection towards applications that are submitted to the Land Registry.
Market conditions dictate the way our teams work but we must always try and make the most of our situation. To conclude this pandemic has presented us with the opportunity to analyse, implement better practices and create a more effective post-completion team.
Please contact Priscilla Sinder for more information or help with post completion matters, resourcing and processes.
 Source: Property Reporter dated 28th April 2020