Should We Let Technology Take Over The Conveyancing Industry?

Conveyancing solicitors are moving off the high streets and straight into our homes through the power of social media ads, in-house apps and online sites. However, it is not only their way of reaching us that has changed but also their way of interacting with us.

The conveyancing market has changed. More and more firms are opting for quick fixes for clients with some even offering digital mortgages with an option to complete an application in as little as 15 minutes. With some firms leading the charge it seems others are being left behind but are technological advances really what the public wants?

How is the conveyancing industry changing?

The conveyancing industry seems to have taken an overhaul since tech driven clients have upped their demand for better communication and more transparency from firms.

Last year saw clients expectations rise as more conveyancy companies added features such as online quote calculators, real-time application viewing and digitally signable documents to their portfolios.

At the end of 2018 paperless mortgage deeds were introduced into the public sector by the government. Digital mortgages became an option with limited paperwork and the option for both clients and conveyancing solicitors to track an applicants progress online.

Back in 2018, the government pledged to spend the following 3 years introducing more digital services both in keeping with the private sector and the natural growth of the digital age. 1 year in and we’re starting to see the benefits of the 89 new services that were pledged including online divorces and mortgages. Deeds can now be signed electronically and then authenticated by a government official online.

So, if the governments plans are working effectively, why is there resistance from conveyancing companies?

Conveyancing solicitors make technology decisions spontaneously

New technology needs time to get it right. Technology may seem like the spearhead symbol for the fast-paced world we now live in but it can take years to develop one small aspect of any digital operating system.

The public wants instant access whether it be actively via a chatbot who can give advice on their property needs or passively via an app where they can view the progress of their purchase/sale.

It seems conveyancers must keep up with technology if they are to reel in the clients they want but how much do they actually focus on developing new tech?

A survey last year by conveyancing software business InfoTrack asked 178 top legal professionals how much time and money was dedicated to technological advancement in their companies. The survey found that only 3% allocate resources for technological innovation and research whilst 50% said that decisions with regard to new technology were made ad hoc.

With more industries using technology to further their customer experience are conveyancing companies being slow on the ball?

Where will technology take conveyancing next?

Whilst there are those who have embraced and adopted instant online service over traditional phone calls and emails, there is still limited information as to where the industry will head next. With a lot of hype surrounding the market but a lack of backing/specifics it is difficult to predict whether technology will help or hinder the conveyancing process.

One of the most common introductions in recent years seems to be the chatbot to help customers receive real-time mortgage advice. The initial phase of questioning and general advice comes through from an automated bot before being passed onto a broker in a chat for case specifics; this particular method thus becomes time efficient.

But, is the removal of personal face-to-face contact detrimental in the long-run?

Should technology run its natural course or should clients have a choice?

The term ‘natural course’ in conjunction with technology seems a little contradictory but the fact is, the advancement and omnipresence of technology has become the norm in the last decade and no doubt, will continue to do so for the next.
There is a general assumption that all consumers want is the latest digital aid but this is not always the case. Some prefer the comfort of real life interactions over the speedy, robotic, online communication channel.

Perhaps, conveyancing solicitors should focus on creating a hybrid system, allowing options for both sets of clients, those who prefer quick and digital and those who opt for in-person interaction.

Technology: a help or a hindrance?

Giving clients a choice allows for a greater customer success rate but potentially damages workplace efficiency. The benefits of incorporating new tech into the conveyancing industry are that consumers will receive something they have wanted for years – transparency.

If new conveyancers are to keep up with the modern competition they will need to have a one fit digital framework that gives the client the option to view their application from start to finish. A trail that allows home buyers and sellers to identify issues and highlight problems where lack of communication between solicitors and other parties is apparent. No more playing the blame game, conveyancing solicitors will have all communications on show and own up to their mistakes and tardiness.

Although, companies who already offer apps where you can keep track of all steps in an application are also facing some criticism. The concept behind all these digital services like online mortgages places responsibility wholly on the contract signer. Once the contract is signed it is legally binding and some have been quick to point out that proper guidance cannot be achieved via a chatbot/online 15 minute process.

Online mortgages: what’s next?

The combination of public demand and government backing means that technology in the conveyancing sphere is not going away any time soon but we must remember that the process of buying/selling a house is one of the most important decisions we can make in our lifetime.

Should we be relying on technology to sort it out for us? Is technology really making us efficient or is it just making us irresponsible? Technology may seem like the obvious choice but perhaps we have been too quick to assume it is the only choice.