Being an old-school conveyancing attorney, I have to admit that I’m not a fan of simultaneous exchange and completion. In an ideal world I’d like at least a week between trade and completion – yes, for me to ensure mortgage funds are ordered and pre-completion research is done – but primarily for my clients, the movers.
They have so much more to organize than twenty years ago. Consider having to transfer the broadband or Internet connection, which is vital for customers who work from home and want to interrupt their professional life as little as possible. I hate that I have a client who goes away for the weekend and doesn’t know if he’s going to move that week – is he packing or waiting to see what happens? If they are packing the boxes, they may need to unpack some boxes, and possibly all of the boxes, if the sale fails just before the day they were hoping to move.
When I started as a transfer agent, it was common for there to be twenty-eight days between trade and completion. It’s incredibly rare these days, but I think life would be less stressful if it did. This would give customers time to make their arrangements and they wouldn’t feel pressured to do things at the last minute. It would help them plan their move and, let’s be honest, it would also help moving companies plan their staffing arrangements and agendas in a much more organized way. It would help us lawyers take the time to do the final checks and make sure everything was in place for completion and it would just feel less stressful to us. The end of the SDLT holidays is still fresh in our minds and the pressure of having to meet those deadlines last year proved that things could be done quickly when needed, but at what cost to the sanity of the profession as well as the stress of customers who wanted a deadline to be met?
Last week I had three full chains – all three traded the day before completion, and I’ve spent much of the last week, not doing legal work, but trying to console upset clients who weren’t sure if they were moving, trying to reassure them that we lawyers work more on completion dates rather than chatting and trying to reinforce the message that I was convinced that they would move, knowing them and informing them that things could still go wrong and they might not move at all. A big part of our job is to reassure clients, to advise them and to try to make them benefit from our experience. But even as they’re told it’s increasingly common to trade and finish on the same day, or even trade the day before the finish, it’s still stressful for them to not know with certainty if they move, and always a judgment call whether we should order the mortgage funds or tell them that is unlikely to happen. It feels like a game of chance at times, but we just need to cover all the possibilities, so don’t let anyone tell you transferring ownership is easy…. Far from there.
This is written by a real street forwarder who wishes to remain anonymous. Read more in Today’s Conveyancer each week.