A radical all-in-one property package, which could cut thousands of solicitors out of the conveyancing process, is to be launched this year by Marsons solicitors and insurance giant First American.
Brian Marson, senior partner of London firm Marsons, said under his plan, for which a launch date had yet to be fixed, sellers will pay a fee to an agent to spend five days surveying and valuing the property, and setting up a mortgage for any potential buyer.
Solicitors employed as independent agents of First American will check the property title via computer link ups to the land registry, but there will be no local land searches. The buyer will be able to walk into an estate agent and sign up to a house almost immediately, and will be insured for any fault or fraud which may occur during the house-buying process.
Marson envisaged six solicitors or legal executives working behind computer screens on thousands of transactions each week. He said the whole process should take four or five days rather than the 10 weeks of correspondence involved in a conventional transaction between solicitors for buyer and seller.
Marson saw proposed Solicitors Property Centres as ideal outlets to promote the package.
He said financial organisations could act as “chain breakers”, purchasing the houses of those existing home owners who want to sign up to a property package.
Solicitors Property Group executive officer Leslie Dubow said it was unfair to blame solicitors for delays. They often had to wait weeks for lenders to approve a mortgage. He added that consumer demand and new technology could help Marsons scheme to succeed. “Maybe it could work. We'll have just to wait and see,” he said.
The Law Society questioned whether consumers would actually find title insurance an adequate replacement for a full land search.
“For the (Marson) scheme to work it would have to be clear who the lawyers are acting for in order to ensure their duties are not in conflict,” added Society Policy and Professional Ethics head Alison Crawley.