First American flies in for property briefings

Solicitors from Scotland, the City and major regional firms were briefed last week on insurance giant First American Title Insurance's plans to revamp the house purchasing and conveyancing process.

Senior officials of the insurance giant flew in from Canada and the US last Wednesday to join Sir John Hannam, a fellow board member. Hannam, who is a former Tory MP and previous chair of the Government's conveyancing committee, and the officials, addressed 60 invited delegates, including Law Society officials and representatives from major lenders.

First American is looking to establish a fast-track house-buying system in the UK that has been pioneered in Canada and the US. The company is yet to announce a launch date for its UK title insurance package, but it plans to create agents which offer house sellers a fixed fee to spend five days surveying, valuing, setting up a mortgage and conveyancing for a potential buyer.

The conveyancing element of the package will involve a “handful” of solicitors being employed as agents of First American to check the property title via a computer link to the Land Registry, although there will be no local land search.

According to First American director Brian Marson, buyers would then be able to walk into an estate agent and own a property, complete with a home ownership guarantee – effectively title insurance – in a matter of days rather than weeks.

Marson said firms which acted as First American agents would have to form a separate company staffed by title-checking solicitors and paralegals whose work would be regularly audited to ensure quality.

First American's plans are one of three initiatives under way involving conveyancing.

Solicitors Property Centres Limited is holding meetings throughout England at the end of the month to push its proposals, and Hambro Countrywide has already opened two of its planned six in-house conveyancing offices.