The Home Moving Experience
As someone new to the conveyancing industry, I’ve been trying to find out as much as I can about people’s experiences of moving home.
The overwhelming feedback I have received is that their conveyancing experience is one to forget. It is one of the most stressful and anxiety-inducing experiences someone will go through in their lifetime. Everyone I’ve asked has had a story to tell, a quasi-counselling experience to give the bad memories away. For those in the process of moving, there is no short answer to the question of “How’s it going on the house move?”
The anecdotes I’ve heard are backed up by data points too, 2019 research showed moving home was the most stressful life change event well ahead of getting divorced and having a baby. More alarming was that 65% reported that they had lost sleep from the stress and 40% felt stressed and ill from the process. But it’s more than stress, the Legal Ombudsman reported in 2020 that Residential Conveyancing was also the most complained about area of law.
But why is moving house such a bad experience?
We see homeownership as such an aspirational, admired, and desired endpoint that can often follow years of hard graft and savings, yet the actual process to become a homeowner is so awful.
We may only move house two or three times in a lifetime, so conveyancing is not a process movers know well or understand. Many are unaware of what actually happens during a process filled with conveyancing specific jargon. We had a recent example that illustrates this well, for Joe Public receiving the ‘contract’ pack signaled the end of their home move, getting ready to sign a ‘contract’ and not starting off a process of queries and confirming details.
There doesn’t seem to be a clear, consumer-friendly source to educate movers and help them build up their knowledge or hold their hand through the process. Looking at other major decisions that consumers make there are the likes of Martin Lewis in consumer finance, but nothing comparable for home moving – the biggest purchase most will make.
We live in an increasingly digital, mobile world relying on our smartphones to access the world at our fingertips. We interact online 24/7 and expect the apps and websites we use to respond around the clock. This isn’t just user-generated social media, but also includes official information like online banking.
The rise in consumer expectations isn’t limited to operating hours, but also to transparency. On e-commerce deliveries we receive consistent, updated tracking information – when a parcel has left the depot, arrived at the local hub, the delivery timeslot, and confirmation of where it was left. We can also simply track where our cab or takeaway is and see the actual route it is taking to get to us. Most movers don’t know the steps involved in conveyancing, let alone how progressed they are along those steps.
When you contrast these expectations with today’s experience of conveyancing, you can start to see why there is a disconnect and movers see the process as so stressful.
The e-commerce example of timely updates on the delivery of a parcel help to answer a consumer’s question before they have even asked it. It’s not just what is communicated, but when and how that matters also. We can’t control the speed of the delivery but being updated on its progress helps to give us a sense of control.
Again, if we contrast this timely information sharing to the conveyancing industry, where chasing phone calls are the norm, we can see the disconnect in experience. A 2017 survey of buyers showed that only 44% felt they received enough communication during the process, yet 67% of conveyancers said they kept consumers fully informed. That’s quite a mismatch.
Timely communication is a double-edged sword though, as we’ve heard from many conveyancers that the majority of their inbound contacts are low-value, chasing requests from parties in the chain. Dealing with these requests limits the time for them to process the legal work.
So, what have I learnt about the home moving process?
Well, it’s clear to me that there is a mismatch between the expectations of movers, which are being set by other industries and the reality of conveyancing today. There’s also a gap in knowledge and understanding of the process by most movers, which contributes to their anxiety. Their stress is then all too often magnified, given the scale of the transaction and amounts of money involved. Plus it’s multiplied with many parties involved and a chain of transactions.
This all adds up to a process we endure, rather than something delightful, that finishes with a new home.
But for me, this is just the starting position that highlights the opportunity ahead of us with DigitalMove to help to make moving home less stressful!