Amongst its findings, the survey revealed that the CON29 official search, historically a popular choice for lawyers due to its ability to offer unlimited liability, is making a dramatic resurgence, as half the market for searches (mainly personal searches) has more or less disappeared overnight following the demise of Home Information Packs (HIPs).
“Following the abolition of HIPs, the dynamic of the search market has changed dramatically,” says David Kempster, Marketing Director, MDA SearchFlow. “Research like this provides us with an important way of finding out how conveyancers are looking at areas like value, price and service in order to keep themselves afloat in what remains a difficult market. A full CON29 search from the local authority has undeniable benefits in terms of the quality and reliability of the information provided, so it is perhaps not surprising that the CON29 is so popular with the market.”
Of those questioned, 70% reported that they will now only conduct CON29 searches during conveyancing. By comparison, only 16% of those questioned reported that they would commission both personal and CON29 searches, with the remainder (14%) stating that they will be conducting personal searches only.
As far as personal searches are concerned, respondents remain split on which format they prefer, with 55 percent of those questioned stating that basic or edited searches with insurance were more desirable, and 44% reporting a preference for enhanced or full personal searches.
Given such a small percentage of total respondents were interested in a fuller personal search (as demanded by the now-suspended HIP regulations), it is clear that concerns remain over the economics and desirability of this option. Insurance is likely to be used to cover those harder to get elements to try and keep personal searches price attractive, but it is unclear whether the consumer is best-served by this approach, especially as average CON29 fees are likely to have to reduce further to meet their cost recovery obligations.
Risk is weighing on the conveyancers mind, with PI premiums soaring and instructions thinner on the ground, our research has picked up that the last thing they wish to do is chance incomplete or inaccurate data. Electronic connectivity with Local Authorities has proved highly attractive over the last 10 years and the variability over personal search access, service and content has driven most respondents, to favour the CON29. Kempster adds.
The majority of respondents nearly 80 percent also revealed that they now prefer to order their property search information online. In addition, when asked about the importance of various aspects of service provision from their search information provider, “turnaround” (91%) and “content” (89%) were amongst the most important, highlighting the value that firms are placing on quality and speed of delivery.
“Relationships have always been key in this area, and this trend looks set to continue. As such, choosing the right partner has never been more important, especially as turnaround time and quality have been deemed so important by the vast majority of those surveyed.”
When asked about which other standard searches they order as part of their conveyencing transaction, the vast majority of firms confirmed that they typically order Water (81%) and Environmental (86%) in addition to their other searches. Despite the media attention given to flooding last year, only 36% of respondents said that they included flood reports along with their other searches as standard.