The Property team, as with all the departments in the Hereford office, is entirely unrecognisable from where it began 10 years ago. We have grown from one or two staff covering all aspects of property work into dedicated residential, agricultural and commercial teams. We have a wide range of expertise alongside our fantastic colleagues in planning, trusts, banking, property dispute resolution and tax whom we work very closely with, and who continue to enable us to elevate our offering and set us apart.
It was thanks to this expertise that we were very well placed to deliver an excellent, cross-sector service during the Covid-19 pandemic and the stamp duty holidays that followed. National headlines read “Herefordshire properties in high demand” which we saw first-hand, as our caseload tripled; within the first two weeks of March 2020, demand for property in the county surged by 77% and continued up to the first stamp duty holiday in March 2021 that, at the last minute (you might recall, we certainly did!) was postponed until June 2021. Our existing remote working practices meant that we could work from home effectively without much change required. Weekends were a thing of the past and we hunkered down. A war like spirit lived amongst us; “YOUR COUNTY NEEDS YOU… to get this transaction through before the end of the stamp duty holiday “- or so it felt!
Looking back, we can now see the huge benefits we took from this time. Due to the volume of work undertaken we accelerated the learning of all staff exponentially. We were exposed to all the usual issues, but we had to become (even) quicker, slicker and more capable in order to manage the huge caseload. Thanks to our existing remote working practices meant that we could work from home effectively without much change required.
The Land Registry, who we were hugely reliant on at this time, responded during lockdown by introducing some concessions to their rules due to social distancing measures. Changes to the requirements for obtaining ID and obtaining proof of signatures on documents relieved some of the pressure; further changes followed and they have now published their three-year strategy. Amongst their initiatives to support the property market, and with a continued drive towards digitalisation, they are keen to improve the speed of their services with automation of simpler cases to be increased (currently 29% sit in this category) and partial automation of more complex matters.
As customers and stakeholders, we continue to collaborate with them on what other improvements we would like to see – among them a need to access information in real time without delay and easier accessibility to documentation that the land registry already hold.