16% decline in conveyancing firms in last year

Many people, including myself, have been predicting a substantial decline in the number of conveyancing firms for some time.  So it wasn’t a surprise to me when a conveyancer that I know challenged me a couple of weeks ago asking when was this predicted reduction in numbers going to happen because as far as he could tell the market wasn’t altering that much at all.
Having been given the challenge, I decided to trawl back through Land Registry data to find out whether there was anything happening to the structure of the market.  After all, most conveyancers will know of firms that have merged or specialised in other areas of the law and that it is hard if not impossible at the moment to get a new firm onto a lenders’ panel.
Using this data it is clear that since September 2010 the number of conveyancing firms making application for transfers of land for valuable consideration has reduced by nearly 900 firms or 16% compared with this time last year.
What we can’t tell is what has happened to the firms that no longer make applications to Land Registry.  Some of these firms will continue in an alternative form choosing to specialise in alternative legal disciplines, others will have ceased to trade.
It doesn’t take a lot of market knowledge to suggest that firms that struggled last year hoping that transaction volumes might pick up this year may have given up, but this is not the full story as the number of applications only declined by 8% in the same period. Other factors that we suspect had an impact will have been lender panel culls and professional indemnity insurances cost increases for those that have been unfortunate enough to have had poor claims records.
The unanswered question is how far this downward trend will continue?  How many firms will be making conveyancing applications to Land Registry this time next year is very hard to predict other than it is likely to be fewer conveyancing firms than there are now.
In a subsequent article we will look more deeply into what types of firms are winning and losing in this market.
Today’s Conveyancer can provide monthly application data for all applications and transfers for value to its readers, please contact us for more information, [email protected].
Notes on the figures:
The data
1)      Only includes those firms that hold an account with Land Registry (rather than pay by cheque)
2)      Only includes those transactions that are made for a valuable consideration so that we can exclude remortgages.
3)      Includes both residential and commercial transactions.
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