Active Conveyancing Firms Fall To Lowest Recorded Levels

The number of active conveyancing firms in the UK has fallen to its lowest ever levels since the tracker was launched in 2011.

At the start of 2020, there were 4,135 active conveyancing firms. However, by the end of January, as Covid-19 started to take hold in the UK, this figure had fallen to 3,726 with over 400 firms closing down.

In terms of transactions, the quarter was a tale of halves with January enjoying to Boris bounce following a year of political uncertainty and the end of March feeling the devastating impact of a market freeze caused by the spread of the virus.

January recorded the largest haul of monthly transactions since April 2016 with 104,325 home sales completing. It was also the first time in over a year that monthly transactions surpassed 100,000.

Unfortunately, by March, a time that should enjoy a Spring transaction boost, the number of completed sales had almost halved to just 55,381. These figures had reduced by 34 per cent since March 2019 and decreased by 47 per cent  when compared with transaction levels from January 2020.

The transaction figures for March represented a seven year low point, with figures undoubtedly worse for April and May once they are released.

Andy Sommerville, Director of Search Acumen, comments:

“The first quarter of 2020 was a turbulent ride for conveyancers, along with the rest of the nation. After high hopes for a year of growth came to a dramatic end. The January bounce was followed by a steep drop in transactions and active firms – putting an end to hopes of stability and certainty following the 2019 election. While the seven-week freeze on property transactions that began in March is starting to thaw, it is clear expectations have changed and the property industry cannot simply go back to old ways of working.

“The figures for Q2 will look tougher still, but we have been encouraged by the fresh energy and dedication with which many firms have pivoted their services and sought to digitise traditional practices in the face of adversity. While parts of the industry had been reluctant to adapt for the 21st century, Covid-19 has been an unwelcome catalyst for change that can bring lasting benefits once the health crisis abates. This includes innovations like virtual reality, video viewings and contactless valuations – all bringing greater efficiency to the homebuying process.

“We have long championed the digitisation of the due diligence process and have been focused on helping conveyancers where they can no longer rely on traditional sources of data and information that are crucial to a successful sale or purchase. We have been exploring ways to harness all alternative data sources so conveyancers can give clients early and better-informed insights into potential issues. This will be crucial to avoid a state of ‘lockjam’ as we move into the next phase of social distancing and seek to get the market back on track.

“The importance of embracing digitisation is no longer a question of debate, but it still requires commitment and collaboration across the industry. Government needs to be resolute in its commitment to accessible and accurate data, and work with the private sector to embed an efficient, innovative and productive market – ready to face future crises big or small.”

1 Comment

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    The fall in the number of conveyancing firms and. presumably, the number of practising conveyancers raises questions as to whether the available pool of “new title” (first registration and new lease) talent will feed demand to the Land Registry with sufficient accuracy.

    The existing system is highly inefficient.

    Reserved matters are a restrictive commercial practice regime which requires professional qualification but no experience etc of specialisms.

    Choice of conveyancer is made by laypeople who have little chance of making an informed choice.

    There is little worse than finding that a chain party has instructed a nice lady or gentleman who was brilliant with a divorce but knows nothing about property

    A radical solution is required

    Marketing of property requiring a new title should be banned unless part of a combined tenancy/sale agreement that allowed moving in ahead of registration. I have heard that such arrangements are used regularly in some parts of the country. And worked on one very large shopping centre where retailers moved in likewise despite a tiff between freeholder and head-lessee preventing occupational lessees being granted for 21 years

    I have little sympathy with unregistered owners. They have had since 1862 to register voluntarily and should not be allowed to inflict the complications of their failure on innocent chains

    I see new titles being created by a Land Registry taskforce in 3 stages

    A Digitisation of existing unregistered documents to create an online, open deeds registry by area in collaboration with local history interests

    B Mapping

    C Incorporation into the Land Register

    Any other ideas?

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