Conveyancing Industry: Looking forward to 2021

We have certainly had a turbulent ride in 2020 with the pandemic causing unprecedented chaos and disruption and changing the legal landscape, therefore what are your predictions for 2021? What do you think will happen in the sector in 2021?

David Jabbari, Solicitor and CEO of Muve, commented:

” I have decided that predictions, to be valuable, have to be bold.  It should be possible to say whether a prediction turned out true or false, and not something like “we will see more use of tech in conveyancing in 2021” which is completely unverifiable. Given the surprises of 2020 it may seem like madness to be this definite, but here goes with my 6 predictions:

  • The SDLT holiday will not be extended beyond March 2021 because the government is losing too much money from it.  There are cheaper ways to stimulate economic activity and reflate the economy.
  • There will be a noticeable fall off in listings and sales subject to contract (SSTC) after March 2021 and I would expect the three months after that to drop by 20% on 2020 levels.
  • The current conveyancing pipeline means that conveyancers will be very busy through to end March 2020 but will then see a sharp fall off in instructions.
  • The post-Brexit UK economy will start to perform well in later 2021 and this will feed through into a buoyant housing market for the latter part of 2021.
  • There will be 2 or 3 more significant acquisitions of established conveyancing firms by the two main consolidators in the conveyancing market
  • We will see the first credible use of Cognitive Insight/AI technology in the conveyancing process in 2021″

Lloyd Davies, Managing Director of Convey Law and Operations Director of The Conveyancing Association:

“The legal profession will have learnt a lot in 2020. Working from home has become our new normal and we have had to learn temperance in terms of how much time we spend in front of the work screen.  “We can work from home and live in work” if we are not careful.

“I think that COVID has taught us a lot about self-discipline and how to work effectively away from the office. Our clients tell us if they are happy and we know our parameters if we are experienced and good at what we do.

“This time has also taught us the value of interaction with others and how important it is to our daily lives. Teamwork has moved onto a different level, with everyone looking out for each other and not just looking for management for the answers – are you ok, how’s the family, how can I help, how can we help each other, what’s the answer?

“Our working practices have been accelerated outside of the world of paper forever.  Once we catch up with the backlog of work, we will be even more dynamic and change will come rapidly in our industry as we embrace the new digital future of conveyancing.  Bring it on!!”

Matthew Pratt, CEO of Redrow, comments:

“We are very excited about 2021.  We entered our new financial year in a position of strength and, buoyed by the anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, we remain optimistic about ongoing housing demand and consumer confidence.

“Following an incredibly busy re-start when the stamp duty holiday was first introduced it’s inevitable that this urgency will regularise, however we expect the demand to remain high. We are currently selling well beyond both the stamp duty holiday ending and Help to Buy changes, as buyers progress purchases following a re-evaluation of their needs. Our regional focus and Heritage range of quality homes plays perfectly into these new priorities of desiring more space to live, strong connectivity and beautiful outside spaces to enjoy.

“Along with the pandemic, 2020 has also been plagued by Brexit uncertainty, as negotiations and parliamentary gridlock continued throughout the year. With both sides of the negotiating table committed to continuing talks, we hope that further clarity will be achieved in the coming days. This would be welcome news to buyers, as well as our suppliers and construction workers on the ground. Further indecision in the New Year threatens to hold the market back for months to come.

“We very much welcome the Government’s support of the housing sector and the recognition of its value to the wider economy, with recent research from the HBF and Knight Frank showing that each housing transaction results in a broader economic benefit of £9,559 on average. This research highlights the importance of a functioning housing market across all tiers and all demographics and shows why we must encourage activity from first time buyers right the way up to downsizers. It is vital that the second-hand market is as supported as new homes and we would welcome wider and longer-term reforms of stamp duty to support this aim.

“Sustainable homes that offer residents a more environmentally friendly way of living are at the top of our agenda in 2021 as we support the Government in aims to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. We’ve already made real strides in this area in recent years but will be doing more in 2021 as we seek to further minimise our impact and encourage greater household savings for our buyers. This includes a move to electric boilers, the roll-out of more electric car-charging points to meet the rising demand for electric vehicles and internally we are heavily focused on reducing construction waste and are also testing a variety of low carbon technologies to enable more sustainable solutions.”

Rob Hailstone, CEO of the Bold Legal Group, comments:

“I am sure lots on industry experts will be predicting market conditions etc. What concerns me at the moment is the number of conveyancers leaving the profession, naturally, either through retirement, closure or maybe merger, or, not so naturally, because the last few months have been unbearably busy and they have simply had enough.

“Conveyancing is stressful, skilled, filled with risk, often underappreciated and in most cases not particularly well rewarded. Unless something improves, I predict a shortage of experienced conveyancers within the next year or two.”

Stephen Ward, Council for Licensed Conveyancers said:

“We would like to predict confidently that the Chancellor would change the SDLT cliff edge deadline in the interests of home buyers and sellers and to ensure the stability of provision on conveyancing services, but we cannot be sure at this time. What we are sure about is that the pressure on conveyancers will continue to grow up to that deadline. We urge everyone to manage their workload carefully and read the advisory notes on our website on managing client expectations about the SDLT and LTT holidays and the potential for buyers to rely on sellers’ searches to speed up transactions.

“Of course this extraordinary year has speed up adoption of new lawtech, especially around ID and we expect that will continue and that we will see more improving and streamlining of services as more and more firms begin to offer digitised services to clients. That’s likely to grow and to also expand as we see digitisation of the Land Registry.

“Unfortunately, there will always be those who look to exploit situations, and we are hearing reports of more and more sophisticated frauds coming through, so to that end we’d urge vigilance and to ensure you have up to security and procedures to safeguard against fraud and cybercrime as much as possible. We published a new toolkit this autumn.”

Today's Conveyancer