Conveyancing Market Suffers Worst Conditions Since 2009

The conveyancing sector suffered its worse quarterly performance since 2009 in the final quarter of 2019.

According to Search Acumen’s ‘Conveyancing Market Tracker’, the 226,444 quarterly transactions between October and December represented the lowest levels since 2009.

The figures also indicated a 15 per cent fall on the 267,438 final quarter transactions from 2018 and an 8 per cent decline on the previous quarter.

Active conveyancing numbers fell to a record low in the final quarter of 2019. The remaining 3,920 active firms represented a 41 firm and 5 per cent drop when compared with the previous quarter.

Annually, 206 active firms left the sector or merged with other firms.

The top 1,000 conveyancing firms saw their market share fall from 76 per cent to 71 per cent, the lowest figure since 2012.

Despite the majority of demographics losing market share, the very largest firms increased their market share from 5.4 per cent to 6 per cent, marking the first time to breach this figure since 2017.

The only sector of the conveyancing market to experience an increase in transactions during the final quarter of 2019 was attributed to smaller firms who garnered 3 per cent more business in the final quarter of the year.

Occasional firms, who average between 1 and 5 transactions per month, increased their total quarterly transactions from 1,629 to 1,678.

Andy Sommerville, Director of Search Acumen, commented:  

“The curtain call for 2019 couldn’t come soon enough for a conveyancing market which was rocked by political peaks and troughs, prompting several indicators to annual or even record lows in Q4. What has come as a surprise is the comeback of smaller conveyancers which gives us hope that the market is not broken from top to bottom but remains in need of transformation.

“Despite the market slowdown, property buyers and investors have not made a flight to the top but instead continue to work with smaller conveyancers who bring local, well-honed expertise to the table.

“Given the improved political climate at the very end of 2019, the next challenge for firms will be to ride the likely surge in demand as the backlog of transactions that were put on hold start to be unleashed as consumer and business confidence returns.

“Getting from a verbal agreement to a completed transaction can still be an excessively complex, drawn out and inefficient process – adding financial risk and additional friction to residential and commercial property markets. Despite the promise of increased technology, the user experience often remains poor – for conveyancers and solicitors, as well as their clients – and continues to lag behind the advances seen in other sectors.

“In many cases, the technology itself is here, and for the decade ahead to truly deliver on the promise of industry change, we urge conveyancers big and small to harness available data and upskill in new innovations.”

1 Comment

  • test

    Increasingly, there seem to be two types of conveyancing solicitors.
    1. ‘Execution-only’ service, probably adequate at achieving completions- if (but only if) the property is freehold, a house, and already registered at HMLR.
    2. Specialists in Conveyancing Research and solicitors willing to give proper advice to clients who do not know- and should not be required to know- much about technicalities.
    Example: P buys a leasehold, only to find out that the ground rent is high (or keeps doubling) and that every lease brings with it a shoal of covenants. How many solicitors actually give such advice? Not many, nowadays. Clients who seek just the lowest cost (see LS/SRA requirements for headline price disclosure on website) are given reduced service which leads to problems.

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