Jonathan Smithers, Michael Day and Land Registry's Graham Farrant predict for 2016

With the New Year almost upon us here are predictions for the conveyancing market from the President of the Law Society Jonathan Smithers, Michael Day, Managing Director at Integra Property Services and traceWise, and Land Registry’s Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar, Graham Farrant.

President of the Law Society, Jonathan Smithers, said: “The Chancellor’s recent announcement that Stamp Duty Land Tax will be increased from April 2016 will set the year off to an interesting start. The increase may spark a rise in buy to let and second home purchase before April, which in turn may reduce the market for these properties post April. It may also lead to fewer properties coming onto the market after April because buy to let landlords won’t sell or buy other properties due to the increased tax.

“While the Stamp Duty increase may have considerable impact, no other major changes are expected. There is no general election, and as a result of the general election this year the market didn’t become active until the third quarter. There is no immediate sign of interest rate rises and plenty of new build but, as ever, the property market is at the mercy of external factors, and that’s where solicitors are vital to help home buyers and sellers and businesses navigate the changing market.”

Chartered Surveyor and Director at traceWise, Michael Day said: “I expect to see an increase in activity early in 2016 as buy to let investors look to extend their property portfolios before the 3% additional stamp duty increase takes effect in April. However, this is likely to just bring forward purchases and will be governed by both the availability of supply and affordability.

“Whilst the general economic picture is looking positive and demand will continue to outstrip supply, I do not see any great urgency (apart from the possible aforementioned three month investor surge) from anyone in the market and so I expect the year to be a tougher one for agents and conveyancers. Interest rates look set to stay low throughout 2016 which is good news but means buyers can take their time and affordability, following a sustained period of house price growth, is becoming difficult for many.

“Many agents and conveyancers have expanded their business in the last couple of years and will need to be delivering excellent, value for money services as I do expect to see the growth in “online execution type services” continuing to grow and erode “traditional” market share.

“To conclude, no need to press the panic button, but certainly a need to plan, be proactive and get ahead of the curve”

While a new consultation on moving Land Registry to the private sector is set to be launched in 2016, the organisation’s Chief Executive, Graham Farrant, is solely focussed on improving their current offering.

Graham said: “One of our key priorities for 2016 will be the continued delivery of our business strategy, modernising our processes and making our services more easily accessible online. We have some notable successes with our Property Alert and MapSearch products both winning Civil Service Awards, but there is still a long way to go until we have a fully digitised and modern Land Register.

“Another huge priority that we’ve already made great progress with is the Local Land Charges programme, centralising local land charges from over 300 local authorities into a single digital national register. From a reputational perspective there is a great deal at stake for us, but the rewards for Land Registry and for the wider economy are considerable.

“However with a buoyant property market our main priority will always be to focus on the day job: providing excellent customer services and registering land”

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