Conveyancers experience first annual drop in workload in six years

Michael Lloyd

February 15, 2018

After six years of continued growth in activity, conveyancers experienced a drop in case volumes in 2017, Search Acumen’s Q4 2017 Conveyancing Market Tracker found.

This annual decline saw conveyancing volumes shrink by 12% last year – from 1,077,959 in 2016 to 952,966 in 2017 as the stagnant UK property market weighed down on conveyancers.

Andrew Lloyd, managing director of Search Acumen said: “2017 was another year of uncertainty in the property market, and conveyancers are feeling the impact of a housing sector in need of a jumpstart.

“The Market Tracker has revealed a downward shift in transaction volumes for the first time in six years. Despite these odds however, the market remains resilient and the number of operating conveyancers has not yet felt downward pressure.”

Despite this, the number of active firms in the market remained steady in 2017, dropping less than 1% year-on-year.

Firms in operation have dropped 28% over the past 10 years – from 7,733 to 5,559.

During a testing year for the UK property market, conveyancing firms have been fed a lower volume of transactions, resulting in the average caseload dropping across the sector.

The market tracker, which uses HM Land Registry data to examine competitive pressures in the conveyancing market, shows the average firm completed 171 transactions in 2017.

This is down 11% on 2016 when the total sat at 193 per active firm and has dropped 1% since 2007, when conveyancing firms averaged 173 cases per year.

The decrease in conveyancing volumes in 2017 was felt across a majority of the market. The top five firms suffered a 9% drop in average monthly volumes (from 1005 to 918), while all firms in the top 1000 experienced a 10% decline.

Lloyd added: “At the beginning of the year, the Prime Minister vowed that UK housing was to be an area of absolute focus for the current government, and policies like the abolishment of stamp duty land tax for first-time buyers will undoubtedly reduce the chasm between young market hopefuls and established homeowners.

“However, housebuilding activity fell last month for the first time since the EU referendum. The property industry continues to be frustrated with the inertia it finds itself in, fuelled by bureaucracy, politicking and set-backs.”

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