The number of property transactions registered in England and Wales climbed 20% over the last quarter, rising to 290,248 in Q2 2021, up from 241,916 in Q1 2021, according to the latest edition of the Conveyancing Market Tracker from Search Acumen, the property data insight and technology provider.
This is the highest number of quarterly transactions since records began ten years ago in Q2 2011. Conveyancing volumes in Q2 2021 were 252% higher than the year before, when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit the nation and the property market temporarily shut down.
With just 82,385 transactions having completed during Q2 2020, this quarterly total was beaten during every single month of Q2 2021 as the Stamp Duty incentive prompted unprecedented buyer demand.
The tidal wave of property transactions can in part be attributed to the first Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday cut off. First introduced in July 2020, the holiday was extended from the end of March this year to 30 June, when the threshold dropped from £500,000 to £250,000 until 30 September 2021.
This triggered a rush of buyers to complete transactions and take advantage of the larger discount, causing conveyancing activity to reach unprecedented levels.
Search Acumen’s analysis shows June 2021 was the busiest month of the quarter, with a staggering 113,184 transactions taking place. This was the highest monthly total since April 2016, when Stamp Duty changes hiked tax bills for landlords and second home buyers.
Number of active conveyancing firms continues recovery from pandemic lows
The tracker shows it was ‘all hands on deck’ in response to record demand in the market. Active firms climbed 2% over the last quarter to 4,048 in Q2 2021, up from 3,962 in the previous quarter. The number of firms registering transactions crossed the 4,000 point for the first time since the pandemic first hit, reaching levels last seen in Q3 2019 when 4,024 firms were active.
Comparisons to Q2 2020 further illustrate the pace of recovery, when there were just 2,411 firms active during the first lockdown. Q2 2021 figures represent a 68% increase from the heights of the pandemic when many transactions were halted in their tracks.
In contrast, the average firm saw record levels of business in Q2 2021 with their average number of transactions reaching a new high. This measure increased by 17% over the last quarter to 72 – underlining the extreme pressure that conveyancers have had to work under amid unprecedented market activity.
Average transaction volumes saw a considerable increase from when the pandemic took hold in Q2 2020, when average caseloads dropped to just 34. Looking back over the last three years before the pandemic struck, the average firm had been accustomed to completing no more than 65 transactions per quarter until this new pinnacle of activity emerged.
Andy Sommerville, Director of Search Acumen, comments:
“This data highlights the huge pressures placed on the property sector over recent months. The record-breaking number of transactions completed, particularly in June, are a testament to the hard work of the entire industry from conveyancers and lawyers to estate agents and surveyors, who have gone above and beyond to help clients beat the Stamp Duty cut off.
“It is important to remember the industry has been put under intense pressure since the holiday was first introduced last summer. The large caseloads that have been processed have not only relied on the hard work of individuals but made it vital that firms have efficient workflows in place to help manage rising demand.
“Digital due diligence has been essential to handle the pressure, and the months ahead are an opportunity for the industry to build on new ways of working that have paid dividends to date. While commitment may be required, the long-term benefits make any learning curve worth the effort. Lawyers and clients alike can both benefit from time savings, along with the enhanced advice lawyers can provide when they are equipped with accessible and accurate property data. A more efficient and seamless transaction process hinges on more widespread adoption of technology.”