conveyancers

Data shows “busiest financial year on record” for conveyancers

Busiest financial year on record for conveyancers as transactions increase 60% for the average firm

A 60% annual rise in property transaction activity saw the average conveyancing firm clock up its busiest financial year on record in 2021/2022, according to the Q1 2021 edition of the Conveyancing Market Tracker from property data and insight provider Search Acumen.

With Covid-19 pandemic restrictions lifted and industry scrambling to process a backlog of transactions, high registration volumes during Q1 2022 contributed to a total of 1.26m completed transactions in total that were processed by HM Land Registry (HMLR) during the 2021/22 financial year.

The tracker – which monitors business activity and competitive pressures in the conveyancing market – shows this annual total was 87% up on the previous financial year, when just 675,377 transactions were recorded as the market was knocked off course by the coronavirus pandemic. It also represented a 34% increase compared with the 2019/20 financial year before the pandemic first took hold.

Search Acumen’s analysis shows the rush of activity brought more firms back into the conveyancing market. An average of 4,058 firms were active each quarter during 2021/22, up from 3,483 in year one of the pandemic during 2020/21.

However, growing case volumes still left the average firm handing 60% more transactions than a year earlier, and 32% more than in 2019/20, to register their busiest financial year since records began.

Average conveyancing firm’s caseload has more than doubled over the last decade

The average number of transactions per firm weighed in at 311 for the 2021/22 financial year, surpassing the previous record of 252 set in 2015/16 when the introduction of higher stamp duty land tax rates for landlords and second home buyers in England and Wales sparked a rush of transactions to beat the March 2016 deadline.

This time around, the effort to clear the Covid-19 induced backlog and keep pace with buyer demand meant the average conveyancing firm registered more than one completed transaction per day throughout the year (311 transactions vs. 255 working days = 1.22 transactions per day).

This is more than twice the pace of activity seen during 2011/12 when the housing and mortgage markets struggled to recover from the 2007/8 financial crash, and the average firm conveyancing completed just 135 transactions at a rate of 0.53 per day.

 

The rush of transactions has served – at least for now – to reverse the trend of declining participation in the conveyancing market. Search Acumen’s analysis shows that 2021/22 halted a nine-year sequence whereby the average number of active firms per quarter fell year-on-year.

While participation fell the steepest during 2020/21 as the pandemic temporarily halted transaction activity and shut the housing market, activity has more than bounced back with the number of active firms (4,058) creeping back towards levels last seen in 2018/19 (4,083).

 

Andy Sommerville, Director of Search Acumen, commented:

“The conveyancing market has been turning the wheels at breakneck speed for over a year now, with a meteoric rise in transaction activity over the last financial year following the initial pandemic lull. Expanding caseloads have reversed the downwards trend of active conveyancing firms, but despite rising participation, average workloads are still stacking up.

Our analysis suggests firms of all sizes have had to shoulder the burden of record-breaking activity. With legal professionals working at breakneck speeds, we expect the most digitally-enabled firms will be best placed to manage client needs effectively and keep workplace pressures in check.

The pandemic has proved that employing the latest technology is not a nice-to-have, but an essential part of the overall functioning of the property market and the legal processes underpinning it. While the sense of urgency that drove efforts to digitise in the face of a global crisis has slightly dissipated, the necessity of putting data at the heart of the transaction experience is here to stay.

Clear, accurate and timely data holds the key to streamlining legal processes so the property market can operate as efficiently as possible. Having the right technology platforms and partner in place can shave hours off a gruelling workday and we have seen first-hand the benefit on property lawyers’ working lives. Technology that is fit-for-purpose should be a non-negotiable for conveyancing business leaders as they seek to turn client aspirations into successful transactions with maximum speed and minimum fuss.”

This article was submitted to be published by Search Acumen as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.

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