Q1 2022 property trends: a welcome return to normality

The biggest headline emerging from Landmark’s Q1 2022 Property Trends Report is that the data signals a very welcome shift back towards pre-pandemic market conditions after the turbulence of 2020 and 2021. This is undoubtedly good news for conveyancing lawyers.

For law firms dealing with property transactions, peaks and troughs can be difficult to resource even during normal seasonal variations – the rush both prior to and after the Christmas shutdown being the most obvious example. But when entirely unanticipated peaks and troughs enter the fray as they did during 2020 and 2021, especially with unprecedented variations between those highs and lows, conveyancing caseloads became all but impossible to handle at times.

Promising signs for conveyancing

No conveyancing lawyer wants to return to the chaos and unpredictability of the past few years, so the most recent data coming out of our Q1 Property Trends Report may come as something of a relief. We can see in the report that new instructions appear to be at a normal (pre-Covid) level for the time of year, with a quiet January before more activity in February once December and January listings started converting to conveyancing instructions.

Signs of stability

After the intense activity fuelled by factors like the end of the SDLT holiday in 2021, the absence of any notable surge or fall-back in Q1 means that conveyancers are likely experiencing a welcome consistent rhythm to their business-as-usual activity right now. The industry is currently facing a talent shortage since a good many conveyancing lawyers have left the industry in recent years, but if the more stable and consistent patterns we see in the market during Q1 continue, this should offer law firms at least some breathing space as they tackle their recruitment objectives.

I am always interested in extracting the Completions-to-Instructions ratio from our data because it acts as a kind of barometer for conveyancer workload pressure. As a rule of thumb, the larger the fluctuation in this ratio, the more pressure on caseloads and resourcing. In 2021, monthly fluctuations were as much as 68%, whereas the first quarter of 2022 has seen just a 2% fluctuation in the ratio during the first few months.

As we look ahead, the question becomes one of how concerns about affordability and earnings, watchwords for consumers and lenders right now, might impact the market. As ever, we will be continuing to monitor the transaction value chain and reflecting its progress in the Q2 report.

Download Landmark’s Q1 2022 Property Trends Report for England and Wales here:

Download Landmark’s Q1 2022 Property Trends Report for Scotland here:

Robert Gurney is the Managing Director of Ochresoft, a Landmark Information Group business

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