'Expect the unexpected' in 2017, conveyancers told
Firms should continue to improve the efficiency of the property market
Despite 2016 transactions reaching pre-financial crisis levels, conveyancers must ‘expect the unexpected’ this year as economic uncertainty threatens to stall the property market.
Last year saw the highest number of conveyancing volumes since 2007, according to Search Acumen’s Conveyancing Market Tracker. It also found that the average conveyancing firm completed 193 transactions in 2016 – a 22 per cent increase on the 158 seen a decade earlier; the highest number since the tracker’s launch in 2005.
The number of active conveyancing firms also climbed for the first time in five years from 5,357 to 5,572. However, there has been a 28 per cent drop in total firms over ten years with an average of 213 firms either merging or exiting the market each year.
Competition remained stagnant in 2016, however, with those firms ranked in the top 1,000 retaining their 71 per cent market share for the second consecutive year. The top five firms saw their market share rise from 2 per cent in 2006 to 6 per cent in 2016 – the greatest market share increase in ten years.
Mark Riddick, chairman of Search Acumen, said his company’s findings were ‘an interesting development during a time of economic uncertainty’.
‘The growth shows that the sector very much adopted a “business as usual” attitude, disallowing the multitude of obstacles from the ongoing Brexit saga,’ he added. ‘The longer term picture has revealed a shrinking volume of active firms, but this may not be as worrying as it sounds.’
However, recent research from The Times found that 2017 could produce adverse results with the impact of stringent mortgage lending rules, SDLT rises, Brexit, and inflated asking prices causing the housing market to stall, with some homeowners waiting up to ten months to sell their properties.
Moreover, estate agents forecast that the number of home transactions completed in Britain will drop by 11 per cent this year, the lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis.
‘As we look ahead to the next twelve months we can by no means predict which path the UK economy will take,’ said Riddick. ‘However, we can position ourselves to continue our resilience and improve the efficiency of the property market.
‘Conveyancers must expect the unexpected – embracing technology and being savvy to the continuing threats of cybercrime in the industry will help protect our firms, employees, and customers during more uncertain times.’
Matthew Rogers is a reporter at Solicitors Journal