The coronavirus swiftly curtailed what looked to be a promising year for the conveyancing sector, according to analysis of latest official data.
Market activity between January and March this year is described as a ‘conveyancing coronacoaster’ by Search Acumen, a search provider, which analyses Land Registry data to examine competitive pressures.
Its latest market tracker shows a post-election bounce in January, which recorded 104,325 transactions – the largest since April 2016, when stamp duty reforms came into force. However, the four-year high was followed by a seven-year low as the number of registered transactions dropped to 55,381.
Search Acumen says the number of active firms reached 4,135 in January, the highest since November 2018. However, 400 firms went quiet by March, not registering a single transaction.
The top 1,000 firms grabbed a bigger slice of the market – 77% between January and March, compared to 71% between October and December 2019.
For the average conveyancing firm, transactions rose from 58 towards the end of last year, to 60 at the start of this year. However, in March, the average firm registered 15 completed transactions.
The ‘conveyancing coronacoaster’ will undoubtedly continue in the next market tracker, highlighting the impact of the government telling home buyers and sellers to delay completions, then weeks later unveiling its plan to restart the housing market.
Andy Sommerville, Search Acumen director, said the freeze on property transactions that began in March, when lockdown measures were introduced, is starting to thaw. ‘But it is clear expectations have changed and the property industry cannot simply go back to old ways of working’.
Sommerville said Covid-19 has been an unwelcome catalyst for change that will bring lasting benefits, such as video viewings and contactless valuations.
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.