Property experts have predicted a slow start to the year, but forecast an end to redundancies among conveyancing solicitors.
Paul Marsh, lead Law Society spokesman on property, said the next 12 months would remain slow, but with house prices rising in some areas due to a shortage of supply.
Transaction volumes would stay low, he said, because lenders were still not lending enough.
Anxiety about unemployment, poorer mortgage deals on offer, the looming general election and forthcoming world cup could also prevent people from moving house, Marsh said.
‘Estate agents and surveyors suggest that once world cup fever begins, people will not think about moving house,’ he said.
Despite this, Marsh said he did not expect to see many more redundancies because firms had already made cuts. ‘It would be unwise to make more cuts because firms will need good staff when the market picks up again.’
Richard Barnett, chairman of the Law Society's conveyancing and land law committee, added that he did not expect to see more job losses or office closures.
'Firms made the necessary arrangements last year to make sure they've got a profitable model,' he said.
Peter Rodd, chairman of the Law Society’s property section, said it was difficult to predict what would happen to the property market in 2010 as ‘we have not before seen a property crash against the background of such economic disaster’.
He added: ‘The first few months will be slow, but I’m hoping a change of government, combined with fine weather, the abolition of home information packs and England success in the world cup will encourage a feel-good factor that will stimulate the market in the second half of the year.’
Mark Riddick, chairman of the E-Home Buyers Forum, said that over the past 20-25 years, conveyancers had got used to seeing roughly 1.2 million transactions a year. ‘Last year there were around half that number, and this year is not likely to be much better,’ he said.
‘It will be an extremely competitive market for solicitors as the number of transactions will remain depressed.’
Marsh said solicitors needed to do all they can to drive down their costs and improve efficiency.
‘They should use the lull to reorganise themselves and make sure they have IT and case management systems that will enable them to be efficient and attract clients,’ he said.
Barnett added that solicitors should also use the time to consider their use of referral fees and look at their firms’ advertising and pricing.
He said it was essential that firms were transparent about the cost of their service in their advertising.
'Advertise a proper fee, that shows the client what they are paying for,' he said. 'If referral fees are transparent, there is no problem with them, but firms should not have hidden costs in the service they provide.’