The conveyancing sector risks losing local, specialist knowledge as a result of increasing consolidation, the director of a property data provider has warned, following analysis of latest statistics.
The latest market tracker by Search Acumen, which analyses Land Registry data to examine competitive pressures, has found that the number of active conveyancing firms in England and Wales has dropped below 4,000 for the first time on record. At 3,961, this is down 9% on five years ago. The top 200 firms now control more than 39% of the market. The top 1,000 conveyancers control more than three quarters of the market.
Search Acumen says low-volume conveyancers continue to be hit the hardest. The number of firms processing up to five transactions a month was down almost 14% compared with five years ago. The number of firms processing fewer than 50 transactions a month is down 10%.
Highlighting a market 'slowdown', the figures show that 255,989 cases were processed between January and March this year, compared to 267,438 in the last three months of 2018. However Search Acumen says the average number of cases dealt with at the start of the year 'remains healthy' - up 11% on five years ago 'as fewer active firms are left competing for business'.
Andy Sommerville, Search Acumen director, said: 'As smaller firms that tend to operate on a more local scale are increasingly squeezed out of the market, we risk seeing a consequent fallout of their specialist knowledge. It is here that technology can play a crucial role. Continued efforts by the government to digitise property and land data - coupled with innovative and efficient ways to add to and maximise the growing pool of information - mean that conveyancers and lawyers can benefit from better insights at their fingertips.'