Conveyancers have been warned not to sacrifice quality over quantity after latest sector research shows fewer solicitors are dealing with a rising number of transactions.
Search company Search Acumen's latest market index shows that productivity levels have jumped 69% in four years - from 71 transactions per year in 2012 to 120 per year in 2016. The annual number of cases per conveyancer increased by 10% between 2015 and 2016.
However, since 2012, the number of conveyancers has fallen by 11% to 17,964. Last year, 5% of conveyancers dropped out of the market.
Andrew Lloyd, Search Acumen managing director, said conveyancers are facing a 'significantly demanding workload at a time when advances in technology are ramping up consumers' expectations of the service they will receive. To put it simply, there is more work to be done but fewer conveyancers to work on it. This is a concern because ultimately it's homebuyers who will suffer'.
The combined total of sales and purchase transactions has risen by 51% since 2012 to 2.2 million last year. A 5% increase between 2015 and 2016 is attributed to stamp duty reforms introduced last year. Search Acumen says many landlords and owners of second homes rush to complete transactions ahead of the reforms, putting 'severe pressure' on conveyancers.
Conveyancers are also now spending a day-and-a-half less on each case than they were in 2012. Over the working year, practitioners complete a transaction every 2.1 days, down from 3.6 days in 2012.
Lloyd said: 'With their time at such a premium, conveyancers need to ensure that they're not involved in a race to the bottom, sacrificing quality to handle the quantity of cases they are facing.'
Yesterday, the government published proposals to end unfair and unreasonable abuse in the leasehold sector.
Beth Rudolf, director of delivery at the Conveyancing Association, said it was 'too soon to say' what the proposals mean for solicitors.