An acute and worsening shortage of conveyancers is putting the brakes on the housing market, according to a respected market bellwether.

Since the beginning of the year, transaction times have lengthened by up to a month, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Residential Market Survey for August reports.

One cause is the Mortgage Market Review recommendations published in April, which toughened lending rules by forcing lenders to spend more time checking applications. ‘While lender caution is reported to be the primary cause of delays, shortages of conveyancers and other skilled staff are also cited as issues,’ says RICS.

As the Gazette has reported, 
amid the conveyancing famine which struck between 2008 and 2012, law firms shed entire teams of staff, which led to many experienced conveyancers retraining or leaving the profession completely.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, said: ‘The MMR and an increasingly acute shortage of conveyancers is adding between 2-4 weeks on to the time it takes to complete a transaction.’

He added: ‘At a national level, the sales and demand picture was mixed. In London, the south-west and west Midlands, there was a significant dip in new-buyer interest, but Scotland and Northern Ireland were noticeable exceptions, where buyer enquiries remain firm, with a net balance of 43% and 52% respectively.

‘While a lack of supply remains a challenge for the market across the whole of the country, there are at last some signs in the capital, where this problem has been most chronic, that instructions are now picking up.’