There’s been a significant drop in the number of housing transactions dealt with by conveyancers in the first nine months of this year.
Between the start of 2019 and the end of September there were 731,799 transactions passing conveyancers’ desks - over 100,000 fewer than in the same period of 2016. That’s a 12 per cent drop.
The first three quarters of this year have seen four per cent fewer transactions than the same period of last year and a whopping 23 per cent fewer than the same stretch of 2017.
These figures come from Search Acumen’s conveyancing market tracker, which also reports consolidation continuing in the legal sector.
The number of active firms dipped in the third quarter of this year to 4,024 - the second lowest since records began in 2011.
The longer-term trend continues to point to conveyancing consolidation, and there has been a decline of close to six per cent in the number of firms processing fewer than 50 transactions a month over the past three years.
The Q3 2019 tracker also found that the top 1,000 conveyancing firms have continued to strengthen their hold on the market. Those firms now control 75.6 per cent of transaction activity, an all-time high.
Search Acumen director Andy Sommerville comments: “Every passing quarter of 2019 has brought more political headwinds to the property market due to Brexit related uncertainty. One hundred thousand fewer transactions so far this year compared to 2016 is an indicator of the ‘Brexit effect’ on an already cooling property market.
“It’s been a tough three years for the industry, but that said, a tricky market has made it clear how effectively large conveyancing firms are now able to win and retain business. But big firms have a physical limit to how much more market share they can gain. There’s only so many conveyancers they can hire to execute so many transactions in a month. We’re going to soon reach an inflection point where the top firms can’t grow without wholesale changes to how they do business.
“To keep growing, bigger firms need to start to think about combining human and digital insights to a greater extent. They need to assess how many transactions they can currently process and investigate what they could be doing if they invested in better technology. Too many firms we speak to see technology as a ‘nice to have’. But it’s more than that now – technology investment is the key to getting ahead in a competitive climate.”