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Conveyancing work output surges despite ‘creaking processes’

Conveyancing volumes rose 27 per cent in just one month as the sector attempts to cope with huge demand prompted by the stamp duty holiday.

Data from PropTech firm Search Acumen says 73,142 transactions occurring in December 2020 - the latest data available - up from 57,632 in the previous month.

“The surge in activity in the property market can be largely attributed to buyers rushing to capture the savings on offer through the higher Stamp Duty threshold” explains Search Acumen director Andy Sommerville.


He warns this increased demand, plus more buyers wanting to move to houses and areas with more outside space, is stretching the conveyancing industry to the limit - and he is critical of current working practices. 

“The Stamp Duty deadline has put enormous pressure on the conveyancing industry and the traditional processes underpinning much of it, not to mention putting lawyers’ stress levels and patience to the test. This capacity crunch is set to escalate over the next few months and stretch the limits of existing working practices. The conveyancing market is crying out for innovation to better respond to consumer demand” he says.

“For too long the property market has had to rely on traditional ways of working that are a hangover from the last century. It is time to move away from creaking processes and equip lawyers with the data and technology to fully embrace a digital approach to completing due diligence requirements quickly and accurately. Innovation can not only address the current delays in the system but make the industry more robust in the long term.”

Sommerville continues that December was the busiest month for transactions since the onset of pandemic, although he notes that annual transactions in 2020 as a whole were almost one third lower than 2019 due to Covid-19.

Search Acumen says the number of active conveyancing firms in the final quarter of last year was actually three per cent lower than in the same period of 2019.

Even with the year-end recovery in conveyancing activity, annual business volumes have remained “acutely impacted” by the disruption caused to the property market by the pandemic.


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