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Conveyancing Crunch Time as stamp duty pressure boils over

New data shows no let-up on the pressure on the conveyancing sector as the stamp duty holiday and the broader economic recovery leads to more transactions.

Data from PropTech firm Search Acumen showed that the number of property transactions registered in England and Wales climbed 26 per cent over the last quarter.

The total was 241,916 in Q1 this year, up from 192,063 in the final quarter of 2020. 

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The early 2021 figure is the first time quarterly transactions have topped to pre-pandemic levels since the onset of Covid - it was two per cent above the level in the comparable first quarter of 2020.

“Conveyancers have been running hot to help get clients’ transactions over the line since the Stamp Duty holiday was first announced. Our analysis suggests that the cost of protecting the property market has had intense pressures on real estate lawyers. Higher average transaction volumes illustrate the growing workload conveyancers are having to shoulder, which has put a huge strain on their wellbeing and productivity” says Andy Sommerville, director at Search Acumen.

The company adds that despite the stamp duty tapering, starting from the end of this month, “lawyers still have a huge task ahead of them to clear the backlog of transactions that have piled up and help homebuyers achieve their dreams before the window shuts.” 

Sommerville continues: “While many firms have embraced digital ways of working to manage during Covid-19 restrictions, we urge the sector to prioritise a digital-first approach as we look to the future. 

“Through modest investment in digital solutions and training to upskill workers to improve their technological proficiency, firms can capture productivity gains and deliver a more efficient service to clients. These workflow improvements will make the transaction process far more seamless; help get people into homes quicker and make the sector more resilient to future shocks.”

The number of transactions completed by the average firm rose 21 per cent over the last quarter to 61 per month, which Search Acumen suggests underlines the scale of orders conveyancing firms are having to process amid the continuing house buying frenzy.

This is a considerable jump from when the pandemic took hold in Q2 2020, which saw average caseloads drop to just 34 per month. Since then, average transactions have increased, with Q1 2021 representing the high point of activity being handled by conveyancers since the pandemic began. 

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