"These third-quarter figures demonstrate a recovery from the full force of the pandemic’s impact in Q2, but it is no time for the market to drop its defences quite yet."
The conveyancing market regained its footing in Q3 as demand returned to the property market following a turbulent Q2, according to the latest data from Search Acumen.
The tracker shows conveyancing volumes rose sharply by 105% over the last quarter, climbing to 169,143 registered transactions, up from 82,385 in Q2.
July was the busiest month, with 61,587 transactions completed following the re-opening of the housing market following the spring lockdown.
Comparing transaction types, first registrations experienced the biggest jump in activity over the last quarter as the recovery got underway, rising almost tenfold to 993 in Q3 from 100 in Q2.
In response to the spike in business volumes, the number of active conveyancing firms in the market jumped 56% over the last quarter in response to high demand, rising to 3,751 in Q3 2020, up from 2,411 in Q2. However, this remained the second-lowest number on record with 177 fewer firms active than in Q1.
Similarly, the peak of transactions in July still did not see levels return to those seen in the early pre-Covid months of the year, with numbers in February at 76,935. In addition, total transactions in Q3 were still down by almost a third (31%) compared to the same period in 2019 where 246,816 transactions took place.
The number of active firms in Q3 represents a 7% annual decline from 4,024 in Q3 2019. Longer term trends reveal the number of active firms has now fallen by 10% over the last three years from 4,191 in Q3 2017.
Andy Sommerville, director of Search Acumen, commented: “These third-quarter figures demonstrate a recovery from the full force of the pandemic’s impact in Q2, but it is no time for the market to drop its defences quite yet. While the Government’s Stamp Duty holiday is helping to propel activity into Q4, it has not relieved conveyancers of the pressures they faced in Q2 but has instead presented a different set of challenges for them to navigate.
“After clearing the initial backlog of transactions, raising the stamp duty threshold has swamped public bodies with search requests, and meant that organisations including HM Land Registry and Local Authorities have struggled to keep up. Further, an overreliance on outdated processes has meant that age-old search delays are rearing their ugly head – slowing down the transaction process and threatening to hamper the benefits of the Stamp Duty scheme. To capitalise on the property tax incentive ahead of the deadline next Spring, transactions must progress as soon as possible as delays rumble on.
“It is time the Government acted decisively by tackling recurring delays in the property market through proper investment and an acceleration of its digitisation programme. While this won’t be resolved by 31stMarch 2021, an industry wide change in mindset is required now – not to mention a new approach to leveraging the available technology to harness the data at our fingertips.
“We saw evidence of an increase in firms adopting digital practices as a result of the pandemic. What’s needed now is firm commitment by all parties to collaborate, adopt the right technologies and build a more efficient property market. Only then will we be able to identify risks upfront, reduce uncertainty and progress transactions more effectively in the long term.”