The conveyancing sector stagnated in the second quarter of this year, with firms recording the fewest transactions since March 2013, according to Search Acumen.
The conveyancing search provider said that this lull means fewer conveyancing businesses are now active in the market than was the case four years ago.
Its Conveyancing Market Tracker shows the average number of firms active in the three months to June 2017 dropped 1% from 4,198 in Q1 to 4,143.
This is the lowest figure on record since tracking began in 2011.
Smaller firms hit hardest
Those businesses that average between 100 and 200 transactions per month saw the largest quarterly decrease during Q2 2017, plummeting in number by a third over the quarter (from 88 to 59) and 45% annually (from 106 in Q2 2016).
Stagnant housing supply and restricted home moving activity pushed total conveyancing volumes down 14% to 210,964 from 245,738 in Q1 2017, said Search Acumen, the fewest cases in a single quarter since mid-2013.
This fall has dragged average monthly business volumes back to levels experienced three years ago – 51 cases a month compared to 59 cases in the first quarter of 2017.
Andrew Lloyd, managing director of Search Acumen, said: “The dip in conveyancing activity should come as no surprise to those closely watching the UK property market, but it poses a significant challenge for conveyancing firms that want to survive and grow. We see from our latest statistics on productivity that the conveyancing industry is an increasingly well-oiled machine, but it can only process the transactions the market feeds it.”
No downturn for specialists
David Gilman, head of Blacks Connect, said the firm has experienced the opposite to today’s figures.
“Business is significantly up on last year. We cover the whole spectrum of property from the prime cases to the more complex commercial purchases and we have not witnessed any sort of slowdown in terms of business levels.”
He added that brokers should look beyond size when considering a firm to partner with. “Experience is an important factor to consider – firms that have a good reputation and are well respected will continue to do well. Those companies that can deal with more complex, specialist cases are also more robust as their expertise will always be in demand.”
Emma Hall, head of sales at GWlegal, said: “We haven’t experienced this downturn but we provide a specialist conveyancing service and don’t deal with mass market conveyancing. We get into the nitty, gritty of the difficult and complex cases where business remains strong. I suspect the stagnation is predominantly in the mainstream market.”