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Conveyancing sector sees slowest quarter in two years

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  • 19/11/2019
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Conveyancing sector sees slowest quarter in two years
Quarterly conveyancing volumes in the second quarter of 2019 dropped below 230,000 cases for the first time in two years to 228,994, a decrease of more than 10 per cent compared with Q1.

 

According to Search Acumen’s Conveyancing Market Tracker the dip is a 20 per cent decrease from Q2 2016 – before the EU referendum – where the number of transactions reached 286,485. 

The tracker showed that total transactions decreased for every segment of the market on a quarterly basis by as much as 12 per cent.  

 

Slowdown at all levels 

For the top five firms, the nine per cent quarterly decline in activity represented 1,000 fewer transactions, while for the top 1,000 firms, the 10 per cent drop meant 19,651 fewer transactions compared to Q1 2019. 

The drop in total transactions was illustrated by the number of firms handling between 200 and 500 transactions per quarter – the number of which has decreased by 22 per cent in Q2, from 36 to 28, almost equivalent to the 23 per cent drop experienced over three years prior. 

 

Top 200 increasing market share 

The latest data also showed the top 200 conveyancing firms now control more of the market with a 39.7 per cent share.  

While this is a slight increase on Q1’s 39.3 per cent, it’s a steady gain from 31.9 per cent share held in Q2 2011. 

The most notable gains in market share have taken place at the middle of the market as over the past five years the top 201–500 ranked firms have increased their collective share from 18.4 per cent to 19.1 per cent. 

Furthermore, those ranked 101-200 have seen their share rise from 10.2 per cent to 11.3 per cent and the top 21-50 firms saw a 7.9 per cent market share compared to 6.7 per cent five years ago. 

 

Decline in cases 

The slowdown in overall activity has carried across to the average number of cases conveyancing firms dealt with as the tracker showed a quarterly decrease of over 12 per cent from 65 cases in Q1 to 57 in Q2.  

However, the average number of cases per firm is up 11 per cent on two years ago from 51 in Q2 2017 and the firms at the top end of the market are also performing strongly compared to five years ago, with average monthly caseloads up by over 20 per cent for the top 50 firms.  

The remaining firms’ average quarterly numbers have remained steady over the last two years. 

 

Drop in active firms 

The number of active firms dropped below the 4,000 mark for the first time to 3,961 in Q1, but there was an increase of 75 active firms in Q2, bringing the total to 4,036 – the second lowest on record. 

The Q2 2019 figure is three per cent down on the equivalent period last year when 4,144 firms were in operation, and a six per cent decrease since 2016, marking a fallout of 245 firms in three years. 

Furthermore, there has been a decline of 25 per cent in the number of firms processing fewer than 50 transactions over the past three years, equivalent to a drop of 104 firms. 

 

Result of uncertainty realised 

Andy Sommerville, director of Search Acumen, said: “After three years of increasing uncertainty, we’re finally seeing the result of the ‘wait and see’ approach that many homeowners and prospective buyers in England and Wales are taking while Westminster continues to wrangle over the nature of our exit from Europe. 

“Smaller conveyancing firms who were already struggling to compete are now facing tougher conditions, while those who have been able to gain a larger foothold are now taking a bigger slice of activity than ever before.”

 

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