The UK Conveyancing Market Briefing 2018 provides an overview of the UK conveyancing market which has witnessed a period of fluctuating trends in the last few years.
- The annual number of property transactions (most of which represent residential transactions in England) has been on something of a roller coaster in recent years and this is reflected in the trends in the conveyancing market. Economic trends, the Brexit vote and the changes to Stamp Duty (and other legal developments) have caused a recent decline in property purchases, caused mainly by falling residential transactions.
- In 2017, the author estimates the value of the market declined as the number of property transactions and the number of individuals using conveyancing services fell back compared with 2016. Competitive pricing has also impacted on market value.
- In a survey of conveyancers undertaken by the author in 2018, 66% stated that they had seen increased work volumes in the last 12 months (an increase from 62% in the previous year). A majority also recorded increased revenues from conveyancing but this percentage has fallen to 60% from 66% in 2017. For 33%, revenues were unchanged.
- The market is dominated by local law firms, but a recent trend has been the emergence of some national conveyancers capitalising on what is becoming a commoditised market. However, despite handling over 20,000 transactions each year, the largest conveyancing firm in England and Wales still only accounts for just over 2% of the transaction numbers.
- Conveyancing services were used by just over 4 million consumers in the past two years. Use tends to be highest among adults aged 25-44 and for more affluent consumers.
- Between 2015 and 2017, the key changes to the residential housing market impacting on conveyancing have been: a shift from house purchase towards remortgaging (mainly because fewer current home owners are moving and hence putting their properties on the market); the growing importance of first-time buyers for home purchases; and the decline in importance of buy-to-let purchasers.
- In addition to potential reforms of the conveyancing process by the government, other factors impacting on conveyancing firms are: confusion over the treatment of VAT on disbursements for electronic property searches from a search agent; potential liability of conveyancing firms in the case of fraudulent activity; the continued drive and pressure to digitise conveyancing; continued moves to improve price transparency.
1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
- Market Structure
- Market Developments and Drivers
- Market Size and Forecasts
- Two property transfer systems
3 MARKET STRUCTURE
- Over 8000 active practices
- A consolidating market
- But one with a long-tail
- Most conveyancing work is related to dealing
4 MARKET DEVELOPMENTS AND DRIVERS
- Less than one-in-ten consumers use conveyancing services
- Property transactions roller coaster
- Residential transactions represent the bulk of the market
- England Dominates
- The mortgage market shows the changing dynamics in the residential sector
- Most consumers don’t search but accept recommendations
- If a comparative choice is made it comes down mainly to price
- Most consumers are satisfied with the conveyancing process
- But the Government is seeking to improve home buying and selling
- Potential changes to the Law Society’s Conveyancing Protocol
- Law Commission calls for evidence on Commonhold
- VAT on disbursements
- The threat to smaller conveyancing firms
- Pressure to digitise conveyancing
5 THE KEY PLAYERS
- Market Shares - England and Wales
- Profile of major firms - England and Wales
- Major Scottish Conveyancers
6 MARKET SIZE, FORECASTS AND TRENDS
- The current market
- A market worth almost £1.8 billion
- A Blockchain future?
- Market is expected to show little growth in the coming years
7 CONVEYANCING PRACTITIONER RESEARCH RESULTS