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Conveyancing Crunch Deepens as Property Market Recovers in Q1

The number of property transactions registered in England and Wales climbed 26 per cent over the last quarter, rising to 241,916 in Q1 2021, up from 192,063 in Q4 2020, according to the latest edition of the Conveyancing Market Tracker from Search Acumen.

This is the first time that quarterly transactions have topped to pre-pandemic levels since the onset of Covid.

The tracker shows conveyancing volumes reached 241,916 in Q1 2021, up 2 per cent from 236,641 in Q1 2020. This is the first time quarterly transactions have reached these levels since before the onset of Covid-19. Q1 2021 transaction volumes were almost double (up 193 per cent) those recorded in Q2 2020 after the shutting down of the property market caused transactions to slide to just 82,385.

Surging property transactions since the first lockdown can be partly attributed to the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday, introduced in July 2020. This has triggered a wave of home purchases as buyers rush to capture the financial benefits on offer.

Search Acumen’s analysis shows January 2021 represented the busiest month of the quarter, with 86,130 transactions occurring, the highest monthly total since November 2019. There was a slight dip in February 2021 to 76,239 transactions, likely resulting from uncertainty over whether the SDLT holiday would be extended beyond March, as well as the impact of the return of lockdown conditions over Christmas and January.

The tracker shows high activity levels in the market have contributed to a sustained recovery in the number of active conveyancing firms. Active firms climbed 4 per cent over the last quarter to 3,962 in Q1 2021, up from 3,808 in the previous quarter.

Stronger trading conditions have helped to push the number of active conveyancing firms above pre-pandemic levels for the first time, with levels now exceeding the 3,928 firms in operation in Q1 2020 and the 3,920 who were active in Q4 2019. Comparisons to Q2 2020 illustrate the pace of the market’s recovery, where there were just 2,411 firms active. Q1 2021 figures represent a 64 per cent increase from the heights of the pandemic.

The number of transactions completed by the average firm rose 21 per cent over the last quarter to 61 per month, underlining the scale of orders conveyancing firms are having to process amid strong demand in the property market. 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 pinnacle of activity being handled by conveyancers since the pandemic began.