Rising demand putting pressure on fewer conveyancers in UK property market

Productivity levels in the UK’s residential conveyancing market have soared, rising by 69% in just four years from 71 cases per year in 2012 to 120 cases per year in 2016, new research shows.

With cases continuing to rise but the number of conveyancers falling, those who remain are faced with an ever increasing workload and are being forced to find more ways to work smarter.

Indeed, the latest conveyancing productivity index published by property and land search firm Search Acumen shows that between 2015 and 2016 alone, the annual number of cases per conveyancer increased by 10%, with conveyancers now completing 10 more cases year on year.

It means that conveyancers are now completing an extra case per week on average, increasing from 1.4 cases in 2012 to 2.3 in 2016 and with an increased caseload, conveyancers have had to become much more efficient and are now working at a faster pace, spending a day and a half less on each case than they were in 2012. Over the course of a working year, practitioners now complete a transaction every 2.1 days on average, down from 3.6 days back in 2012.

The ongoing pressures of less time and more work underscore the importance for firms to operate as efficiently as possible, and ensure they are implementing the right technology and work processes to deliver volumes while meeting clients’ expectations for high standards of service, the index report says.

It also reveals that since 2012, the number of conveyancers operating within the industry has dropped by 11% to 17,964. Last year accounted for a considerable decline with 5% of conveyancers dropping out of the market over the course of 2016.

While the number of practitioners has fallen, the number of transactions has continued to rise, meaning there are more cases to go round but fewer conveyancers to work on them. The combined total of sales and purchase transactions has risen by 51% since 2012 to 2.2 million in 2016. The biggest increase came between 2013 and 2014 when the number of transactions jumped by 28%.

Between 2015 and 2016 the increase was more modest, but still significant at 5%, influenced by the stamp duty reforms of April 2016. This saw many landlords and second home owners rush to complete transactions ahead of the changes, putting severe pressure on the workloads of conveyancers.

‘With a remarkable uplift of nearly 70% in their output over just four years, there is no doubt that conveyancers are working harder than ever before for UK home buyers,’ said Andrew Lloyd, managing director of Search Acumen.

‘But many conveyancers are also feeling the pressure. They are facing a significantly demanding workload at a time when advances in technology are ramping up consumers’ expectations of the service they will receive. To put it simply, there is more work to be done but fewer conveyancers to work on it. This is a concern because ultimately it’s home buyers who will suffer,’ he added.