Latest research from SearchFlow,  the UK’s leading conveyancing search provider, suggests that the property market is continuing to cool, with some conveyancers reporting a slowdown in business and as a consequence there is also less optimism within the industry.
SearchFlow’s Conveyancer Sentiment Survey, which covers the period from October to December found that 43% of business volumes had stayed the same. Just 29% of respondents saw work volumes increase by more than 10%, down from 43% reported in the preceding quarter.
The news from the conveyancing sector comes shortly after publication of Nationwide’s House Price Index for December 2014. This continued to report a slowdown in property price growth, a further indicator that the market is slowing.
Interestingly, more conveyancers attribute cooling in the market to the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) than to concerns over forthcoming interest rate rises (23% compared with 16%).
“It is clear that conveyancers are less optimistic than they were at the start of 2014,” explained SearchFlow’s Managing Director, John Pickford. “But, with the sharp spike in the market in early 2014, it was to be expected that we would eventually come to see the market level out again.
“We’ve already seen the impact of mortgage reviews, but continued uncertainty on interest rate changes and the upcoming election could cause further instability in the market. We’re also yet to see what affect stamp duty reforms will have. These are all key issues that we’ll continue to monitor closely in 2015.”
SearchFlow’s research suggests more conveyancers are pessimistic about prospects for business growth. Just 17% expect additional business in Q1, compared with 29% when asked the same question in the preceding quarter. This is reflected in conveyancers’ recruitment intentions, which have continued to decline: only 19% say they are ‘very likely’ to add to their headcount, down from 31%.
Lender panels remain the most significant industry concern: 35% citing this as their main worry, compared with 50% in the preceding quarter. However, the survey also shows lender panel instructions are continuing to rise at 15% this quarter, up from 9% in Q3 and 6% in Q2. Direct business continues to make up the lion’s share of business, albeit the proportion is declining – from 65% to 54%.
When considering their own businesses, 48% of conveyancers cite profitability as the main concern for 2015 while 36% are more worried about client satisfaction and retention. Seemingly, 30% will be focussing investment in people and 25% in technology this year.
“Client satisfaction is crucial for conveyancers to ensure they attract new business, as well as retain existing business,” Pickford continues. “Lawyers can ensure they do this through their own due diligence, and SearchFlow’s CPD webinars and seminars were created to give lawyers access to the information they need, in a simple and convenient way.
”SearchFlow is also gearing up to launch a suite of innovative solutions to help conveyancers make the most of their businesses in 2015 and beyond. Lawyers are being urged to use this time of calm to consolidate their operations and ensure they have in place the most efficient process and business practices to maximise profitability.”