Search Acumen comments on HMRC’s property transactions data for May 2022: “It’s clear there’s no respite on the horizon just yet”

Search AcumenBy Legal Futures Associate Search Acumen

  • The latest HMRC property transaction data covering May 2022 shows a 1.6% jump in transactions from the month previous
  • Transactions are down 2% on May 2021

Andy Sommerville, Director at Search Acumen, says: 

“We shouldn’t be surprised to see transactions down year on year, as spring and summer 2021 saw buyers rushing to complete before the stamp duty holiday began to wind down. The market is still very active, with transactions above pre-pandemic levels, but we are seeing a more stable pattern this year reflecting usual seasonal ebbs and flows and more in line with pre-pandemic volumes. May’s transaction numbers are predictably rising, with the typical Spring market peak intensified further by pent-up demand and a sustained rush on mortgage deals as interest rates continue to climb. Our own research shows that conveyancing firms experienced the busiest financial year on record in 2021/22, processing 60% more transactions than 12 months earlier, and it’s clear there’s no respite on the horizon just yet.

“Our data also showed that growing case volumes have had a major impact on conveyancing firms’ productivity – on average, they’re now tasked with completing transactions at a rate of 1.22 each working day, more than double the rate of 0.53 per day we saw a decade ago. While bottlenecks mean transactions are taking an average of 50 days longer to complete than in 2019*, conveyancers are nonetheless working at breakneck speed within a system that is still far from being fit-for-purpose.

“The only meaningful way to keep pace with sustained demand is to adopt a digital-first response to how the UK transacts on property purchases. Our archaic system needs a reboot to meet today’s expectations, both in terms of speed and accuracy. The pandemic has proved that the latest technology is not a nice-to-have, but an essential part of a fully functioning property market with robust legal processes underpinning it.

“Although we expect transaction volumes to cool slightly for summer, autumn is traditionally a very busy time for the housing market even with the likely shadow of stagflation. The volume of transactions this autumn will be influenced by stretched affordability issues and whether many forced sales may come about as a result. HM Land Registry is also prompting solicitors and conveyancers to go digital this autumn when submitting AP1 applications, and it’s vital firms tackle the transition ahead of time so that conveyancing processes can progress smoothly through these uncertain times.”


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