By Legal Futures’ Associates SearchFlow
In response to the latest Halifax House Price Index, which has shown prices reach a record high after the largest monthly increase since 2016, Dr Tom Quirke, managing director of SearchFlow – the UK’s largest provider of legal due diligence for commercial and residential property transactions – provides his view on what this means to the property market:
“The Halifax House Price Index echoes the data presented by the Bank of England at the start of the month that shows mortgage lending soaring by 66% between June and July, with over 66,000 residential mortgages approved. Average prices are up, property listings are up and new sales are up; whilst this is great for the economy, there is tremendous pressure on residential property lawyers to ensure the smooth exchange and completion of these transactions, particularly in light of the Stamp Duty (SDLT) holiday deadline.
“Property lawyers and conveyancers are under pressure with the property market closely watching to make sure the rate of completions can keep up with the spike in demand; all at a time when some firms may still have staff on furlough. With the average time to sell a residential property at around 16 weeks, we will soon reach a critical point where transactions will need to be well underway in order to capture the SDLT holiday before it reverts to previous levels.
“In recent months, technology’s role has become accentuated, with more lawyers enquiring about digitisation and exploring novel work-arounds to speed-up transactions at scale, as efficiently, securely and compliantly as possible. As I see it, those that can take advantage of the innovative approaches in this heightened state of the market will reap the rewards.
“An efficient and swift flow of transactions will ultimately result in overall customer satisfaction – plus everyone in the process being paid more quickly, as cash flow is critical for businesses. And, with the jobs retention scheme ending at the end of October, we wait to see what the next chapter of 2020 will bring our industry. One thing we have learnt from the pandemic is that things change quickly, and so we must remain agile in our approach and ready for what lies ahead.”
According to the Halifax, house prices increased by 5.2% on the year to £245,747, which is a rise of 3.8% in July and heralds the strongest level of growth since late 2016. On the month, prices were up 1.6% following a 1.7% increase in July.