SearchFlow Sentiment Survey finds conveyancers need more clarity around new CON29

Survey indicates market levelling off

New research from SearchFlow, the UK’s leading conveyancing search provider, has found that potential changes to the CON29 report is causing confusion amongst conveyancers.

SearchFlow’s third Conveyancer Sentiment Survey has found that 53% of conveyancers surveyed are unaware of the proposed changes. Three-quarters (75%) of conveyancers recognise the need for greater provision by the industry around more information on the changes, which are set to come into place in April 2015.

The forthcoming changes to CON29 will see the introduction of new forms affecting those involved in property transactions. Both solicitors and local authorities will be required to respond through planned budgets, resources and system changes accordingly; however, the survey findings suggest that these changes have yet to be effectively communicated.

SearchFlow’s Conveyancer Sentiment Survey also explored the impact of lender panels on conveyancers’ business, with 50% citing this as their major cause for concern for the second half of 2014. Access to panels, the requirement to provide duplicated information and ability to communicate to lenders are all seen as stifling growth.

Lender panel impact is further evident when examining solicitors’ income; panel instructions accounted for just 9% of business revenue for solicitors (up from 6% in the last two quarters). Direct business continues to account for the lion’s share of revenue at 65% in this third quarter. Elsewhere, 45% of those surveyed said housing market stability is also a real issue.

The findings also suggest that conveyancers believe that the market is levelling out, with just 16% of conveyancers experiencing growth of over 25% in the last quarter, compared to 41% in the previous quarter. With 43% of the conveyancers surveyed seeing growth of over 10% however, there are indications that the property market is beginning to stabilise; 20% of conveyancers have said growth has stayed the same.

This supports HMRC’s recent figures for property transactions in August, where a 1.7% decrease between July and August suggested a re-balancing of the UK property market.

Market stabilisation is helping to drive conveyancers’ confidence around growing their teams. Nearly a third (31%) said they were “very likely” to increase their headcount in the next quarter, up 10% from 21% in the previous quarter and from just 11% at the start of the year.

John Pickford, managing director of SearchFlow, said: “CON29 is clearly a major concern for the conveyancing sector and this, our third survey with the Law Society Gazette shows there is a real need for the industry to communicate these changes to the conveyancing community and beyond.

“There is an opportunity to show real leadership here and certainly SearchFlow is already working with our partners to that end. We welcome the signs of the market settling following two consecutive quarters of incredible growth. It’s this sustainable growth that is boosting confidence, enabling conveyancers to grow their teams, review resources and ensure they stay as commercially effective as possible and leverage the market.”

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