Conveyancers enjoyed their busiest year on record in 2021/22 – and hundreds of law firms came back into the market – with the average practice seeing a 60% rise in transactions, new research has found.
The market tracker from property data company Search Acumen said high registration volumes during the first quarter of 2022 contributed to HM Land Registry (HMLR) processing 1.26m completed transactions during the 2021/22 financial year.
This was 87% up on the previous year, which was hit by the pandemic, but also 34% up on the pre-Covid 2019/20 figure.
It attributed the rise to the lifting of Covid restrictions and the industry “scrambling to process a backlog of transactions”.
The analysis of HMLR data found an average of 4,058 firms were active each quarter during 2021/22, up from 3,483 in year one of the pandemic during 2020/21 and the first time in nine years where the average number of active firms per quarter did not fall year-on-year. The number was virtually at the level last seen in 2018/19.
Growing case volumes still left the average firm handing 60% more transactions than a year earlier, and 32% more than in 2019/20, to register their busiest financial year since records began, according to Search Acumen.
The average number of transactions per firm was 311 in 2021/22 – more than one per working day – surpassing the previous record of 252 set in 2015/16 when the introduction of higher stamp duty land tax rates for landlords and second home buyers in England and Wales sparked a rush of transactions to beat the March 2016 deadline.
By contrast, in 2011/12, when the housing and mortgage markets struggled to recover from the 2007/8 financial crash, the average firm completed just 135 transactions.
Andy Sommerville, director of Search Acumen, said: “The conveyancing market has been turning the wheels at breakneck speed for over a year now, with a meteoric rise in transaction activity over the last financial year following the initial pandemic lull.
“Our analysis suggests firms of all sizes have had to shoulder the burden of record-breaking activity… We expect the most digitally enabled firms will be best placed to manage client needs effectively and keep workplace pressures in check.”