Number of conveyancing solicitors slumps as market contracts

Conveyancing: Property market will stay low for another year

The number of conveyancing firms and particularly solicitors has dropped significantly over the past two years in line with the major downturn suffered by the property market, according to new research.

It also found “little optimism” for the market rebounding over the next 12 months.

According to IRN Legal Reports’ UK Residential Conveyancing Market 2023, the number of UK residential transactions fell by 15% in 2022, while the number for the first nine months of 2023 sank by 22% compared to the same period last year.

Over two years, there were 455 fewer law firms across the UK that received income from residential conveyancing, leaving 6,308 as of last month. The sharpest drop (7.1%) was in England and Wales, where 366 fewer firms meant a total of 4,760.

This was reflected in lower numbers of active account holders at HM Land Registry (4,079 last year to 3,838 this) and law firms registered on the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (down 166 to 2,723).

According to the various UK law societies, there were 11,226 solicitors working in residential conveyancing in October 2023, a fall of 13%, or over 1,600 solicitors, from September 2021.

IRN said that consolidation in the market was increasing, “albeit at a slow rate”. The top 10 brands have handled 9.1% of all HM Land Registry transactions in 2023 so far, up from 8.7% last year.

My Home Move continues to lead the way in terms of transactions but IRN said Taylor Rose MW had overtaken O’Neill Patient in second place and closed the gap.

My Home Move is part of Simplify, a group which includes six other leading conveyancers and in all remains the “clear market leader”.

On the gloomy prospects for the market, IRN said: “Over the year 2023, there will be another significant decrease in housing transactions with volumes declining again compared to the previous year and market value declining by over 4%.

“The first signs of a recovery are not expected to emerge until later in 2024 with volumes and market value beginning to grow again in 2025 and 2026.”

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