CHAOS: House purchases hit record high but conveyancer numbers dwindle

House purchases were the highest recorded in five years in Q3 once the Covid backlog in Q1 was taken out, latest data suggests.


House purchases were the highest recorded in five years in Q3 2002 once the covid backlog in Q1 was taken out, latest data from search property provider Search Acumen suggests.

But the high volume comes at a time when conveyancing firms are leaving the market meaning there are more transactions than firms to complete the deals.


Search Acumen’s Conveyancing Market Tracker (CMT) shows an 8% transactional increase from Q2 and a 32% increase from the same period pre-pandemic in 2019. The average conveyancing firms’ quarterly caseload rose some 15% – from 70 in Q3 2021, to 80 in Q3 2022.

The Market Tracker – which monitors business activity and competitive pressures in the conveyancing market – shows that the volume of active firms in the market is yet to recover to anywhere near the peak of 4,191 in 2017, compared to 4,051 now, and remains 11% down from a decade ago.

Andy Sommerville image
Andy Sommerville, Search Acumen

Andy Sommerville, Director of Search Acumen, says: “The pressure we are seeing on conveyancing firms up and down the country feels continuous after the peak seen in Q1 of this year following market lockdown, with little respite ever since.

“We know from this data that the size of the conveyancing sector has not kept pace with transactional growth, which inevitably means frustrating delays for consumers and stakeholders alike.

Mortgage fall-throughs are a big concern.”

 “Mortgage fall-throughs are a big concern as buyers try to beat the tide on increasing interest rates, whilst the three G’s are back in force: gazundering, gazumping, and gazanging.”


Around 20% of all residential transactions fall-through pre-completion on a normal basis.

Sommerville adds: “Less room for investment in key departments that support the real estate markets could see our protracted transactions times get longer.

“There are significant delays already in processing property transactions and it is hard to see how a cost efficiency drive won’t exacerbate the problem, especially at Land Registry where staff are planning strike action, and for over-stretched local councils.”

The Neg reported last week on the turmoil engulfing conveyancing group Metamorph.

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