Consolidation within the conveyancing market has reached worrying levels as the big firms take advantage of the slowing property market to grab market share, it has been claimed.
Property data firm Search Acumen reveals that the number of conveyancing firms in England and Wales had dipped below 4,000 companies for the first time ever, and that the 200 largest firms by volume now control 39% of the market.
Search Acumen also says the top 1,000 firms control 75% of the market for the first time, sounding the death knell for the smaller, local conveyancing solicitors who used to dominate the market.
These are finding it harder and harder to compete against the burgeoning number of online and call-centre conveyancing firms who are offering rock bottom rates.
More and more of these smaller solicitors who used to be involved in conveyancing are withdrawing from the market; the number of active law firms processing between one and five transactions a month in the market has reduced by 14% compared to five years ago.
But the number of conveyancing processing more than 200 transactions a month has increased by 26% over the same period, the Search Acumen report reveals.
“As smaller firms that tend to operate on a more local scale are increasingly squeezed out of the market, we risk seeing a consequent fallout of their specialist knowledge,” says Andy Sommerville (left), Director of Search Acumen.
“The consolidation of the market continues in conveyancing but, while larger firms are processing a higher share of activity, it would be a mistake for them to rest on their laurels.”