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‘So this is Christmas, and what you done?’

2023 is rapidly coming to a close with 2024 rearing into view.

However, we’re not quite done with the year yet, and while I know this remains a busy time for conveyancers as people want to move into new homes ready for Christmas, I hope you will soon be able to take some well-deserved time off, and to spend it with your loved ones.

There’s no doubting 2023 has presented some considerable challenges for all conveyancing firms, and while the outlook for 2024 does appear brighter, it’s also fair to say that no-one I have talked to is expecting an incredible surge in activity but perhaps steadier progression.

Which, of course, is not to say that we also shouldn’t expect the unexpected. The Autumn Statement might have been and gone with little fanfare, and few major changes for the housing and mortgage markets, but that’s not to say that March’s Budget won’t have more interventionist measures included.

With no stamp duty changes in the Autumn Budget, and certainly no big ticket measures for housing stakeholders, perhaps the Chancellor was holding back for March? And given 2024 is likely to be a General Election year, it would not surprise me one bit to see some ‘market-pleasing’ policy announcements designed to kick-start the market and bring about more activity.

Might we, for example, see a replacement for Help to Buy? The big housing developers appear to be lobbying for this, and given the need to secure the support of younger voters, might the Government also look at more support for first-time buyers?

The closer we get to an Election, the more likely we will see these types of announcements, and of course at the same time, we’ll be hearing from all the other political parties about what their plans are for the future of the housing market.

In terms of our member firms, few are unlikely to baulk at greater activity levels, particularly when it comes to purchase business. This also seems even more relevant and important during a year in which remortgage maturities are due to be less than 2023, even if they still number in the millions.

There are also other major considerations for firms, not least in terms of fraud protection and specifically the threat from cyber criminals. We’ve seen this recently within our industry and the impact on both firms and their clients can be considerable, with solutions taking a while to introduce resulting in a great deal of upheaval and stress for all concerned.

At this juncture, I would like to point all our firms in the direction of the CA’s Fraud and Cyberfraud Protocol because there is a significant amount of good information, advice and guidance for conveyancing firms on the threats they face and, importantly, what they can do to mitigate against them.

It’s unfortunately all too likely that conveyancers will remain a major target for criminals because of the sheer scale of the money often involved in property transactions, and therefore we all have to do more in order to protect the firm and clients against this threat.

Technology can be a huge enabler for firms, but it’s also fair to say that, without adequate protection, it can be used against us, and we need to be constantly wary of this and the methods and means by which you may be subject to attack.

This topic, along with all others in the ‘digital sphere’ will be up for debate at the 2024 CA Annual Conference, taking place on the 6th February in Manchester.

Last month I expressed my frustration that train strikes and disruption had put paid to our last chance to get together in 2023, but it makes the Conference all the more important, and I know – like us – many of you are looking forward to attending it.

We are just putting the final touches to our conference agenda, so please look out for a full list of speakers and the topics they are covering very early in the new year.

Further details are available here, including how to register, and information on some of the speakers we have announced already, plus sponsors and the venue itself. We hope to kick the year off with a real bang.

Which only leaves me to say that I, and everyone at the CA, wishes you all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and we’re looking forward to catching up with you all very early in 2024 for what promises to be an excellent Conference event.

Nicky Heathcote is Non-Executive Chair at the Conveyancing Association (CA)

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