You spend months and months discussing, and preparing, for an event and – just like…
I’m writing this on the longest day of the year – the Summer Solstice – and luckily it appears the UK weather has got the memo and is producing plenty of warm weather. I hope you’ve been able to spend at least some time enjoying it and pushing those serotonin levels up a little.
Historically, we used to talk about wild fluctuations in the housing market based on the seasons. Easter, the Summer, pre-September and just before Christmas being the ‘hot spots’ of activity, where practitioners would be dealing with increased levels of purchase activity as homeowners sought to complete during those periods.
This I’m sure is still the case but perhaps to a lesser extent in recent years as the market – due to all manner of factors – doesn’t seem to be ‘playing’ to those seasonal norms.
I read recently that conveyancers had dealt with a 60% annual increase in property transactions during the 2021/22 financial year. HM Land Registry completed 1.26m transactions, and while the number of conveyancing firms active during that period was up, it will be obvious to everyone that the bulk of that extra work was being completed by the volume conveyancers who make up the CA’s membership.
Talking to CA member firms recently, it’s been apparent that business levels have continued to remain strong, and this is always likely to bring pressures in terms of ongoing resource and recruitment.
Even if those levels do tail off slightly in the months ahead as consumers get to grips with cost of living increases and any impact on mortgage affordability, the anticipation has to be that firms will still need to add resource, or continue their focus on training new staff members while also ensuring they complete the ongoing work. It is a balancing act, and if there is any respite in the forthcoming months, then I’m certain firms will take advantage of that to ensure they are where they need to be resource-wise.
Of course, the fact that activity has held up so well during the last couple of years is a real positive – other sectors were not so fortunate and many are still struggling to come out of the enforced hibernation that the pandemic brought.
The facts are that firms cannot simply ‘magic’ up resource at any time; experienced conveyancers are highly sought after but there are only so many to go round, and therefore firms have to invest in new recruits, with all the training/induction needs that comes with them.
What I do know is that large numbers of firms are working through this resource predicament and will be stronger for it. However, this takes time and as an industry we should not be backward in coming forward in explaining this situation, particularly in a world where many want to ensure blame is afforded to us. No firm is an island in our market, and it will be obvious to all that many other stakeholders are having similar issues – agents/advisers/lenders/surveyors, etc.
Let’s not underestimate the challenges all firms have been working through, and as your trade body we are certainly here to fight your corner and to ensure that a true picture of reality is presented. Of course, we are working on many ways to improve the process, speed up transaction times, and ensure less stress in the process, and added to the hard work and dedication of your firms, I’m confident we’ll see those average transaction times falling significantly, and a much sunnier outlook for all concerned.
One final point to make – we are just a few weeks away from our day of meetings on Wednesday 6th July, including our AGM, our Legal Members’ and All-Members’ meetings, followed by the annual River Cruise, which is sponsored by the Conveyancing Association and Groundsure.
I hope as many as possible are able to join us on the 6th. If anything, it can be a little summer celebration of what you have been able to achieve over the past year and a signal of the strength of our conveyancing market, and your valued place in it.
Please visit the following URL if you’d like to book your place for the 6th July meetings and the River Cruise: https://www.conveyancingassociation.org.uk/event/member-meeting/
I look forward to catching up with you all on the day.
Nicky Heathcote is Non-Executive Chair at the Conveyancing Association (CA)