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Where to begin?

Last month the title of my blog was ‘A September like no other’, so what could I possibly say about this month?

It’s incredibly hard to know where to start however, politically at least, the situation is now a lot clearer with Rishi Sunak installed as the new Prime Minister, and Michael Gove back at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC).

In itself, this delivers a greater degree of certainty, particularly to the markets, who have clearly been ‘on edge’ over the last few weeks, specifically since the ‘Mini Budget’, and the subsequent u-turns announced by the new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.

The fact that Sunak has kept Hunt in post perhaps tells you the priority being placed on delivering a greater degree of certainty to the markets, who were undoubtedly spooked by the approach taken by Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng.

As far as our sector is concerned, there’s no doubting that Michael Gove understands the brief having only been dismissed by Boris Johnson in July from the exact same position.

He should not need a bedding-in period and, to be fair to him, he previously pursued an agenda which chimes with a lot of what the CA is asking for – namely, improving the home buying and selling process, a focus on leasehold and building safety, not forgetting a commitment to increasing the supply of homes in the country.

Perhaps, with Gove being back so is the target for housebuilding – 300,000 new homes per year by the middle of the decade – which was part of the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto? We shall see.

Again, at the time of writing we await the next ‘fiscal event’ which will tell us a lot more about the over-arching economic situation, and the policies that the Government intends to pursue. This was due to be on the 31st October, but there are rumours this could be moved – perhaps the optics of this being on Halloween, given what could be announced, will be deemed too much for a ‘new’ Government that doesn’t want to coincide such an important set of announcements with accusations of being ‘scary’, ‘horrifying’, or ‘spooking’ the markets and the population.

What we do know is that the cuts to stamp duty are safe because they were effectively introduced with immediate effect, but who knows what else will be announced, and who knows what the Sunak/Gove’s plans might be for the housing market.

Certainly, it would appear there is nervousness among buyers which may impact purchases in the coming months and the post-‘Mini Budget’ market changes the ability to purchase, most notably the rise in mortgage product rates, the shift in affordability measures, and the combination of the two in determining whether people could go ahead and buy or not.

It is to be hope that the markets will continue to be calmed, that increases to interest rates may not need to be so sharp, and mortgage finance options improve and lenders are able to offer more people affordable finance. Clearly, this is just as important for conveyancers in terms of ongoing workflow, as it is for other property market stakeholders.

We will of course be looking at the political situation very closely and we hope that, at the very least, we do not have a repeat of this most recent period when nothing seemed certain. I’m hopeful by the time we reach our next series of meetings in mid-November we should have a lot more meat on the bone and a much better idea of the roadmap the Government is following.

Talking of which, I hope those member event meetings – on Wednesday 16th November, at the Queen Mary Undercroft at the Old Royal Naval College in London – are, at the very least, in your diary and that you have booked your place by visiting the Events page here. Remember that the day’s events will be followed by dinner aboard the Cutty Sark, which I hope you’ll also be able to attend.

Also, on the subject of future events, we now have a firm date for our 2023 Annual Conference, which will take place on the 7th February at Leonardo St Pauls in London. We are just finalising the full range of sessions and panels, but our theme will be ‘Change is Coming’ – which seems completely apt given what is going on at the moment but is also highly relevant to the conveyancing sector.

I’m delighted to say that our keynote speaker will be Richard Susskind, who has graced the CA Conference before and I know will be able to offer considerable insight into the future of the legal sector in general, but also conveyancing specifically. Please look out for further details on the Conference, but you can already register to attend by filling in your details here.

On that note, I look forward to seeing you all again in November at what promises to be a very interesting series of member meetings.

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

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