UK Property Sales Transactions are at their Highest Level for 5 Years

Property transaction volumes hit their highest level for five years during the third quarter of 2022, conveyancers claim.

It comes amid a rush to complete sales before interest rates rise further and as buyers clamour to move home before Christmas.

The latest Conveyancing Market Tracker from industry software provider Search Acumen, recorded 325,422 property transactions during the third quarter of 2022.

This is the highest recorded in five years when discounting the first quarter of 2022 which witnessed an unprecedented administrative backlog of lockdown cases completed, the report said.

Transactions were up 8% from the second quarter and rose 32% compared with the same pre-pandemic period in 2019.

This meant the average conveyancing firms’ quarterly caseload has risen from 70 in the third quarter of 2021 to 80 in the third quarter of this year, equating to a significant 15% increase. 

According to Search Acumen’s analysis, this comes at a time when the market has seen a marginal increase in the number of active firms, rising by just 0.7% in the same period, suggesting that already busy property solicitors are now even busier.

Andy Sommerville, director of Search Acumen, said: “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, especially when you consider the digital switch happening at Land Registry which comes with its own teething issues.”

He suggested mortgage fall-throughs are a big concern currently as buyers try to beat the tide on increasing interest rates and also warned “the three Gs are back in force: gazundering, gazumping, and gazanging.”

Estate Agent Today hadn’t previously come across the gazanging term but apparently, it refers to when a vendor comes off the market and stays put. 

Sommerville added: “Around 20% of all residential transactions fall through pre-completion on a normal basis, but the industry is generally accepting that this figure will rise sharply in line with increased market uncertainty. It’s already taking buyers over double the time to get to completion than it did pre-pandemic, and the longer this time is stretched out, the more vulnerable the entire property market is as recession beds in.”

Less room for investment in key departments that support the real estate markets could see protracted transaction times get longer, Sommerville warned.

He said: “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 is planning strike action, and for over-stretched local councils.

“This might seem abstract, but delays and transaction failures cause significant blockages, costing businesses, buyers, and sellers huge sums of money at a time when they can least afford it. While the government may be able to support industry by tackling inflation and stabilising interest rates, this will be negated if the market grinds to a halt beneath the surface.”

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