The divide between high street and top tier conveyancing firms is only widening, according to recent research from search company, Search Acumen.
While the overall picture for the conveyancing industry is positive, the number of firms in the sector is at its lowest levels since records began. Data for December 2018 shows there were 306,302 applications for transfers of title, charges, and notices submitted to the Land Registry by 5,354 registered entities. Of these, 971 registered entities made fewer than 2 applications, and 2,557 made 10 or less. In contrast, the top ten registered entities made 78,307 applications, approximately the same as the bottom 4,830 providers.
Search Acumen, believe that in the last seven years, 700 firms providing conveyancing services are no longer in operation, either due to “mergers, acquisitions, periods of dormancy or exiting the market altogether”, leading to the lowest number of active firms since 2011. But while on average 100 conveyancing providers drop out of the market each year, the number of property transactions has only fallen 3% in the 12 months, hence the widening of market share by those at the top. This is not a new trend, this infographic from 2016 showed that the top 1000 firms handled 71% of all transactions.
How can smaller firms compete?
The latest case management software does much to control, automate, and drive efficiency into the conveyancing process. Redbrick Solutions Case Management can save time by automating much of the process, from producing quotes, to completing ID checks, Land Registry submissions and ordering searches to producing completion statements. The online portal allows the law firm to upload documents for the client to complete and sign electronically, providing a better service for the client and a more efficient transaction for all concerned.
Law firms that have invested heavily in new systems designed to streamline the conveyancing process, whilst also improving the way they communicate with clients, are reporting increases in the volume of work they receive. By streamlining the process as much as possible they naturally have more capacity to take on work, without increasing overheads, and as their reputation for providing a good service spreads more estate agents will recommend them.
The move towards digital mortgages should also be embraced by smaller firms. The digital mortgage will create a digital mortgage deed and so removing the time-consuming witnessing process and replacing it with secure online verification. Digital technology will change the conveyancing industry, creating improved consumer confidence and reduced conveyancing fraud. This technology will benefit both small and large companies and will protect both from reputational damage.
Some clients will always seek low cost over individual attention but smaller firms who have embraced the benefits of digital technology can emphasise the security, individual communication and service available to their clients. There are many consumers who value these qualities and still require a personal service with transparency and reliability. It is this value proposition that must be emphasised over cost to maintain market share for the smaller conveyancing firms.