Over the past twelve months, the number of solicitors and conveyancers handling cases fell by 14% from 5302 (Jan 2011) to 4558 (Dec 2011), while the number of conveyancing transactions rose as fewer firms handled more cases each. Until last year, the number of firms traditionally tracked the number of cases closely.
The most recently released data for December shows a fall of 55 firms advising in the last month of the year alone, while the number of cases increased by 2415.
Consumers’ flight to specialists is shown clearly as the proportion of the market handled by the top 10 firms rose from 4.7% to 7.7% of all cases between 2009 and 2011.
The trends reflect the growth of specialist conveyancing firms offering consumers better service and faster completions, increases in the cost of professional indemnity insurance deterring soliticitors who only handle a few cases per year**, and the contraction of lender panels including those of HSBC and Barclays.
Mark Montgomery, Commercial Director of 1st Property Lawyers said,
“Customers always vote with their feet and the collapse of high street conveyancing is no different. The majority of high street solicitors typically only deal with a handful of conveyancing cases a year and so are less expert and the whole process often takes longer and is more costly. Consumers have decided they want a better service and will go elsewhere to get it.
“Modern specialist firms are dedicated to conveyancing so their work can be done more effectively and more efficiently meaning transaction times can be greatly reduced. Electronic document scanning and smartphone updates also allow customers to keep up to date with their transaction 24 hours a day, keeping them in the picture. Conveyancers who are unable to provide this will go the same way as the village blacksmith did when cars replaced horses.”
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