Search Acumen comments on the HMRC’s property transactions data for April 2023

31st May 2023

“Today’s figures show a significant decline in property transactions, 25% down on the month previous and 8% down from just one year ago. This can be partially explained by inflated figures in March due to the end of the Help to Buy scheme, though it is abundantly clear that the market is still finding its feet with course correction following the economic turbulence of the last year.

“These circumstances make it obvious that more needs to be done to support the property market’s resilience. Not only are higher mortgage rates pricing people out of their moves, but professional professionals themselves also face ongoing challenges with undertaking the transaction. Move timelines are now upwards of 150 days, having increased by a third from the 100-day average seen in 2019. This leaves ample room for fall-throughs, upping the pressure on shrinking sectors like conveyancing.

“In the commercial property world, though albeit in smaller margins, we are also seeing transactions decrease too. Growing debt remains an issue and confidence in the market is yet to fully return. However, we are encouraged to see some commercial sectors thriving, in particular life sciences, where record take-ups have been recorded in Oxford for Q1 of 2023. This is an indicator of more investment to come in this part of the sector, and an optimism that can spread to the rest of the commercial market more generally throughout the year.

“For both residential and commercial transactions, one of the few sure-fire ways to improve the process overall will be through wholesale digital reform. Our research just last week showed that despite lower transaction volumes, average lawyer caseloads are double than those recorded a decade ago. It is imperative that we give property lawyers and all stakeholders within the transaction chain access to cutting edge, cohesive technology as the new normal to get the job done with greater ease and efficiency.”

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