HM Land Registry (HMLR) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) publish open data on a monthly basis which can be accessed via their websites.

Seeing as 2020 has not been a normal year I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the data for the year. I decided to focus on the transactional data, there are other excellent sources that cover prices by geographic area, etc.

HMLR Transaction Volumes Compared to 2019

Overall transactions in England and Wales were down a considerable amount due to the impact of the pandemic and more specifically the first lockdown where house moves were not allowed.

In 2020 680,232 transactions were recorded with HMLR, a significantly lower number than the 933,304 recorded transactions in 2019. This equates to a drop in transactions of 27%, almost a third!

To gather some more insight I compared the transactions month by month;

With the stamp duty holiday and pent-up demand following the easing of restrictions, the industry has experienced a boom, this has been seen in rising house prices, leading ti 2020 having the highest price growth rate in six years (Source).

The Land Registry data shows some evidence of the boom with regards to transactions as seen in the higher number of transactions recorded in December.

However, the numbers do not show a higher volume of transactions compared to 2019, with subdued volume during June-Nov compared to the previous year.

This can be, at least partially, explained by the time it takes to complete a transaction, reported as 187 days pre-Covid-19, circa 6 months, by Today's Conveyancer (Source). This would mean transactions started in June won't complete until December.

You should also remember that the HMLR data shows applications that have been processed and don't reflect the total number Land Registry has received.

HMRC data offers a clearer picture of transaction volume

HMRC data can be seen as more reliable to the actual number of completions as it uses SDLT return records to look at transaction volumes.

The graph below compares HMLR transaction data with the HMRC transaction data for England and Wales.

Looking at this data the effect of the boom is much clearer, with the number of completed transactions growing steadily as we are approaching the end of the year.

It also highlights a growing divergence between the two metrics towards the end of the year which could indicate an increasing backlog at HMLR.

HMLR - The largest 50 firms (by transactions) stood for 20% of the recorded transactions

Looking at the account level data, called “account customers” in the data set, a total of 5,150 firms recorded a transaction with the Land Registry in 2020. This is somewhat down from the 5,393 firms on the list in 2019.

Of the 5,150 firms, 2,791 recorded less than 50 transactions, and 432 firms recorded only a single transaction.

The largest 50 firms stand for 136,419, or 20.05% of the recorded transactions. Comparing this to 2019 there doesn’t seem to have been a major shift with the top 50 firms recording 19.71% of the transactions.

The above numbers do not take account for consolidation in the industry. If you would account for that even fewer firms would hold that share of the market.

By way of example, I count at least six brands for Simplify within the top 50 firms, and there are others such as Taylor Rose’s acquisition of McMillan Williams (source), both in the top 50, further reducing the number of firms recording 1/5th of all transactions.

Data used

HMRC - Transaction data by month for Wales and England. The dataset is available here;

HMLR - This blog looks at “Number and types of transactions for value by all account customers” from HMLR. The datasets are available here: Important note; When reviewing this HMLR data please note that the data ‘transactions for value’ only show those applications that have been processed and don't reflect the total number Land Registry has received.