The results of last year's Conveyancing Cost Recovery survey which we held in November are out. The response was good, leaving us with over 150 solidly filled out replies. Thank you to all of you who participated, we hope very much that you will find the results as interesting and illuminating as we have.
Before we turn to the analysis of the results, a quick note on the methodology we used to filter down the results, and the graphs we chose to present the most accurate picture possible.
- Responses were collected and divided into their relevant regions.
- Then sorted according to their IP Addresses (Survey Monkey, the software which we used to conduct the survey collects the IP Addresses of respondents, we can't know however who you are though) - those that were the same were highly likely to have come from the same firms, and in fact the high correlation between answers confirmed this fact. As an interesting aside, a few of the more cautious respondents read through the survey and did not answer anything, then re did it, this time answering the questions.
- A number of respondents did not respond at all apart from answering the first question, other responses were non-sensical, these too were excluded.
- The remaining data generated the graphs below. However because of the insufficient responses from a number of the regions, we have decided to publish only the countrywide and not the regional results.
- Not every question in the survey has been used verbatim.
About you and your firm
1. In which area do you practice?
With Cape Town and Pretoria leading the pack the national results will be skewed.
2. How many partners does your firm have?
What is interesting to note here when compared the results to the 2010 and 2012 survey is that the number of sole practitioners has stayed relatively constant. Yet the bulk of respondent firms are getting bigger, with the proportion of firms with 6 to 10 partners now comprising 15% of respondent firms, up from 8% in 2014 at the expense of firms with 2 to 5 partners which represented 51% of respondent firms in 2014.
1. What amount does your firm recover from clients for Postages and Petties for ...Transfers, Bonds and Cancellations?
The following points apply here and to other graphs in this format. I divided the responses into the Lower ¼ (the amount below which a quarter of respondents fall); a Median point (half fall beneath this value and half above); ¾ (3/4 fall below this point) and High (the most any firm claims/charges etc).
Generally Postage and Petties have gone up by about 20% for all measures since 2014. With the exception of the lowest and lower ¼ of Transfer and Bond recoveries which have doubled from R100.00 in 2014 to R200.00.
The median recovery on a transfer was R550.00 and today it is R650.00. In 2014 the maximum on a transfer was R1 500.00 and, today the maximum is R1 800.00.
With bonds we see the same Low, Lower ¼, Median, ¾ and High pattern as transfers. When it comes to Cancellations the Lower 1/4 recovery has almost doubled from R57.00 to R100 with the Median recovery rising from R250.00 to R300.00 and the top ¾ from R350.00 to R500,00 both figures representing a roughly 20% increase.
2. What amount does your firm recover from clients for Deeds Office searches?
A fairly substantial increase of 30% to the average which sees it rising from R138.00 to R184.00, similar increases are evident for the 3/4 and High amounts.
3. What amount does your firm recover for Electronic Bond Instructions?
The average cost for an electronic bond instruction has risen markedly from R281.00 to R405.00 now. While the highest recovery has risen slightly R950.00 to R1000.00. The minimum recovery by some firms remains at R30.00.
4. Have you increased the last published conveyancing guideline to keep pace with inflation? If "Yes" by what percentage?
One of the things we often hear from practitioners is how infrequently new fee guidelines are issued by the law societies. Be that as it may, firms are still very reluctant to charge anything more than the fee guideline, in fact quite the opposite. The majority of firms are effectively giving discounts and the increases where they have occurred have been low.
It is clear therefore that conveyancers continue to keep the biggest constituent of conveyancing income as low as possible.
5. Do you charge a minimum fee for the following: Bonds, Transfers and Cancellations?
There has been quite a swing towards more conveyancers not charging minimum fees for Bonds, Transfers and Cancellations.
6. If you discount fees, by what percentage do you normally discount them?
Over 90% of firms now discount fees at an average rate of 18%, while only 16% of firms offer discounts on Transactional Billing.
The Conveyancer/Secretary ratio has remained virtually the same since 2014.