There are pros and cons when it comes to answering the question, “Should I use my estate agent’s solicitor?”.
We will explain more about what these are but it’s important to appreciate that you are under no obligation to use the solicitor recommended by your estate agent and you may find their fees are very high when you compare them to other solicitors.
There’s no doubt that the marketplace for conveyancing solicitors is a competitive one and other firms, including the wide range of online conveyancing firms, may be more suitable and meet your budget.
However, there are some benefits for using an estate agent recommended solicitor, particularly since they will have an existing relationship which should make it easier for your agent to chase them for any updates or progress reports.
It’s also important to understand what solicitors actually do for the money, and why this process takes so long to complete.
Can estate agents make you use their solicitors?
So, let’s look at the question, ‘Can estate agents make you use their solicitors?’ We’ve already answered that there is no obligation for you to use them and here will explain why you probably should not. Among the issues are:
- There may be a referral agreement in place so the conveyancing solicitor is paying your estate agent a referral fee when they are referred to carry out the conveyancing work for the agent’s clients;
- Larger estate agents may have an agreement in place to use a legal firm that may be part of their group. This means you may find that the estate agent also has a financial incentive to push their conveyancing firm to be used as your solicitors;
- There’s also a chance that the recommended conveyancing solicitors will be more expensive than those you source for yourself.
It’s also important to appreciate that a conveyancer or a solicitor does not have to be based locally and you can instruct any firm that you want to do the work.
The bottom line for those who want to know whether their estate agent can make them use their solicitors is that you must never be pressured into using a recommended conveyancing firm and you should take time to find out other quotes to see whether it really is a good deal for you.
It’s important that you make an informed decision and you should listen to family and friends to see whether they have any recommendations before accepting a recommended firm of conveyancers.
Can solicitors pay referral fees to estate agents?
While there’s no doubt that having the right conveyancer in place can make all the difference to the smooth property purchase transaction, solicitors may pay referral fees to estate agents. This is not illegal or unusual.
Indeed this is an effective way of attracting work and you should not focus too much on whether the estate agent is earning money by recommending a firm of solicitors.
Rather, you should focus more on instructing a conveyancer that you are confident will complete your transaction as quickly as possible.
In addition, they should do this in a cost-effective way since buying a house is a big financial commitment from you.
Stuck with an unresponsive solicitor
Once you begin the process to buy a house and are stuck with an unresponsive solicitor, then this is not only a frustrating experience but could also jeopardise the sale from being completed.
If you’ve chosen a recommended solicitor and they are being very slow, then this is a problem you need to raise with the estate agent since they’ve earned money from their recommendation.
You would hope that the agent would recommend a good firm of solicitors to carry out the work because they don’t earn a penny from you until the purchase has been completed.
It is therefore in their best interests to recommend a firm that will be professional and complete the process as quickly as possible and who will be responsive with updates and answers to potential questions.
If this is an issue, and the agent is very confident in the abilities of the conveyancing solicitor, then it may be worth discussing a reduced commission from the agent so it’s an incentive for you to use their preferred solicitor for completing the process. It’s always worth asking!
Why you should be wary of referral fees
While it’s not unusual for an estate agent to recommend a firm of conveyancing solicitors, you really should appreciate that the solicitors are working for you to complete the property purchase – they are not working for the agent. You should also consider:
- A referral fee can range from £100 to £500 and that it’s you that is ultimately paying this fee;
- There’s nothing shady or underhand with the agent receiving a referral fee, even good firms of solicitors will pay referral fees;
- It’s unlikely that an estate agent will recommend a firm that will do a bad job and this will be an organisation they already have a relationship with.
The downside is that there is a financial incentive when they refer you to a preferred conveyancer regardless of whether they are offering the best levels of service for meeting your needs.
There’s also another consideration and while we say the conveyancer is working on your behalf, they also have a vested interest in maintaining a good relationship with your estate agent since they provide lots of regular work.
Essentially, it is important that due diligence is thoroughly carried out on a property purchase and an estate agent may use their relationship to hurry this part of the process – so any issues may not be investigated properly and will not be flagged up to the buyer.
This means you must choose a conveyancer who is not only proactive but is also impartial and will always act in your interests, which means you probably should shop around to reassure yourself that the recommended firm is good as the agent may be telling you.
Remember you will either be paying your estate agent a set fee (usually for online agents) or a percentage of the selling price. This means you could, for example, be forking out £3,550 with the average fee of 1.42% on a house costing £250,000 plus conveyancing fees of between £780 and £1,500. That’s why it’s always worth haggling if you are prepared to accept their solicitors!
Can I use the same solicitor as my seller?
This is a really interesting question, ‘Can I use the same solicitor as my seller?’
The simple answer is ‘No’ because the same solicitor is unable to act for the seller and the buyer of the same property. However, two solicitors who work for the same legal firm could do so but you need to be reassured that there will be no conflict of interest between the seller and buyer.
If the property sale is straightforward, then the seller may suggest using the same solicitor when it comes to handling the process to speed things up. This may sound like a good idea if you know the seller well or you are buying from a family member.
However, should issues arise and before you get swept along, then you need to refer to Chapter 3 in the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority’s Code of Conduct – ‘Service and Competence’. This question of sharing conveyancing solicitors is dealt with quite clearly on whether there is a conflict of interest.
Should I use the same solicitor for buying and selling?
It’s also worth considering the question, ‘Should I use the same solicitor for buying and selling?’.
It may be that you have built up a rapport with the solicitor when you’ve bought your current house, for example, so you may be comfortable in having the same firm deal with the selling process as well. And also when dealing with the purchase of your next home.
This means you both know each other and will be reassured that the work will be carried out to a good standard and all the relevant deadlines will be met.
Using separate conveyancing solicitors is worth considering but may lead to confusion when deadlines are looming!
Do I need to use a local solicitor for conveyancing?
No, you do not need to use a local solicitor for conveyancing and you may find when shopping around that the cheapest conveyancers are not in your area.
However, since these types of solicitors are usually offering a low-cost service, there are downsides for using these including:
- Your process may not have a dedicated conveyancing solicitor assigned to;
- You may not even have someone legally qualified to carry out the work until it comes to signing off;
- There might be a need for reassurance that all the work is carried out professionally;
- You also need to appreciate that you will not be able to pop in to have a word with the solicitor should the process get bogged down.
It will also become apparent that some of these larger, cheap conveyancing firms will be operating from call centres and will not have facilities for dealing with personal callers.
If you believe that your property purchase will go ahead without a problem and all the deadlines will be met, then you may find that you’ll save quite a lot of money when you deal with a low-cost online conveyancing firm.
For those who would like to meet their conveyancing solicitor, then opting for one that is based nearby will make sense since you can go and visit them to discuss paperwork rather than dealing with bundles of papers landing on your doormat and then having to post them back.
As mentioned, since these low-cost firms are so large with many people involved in the process, you may struggle to contact the person who is actually carrying out the conveyancing on your property.
The other reason for having a local firm of conveyancing solicitors is that over the years they have developed lots of local information that may prove invaluable, particularly if you’re looking to buy a flat or a house on a new development.
Essentially, if you would like an answer to the question, ‘Should I use my estate agent’s solicitor?’ then you should consider carefully whether you trust the recommended firm to complete quickly and for a reasonable fee or would you like to keep the two sides separate. It’s not an easy choice because money, time and the solicitor’s location will all play a part in that decision.
If, after reading this you’ve decided against using your estate agent’s solicitor, you can use our handy tool to find the compare conveyancing solicitors in your area.