Most estate agents nowadays will recommend a solicitor or a conveyancer. The question is: should you go with their recommendation?
My initial reaction would be to say yes. Agents work with solicitors day in, day out, and they see the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s in their interest to get the sale through, so of course they will recommend someone who they know can do the job well.
Unfortunately, the answer is not quite as definitive, and takes a little more explanation.
Estate agents & solicitors are on the same side
On the surface, a solicitor recommendation from an estate agent should be invaluable. That’s because estate agents and solicitors are on the same side. The estate agent is being paid to sell the house, and the solicitor is being paid to execute the sale. If the solicitor messes up, the agent doesn’t get paid – it’s as simple as that. The agent will therefore only recommend someone they have worked with on numerous occasions, someone they truly trust to get the job done.
That’s certainly the case at Portico, and we recommend good solicitors to our clients because we want to be useful and helpful. We have worked with the companies we recommend for years, so we can guarantee a great service – without any nasty surprises - at a fair price.
Money or merit?
Unfortunately, some agents’ recommendations are grounded on money rather than merit, and it’s these agents that are giving estate agents an untrustworthy reputation. In other words, some agents will recommend the solicitor or conveyancer they get the most commission from, rather than the one that can offer the best service.
Even if this is the case, it’s important to remember that the agent still wants the sale to go through, so you’re still unlikely to receive a bad service – it just may not be the best service available to you. The fee for selling the property will usually far outstrip the referral fee, so it would be very odd for an agent to recommend someone who couldn’t get the job done.
A high referral fee is also an attractive incentive for the agent to ensure the client goes with their preferred solicitor. Sadly, some agents will pressurise you into using a solicitor of their choosing for this reason, and this isn’t just an issue with estate agents, but also with developers, lenders and even mortgage providers.
It’s important to remember that you have the right to choose your own solicitor or conveyancer, and you are the one who should ultimately make the decision.
My advice would be to listen to your agent’s recommendation, and then do your own research. Look at their preferred firm’s website, take some time to find out about the services they provide, read reviews and ask around. There is nothing wrong with an estate agent being paid to promote the benefits of a particular firm, but only if they are promoting a firm that can offer a top rate service to their clients.
It’s also so important to know what makes a good solicitor or conveyancer, and to have that at the front of your mind when researching or asking your agent questions. A good solicitor or conveyancer should make the whole process as stress-free as possible. They should be easily contactable, able to answer questions quickly and always keep you in the loop, plus they should ensure all paperwork is correctly completed. If they’re not diligent in sending off the right things at the right time, they can cause huge delays to the process, and even cause the sale to fall through.
If you have done your research and trust your agent’s judgement, I’d say go with their recommendation. You’re likely to get a good deal on the fee if you go through your agent, and as the agent will have worked with the company before, the process should be smooth, quick and stress-free.
*Robert Nichols is Managing Director of London estate agency Portico.