Should I use the estate agent’s recommended solicitor?
When buying or selling a property, estate agents will usually recommend a conveyancing solicitor. This may seem helpful but is there an ulterior motive?
The right conveyancer can make all the difference
Buying or selling a house is a huge financial commitment, which is why it is important to instruct a conveyancer that you think will complete your transaction as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
The difference between a 'ploddy', unresponsive solicitor and a proactive and communicative one, could be the difference between a successful move and a your move falling through.
You should therefore certainly resist any pressure from the estate agent to go with their preferred conveyancing solicitor, and instead take the time to shop around.
Surely the estate agent would recommend a good solicitor?
Whether you are buying or selling a property, it is in the estate agent’s interest to get you to your completion date as quickly as possible. Until this happens, they don’t get paid.
It should follow that they want you to choose on a good solicitor to carry out the conveyancing process, ensuring there are as few hiccups as possible along the way.
The agent may even appear to be so confident in their recommendation that they offer you incentives, such as a reduced commission, to use their preferred solicitor.
So, what is the problem with going with their recommendation?
The agent is likely to be working with a certain conveyancer or firm from whom they will receive a referral fee. Referral fees can be anything from £100 to £500.
This is not necessarily a problem. Good solicitors pay referral fees too.
However, this referral fee may then be factored in to the bill you get from the recommended conveyancing solicitor, making them a more expensive option.
Although the estate agent is unlikely to recommend someone who will do a bad job, the solicitor may not be offering the best service available to you.
The estate agent’s staff may even be incentivised to refer you to their preferred conveyancing firm, regardless of whether or not the firm are offering you the best level of service.
Conflicts of interest can arise
If you do decide to go with the conveyancer recommended by the estate agent, remember that the conveyancer has a vested interest in keeping the estate agent happy, as it is the estate agent who provides them with regular work.
If your solicitor is commercially dependent on the agent then the agent may be able to exert commercial pressure that conflicts with the buyer’s or seller’s interests.
For example, the conveyancer may feel under added pressure to get the purchase of a property completed quickly, for example, in order to keep the agent on side. This can be to the detriment of the buyer.
If the agent puts pressure on the buyer’s solicitor to get a purchase through so quickly that they are unable to carry out due diligence on the property (or feel obliged to play down any issues flagged during the property searches so as not to put the buyer off), this could compromise the position of the buyer.
Advice for buyers
If you are buying, you may feel particularly inclined to go with the estate agent’s recommended conveyancer so as to incentivise the agent to back you to the vendor.
Do not be pressured. Remember that the estate agent is legally bound to pass on all offers to the vendor from all buyers, and cannot freeze you out of the process.
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers states categorically that:
the conveyancer must ensure they have not been appointed as the result of pressure having been exerted on their client.
It is your conveyancer’s responsibility to make sure you have not been coerced, and also to declare any conflicts of interest to you.In reality this is difficult to both define and police – so this practice is not uncommon.
Check the solicitor's lender panel status
Your chose solicitor will also need to be able to act for your mortgage lender. Not all solicitors can act for all lenders. If your solicitor is not on your lender's panel you can expect major delays.
The agent will not be aware of the solicitor's lender panel status.
The most important thing is that you find an impartial, proactive conveyancer who will act in your best interests.
Shop around and decide for yourself
By all means investigate the conveyancer who is recommended to you by the estate agent, but get your own independent quote from the firm. Then, shop around and see what else is available; you are likely to find someone equally suitable at a better price than that offered to you through the estate agent.