You might not know it, but you could be paying more for legal services when moving home because of the recommendation received form your estate agent. The reason for this is that many estate agents have ‘arrangements’ with solicitors under which they receive what is known as a ‘referral fee’ or as it is often described, a ‘kick back’.
Many of the solicitors who operate in this way do not absorb the referral fee in their fee but add the fee on to the fee they quote you. This means that you could very well be paying as much as £200 more for the service than you would have otherwise paid had you shopped around and gone to a conveyancing solicitor direct.
Is this legal? Well at present yes providing the estate agent and solicitor tell you about the arrangement before you make the decision to instruct the solicitor. The question is how many of those involved actually disclose the referral fee. Sadly I do not believe it is many.
It also raises the question whether instructing a solicitor recommended by a ‘tied’ estate agent will ensure you receive the best service available. My experience is that where such arrangements exist the solicitors instructed are normally part of some ‘factory’ operation and in the main the service levels of those firms is very poor. This could mean you will find yourself having to constantly chase and inevitably the move will take longer.
Instructing an agent with a ‘pet’ solicitor may also impair the solicitor’s ability to offer independent advice. The agent will have a vested interest in the sale completing. Once an agent has agreed a sale, they will want it completed so they will put pressure on the connected solicitor to complete without regard to your best interests. If your solicitor discovers a problem and considers he should advise you to withdraw, will he be prepared to do so if the agents on whom he relies for work tell him not to?
My advice is not to rely on your agent’s recommendation. Shop around, visit websites, read the reviews on the service offered and do not be tempted by deals offered by some agents to ‘wrap’ your legal fees in with the agent’s fee. Perhaps even choose your solicitor before you put your house on the market because many solicitors like us know which are the 'good' and 'not so good' agents. And before you ask, no we do not get a ‘kick back’ for recommending an agent!