Diary of a high street conveyancer: 17th October 2022

A quick Google search will show so many different online comparison charts for solicitors’ fees. There are headings such as: “Save on your conveyancing fees” – well, yes, buy a cheaper house and save money that way would be my response to that one! “Compare conveyancing quotes online in just 10 seconds,” reads another.

My response to this: why? Call the firm, chat with the person who will be acting for you, see if you would feel confident with that person handling your largest transaction and spending your money for you. One firm offering fixed fee conveyancing spelt “conveyancing” incorrectly – perhaps not a firm worth considering!

One of the first articles says that fees can range from £300 to £1,500. But we all know that the pricing structure varies significantly between firms. Those with the low headline price and then all the extras (such as acting for the mortgage lender, considering the leasehold element) are added on which makes that headline price sometimes more than the higher price quoted by other firms.

Then add in the difference in the charges for searches – packaged searches, official, or regulated searches. It must be so difficult for a member of the public to make the best decision purely based on price.

Prior to 1988, solicitors had the monopoly on conveyancing, but it was in 1988 when licensed conveyancers entered the market. It was in 1992 that there was an amendment to the Introduction and Referral Code 1990 to allow contractual referrals for conveyancing services. It was around this time that agents changed how they viewed conveyancing and wanted a cheaper service for their clients, perhaps backed by a referral fee, and once one firm in an area starts to provide the service more cheaply, it seemed to be that others would follow. This has changed the market, but I want to consider something else.

I read that in 1956, conveyancing costs were in the region of a working man’s salary for the month. I don’t know whether that is correct, but if so, it’s fascinating.

It shows not only how much was charged, but how the process of buying a house was viewed very differently. It was seen as a professional service to be provided by a solicitor.

Now, conveyancing is viewed as a commodity and there has been a downwards trend in being cheap.

As we enter what may be a lull in the housing market, I think it is important for firms to keep their prices high and promote themselves as offering a professional service rather than lower prices in order to gain work.

There may be fewer cases out there, but why does that mean it has to be cheaper? Perhaps this is a time for us to take stock of the last two-and-a-half years and think about how we offer our services – a time to realise that we are professionals and should be paid accordingly.

This is written by a real high street conveyancer who wishes to remain anonymous. Read more in Today’s Conveyancer every week.

One Response

  1. Agree. I started conveyancing in 1990ish, qualified in 1997 as a licensed conveyancer. I have seen how the perception of the profession has changed over the years. Buying cheaper is not always the best, I will say and stand by “you get what you pay for”. Having that conversation at the outset with a professional is key, see how you feel after the conversation, although it is extremely difficult for the public to know what to look for, we deal with a variety of conveyancing firms on a daily basis and as a locum (for the last five years) I have worked at some places where it’s a total smoke screen. I would go so far as to say havoc. The issue is that you will always get the firm down the road under cutting you, it’s a fact of life, not a nice one but the factory wheels will turn and churn. I would hasten to say some firms just want clients through the door just once for the fees, they are not in it for the longevity of the relationship with the client. That seems to be no longer what some firms strive for. I was taught that clients are hard won and easily lost, it takes work, it’s a relationship. Let’s face it the majority of the time we get the client “second” the agent will invariably pass details of those firms who are willing to pay a referral fee, even if they know the service is not great. I have been told by agents that they would prefer to refer to me but it’s firms policy to refer to specific firms for the referral, such is life. It goes on. It certainly is a different world that I started in all those years ago, both good and bad

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