You will find many estate agents keen to recommend a conveyancing solicitor in return for a substantial referral fee upon completion. It is not unheard of referral fees in excel of £600.00 being paid for a simple
introduction. Referral fees paid by the solicitor but added to your conveyancing costs.
Unfortunately estate agents do not recommend solicitors on their ability but on the size of their referral fee. Solicitors involved in these referrals are known to add fictitious disbursements to escalate their costs and can be ‘spotted a mile away’. Disbursements you need to watch out for are:
Completion of SDLT form: Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is generally payable on the purchase or transfer of property or land in the UK where the amount paid is above a certain threshold. The solicitors need to complete a simple form to inform the HM Revenue & Customs, however, solicitors have been known to add up to £85.00 for this service even when there is no stamp duty to be paid.
Acting on behalf of the lender: This applies when a mortgage lender is involved with a purchase, the solicitor has a legal obligation to act on behalf of a lender. Charging for this as and additional service is simply a way of inflating costs.
Professional Indemnity Insurance (PI): Solicitors have been known to charge up to £40.00 for this disbursement. PI is required by all solicitors to operate.
Receiving a quote with any of these disbursement listed is a clear sign that you need to obtain some quotes elsewhere. Some solicitors that specialise in property are turning to the internet to market their services. A simple search in Google for conveyancing will result in many firms promoting themselves. Again, watch out for the fictitious disbursements and check to see if the solicitor offers a “no completion no fee service”. You don’t want to be paying any fees for a failed transaction.
You can find the service from some of these solicitors’ very efficient and read reviews from past clients. Many will also offer the ability to log in and track the progress of your matter online. Using a solicitor you found on the internet is no different to finding one from the Yellow Pages. Conveyancing is now done remotely, you should not need to visit a solicitor’s office, if you do then you will be paying for the privilege.
Estate Agents will discourage you from using your own solicitor, whether it is one you found on the high street or via the internet. They will ‘pull out all the stops’ to encourage you to use theirs. Usual excuses are: Our solicitor will be much more efficient, Internet solicitors are slow and many result in the chain breaking down. Ignore these statements, this is a simple attempt to make a referral for a substantial fee to a solicitor they have an arrangement with.