30th May 2019

Don't fall fouls of some firms' fees in the fine print

Following a report from the Competition and Markets Authority, solicitors are now required to advertise our conveyancing prices directly on our websites so that you, the public, are armed with the information you need to make a decision as to which firm to instruct when you're moving home, re-mortgaging, transferring equity or otherwise dealing with property.

Of course, some payments you may have to make such as Stamp Duty Land Tax and Land Registry are set fees that don't change whichever firm you use but there can be big differences between the actual fees for work charged by firms so how do you make a choice?

The Competition and Markets Authority commented that many people went on recommendations alone without doing any further investigations and commented that a recommendation doesn't guarantee a good service.  Well, perhaps they are right but surely a recommendation is a good starting point and from our point of view, we're very proud when clients recommend us to their family and friends.

Nevertheless, it's still wise to check of course but how do you know you are comparing like for like?  Most firms will quote a “baseline” price and then add on fees for dealing with various aspects of your transaction, such as charging extra if you're buying a house with a mortgage and charging for completing the Stamp Duty Land Tax return.  At Berwins we know that no two transactions are alike and so we have a policy of “no nasty surprises”, meaning that at the beginning of your transaction we will send you a tariff of additional charges for dealing with those unexpected matters that neither you nor we might have known about earlier, such as having to provide an indemnity insurance policy to a buyer. 

So, the moral of this short story is to check, check and check again.  You may receive an extremely cheap quote from an online firm at the other end of the country but unless you read the small print very carefully, you may not be aware of the additional charges you'll have to pay which in many cases will bring the total costs to you up to those of a local solicitor who will probably have much more personal knowledge of the area you are moving to or from and that can be a great help.

I'm not saying that cheap means bad – that's not necessarily the case but as with most things, you get what you pay for.  We at Berwins know that we are by no means the cheapest firm around but we don't want to be.  Obviously, we need to be competitive but our clients are our main concern – we wouldn't be here without you.  What we do want to do is carry out the best job possible for our clients and we recognise that a high standard of service has to be paid for such as salaries so that there are plenty of staff to help you and your matter won't get delayed because one poor overworked person hasn't had time to get to it and also by using the latest technology to speed up the processes where we can.

So, please ask us for a quote and do compare us with other firms.  If you're not sure what you might be charged extra for, ask us and we'll help you in comparing quotes from other firms so that you will know you are comparing “like for like” and are making that fully informed choice.

There is another point I'd like to make here again dealing with recommendations.  I've talked above about recommendations from family or friends but what about estate agents, for example?  Do you know why your estate agent is recommending a particular firm of solicitors?  Some agents have agreements with conveyancing firms so that the agents are paid by the conveyancer for each referral made to them.  That means the agents may be forced to recommend conveyancers regardless of what they think of the conveyancer's ability to do a good job for their client.  In the past, those payments may have been hidden so that you, the consumer, didn't know if the agent was getting any kind of referral payment.  I'm glad to say that as from 1 June these payments are to be made public so if there is an referral agreement between an agent and a conveyancer you will be told.

Berwins has no referral agreement with any estate agent and so you can be safe in the knowledge that where an agent recommends us they are doing so simply because they know we are good. 

If you are thinking of moving house, re-mortgaging etc we hope you'll contact us for a quote.  Please just call our Property Department and we'll be happy to spend time in talking through your requirements so that we can prepare a tailored quotation for you – as I have said above, with no nasty surprises!

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