When your estate agent or another business recommends a conveyancing solicitor or a licensed conveyancer, the property lawyer pays them a referral fee. Whilst referrals are a standard part of the property industry, it's worth knowing how much those fees are, and where that extra money comes from. Often, these recommended services are much more expensive in order to cover the fee.
You may be surprised to learn that some referral fees are in the £100s, which is why fees for conveyancing can vary so widely. However, rulings have changed for both estate agents and conveyancing when it comes to transparency about pricing.
Every website should detail how much they receive for passing business to the conveyancer. We publish ours on our terms and conditions page. You can also ask estate agents or other companies who recommend a solicitor what their referral fee is.
Transparency for estate agent referral fees
Changes are approaching when it comes to referral fee transparency - National Trading Standards
have suggested that referral fees should be disclosed. It is absolutely your choice if you'd prefer to go with a recommended solicitor, but you should know how much the estate agent is being paid for that recommendation.
You should also not be pushed into using their recommended services, either under the promise of an easier or quicker process, or as in some cases, by developers requiring you to use their suggested solicitors. Legally, you must always have complete choice over your legal representative.
Transparency for solicitors and licensed conveyancers
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has also been focused on transparency, with the suggestion that legal professionals should be transparent about their prices online. Whether this is an approximate figure, or done through bandings of different prices for different types of work, the move towards clarity around pricing is definitely in the customer's interest.
Solicitors Regulation Authority
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has a strict referral code. The full details can be seen here. Solicitors are required to set out a full quotation which details their fees, the disbursement costs and associated expenses with your transaction. They are also required to reveal how much they paid for your referral.
Council for Licensed Conveyancers
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers has a ‘Guidance Note 6’ which states the Conveyancer must “disclose to a Client in writing, as soon as they are known to the Licensed Conveyancer, the existence and amount of any sum payable by or to the Licensed Conveyancer arising, whether directly or indirectly, from the Client’s instructions.” We suggest you ask the Licensed Conveyancer for details of the referral fee they have paid for your (potential) custom.
In addition to checking the amount of money you, the client, are paying for your referred business, we strongly recommend that you get at least three quotes for your conveyancing. Fees for leasehold and freeholds within different valuation brackets can vary widely.
Do you trust referral fees?
There is nothing inherently bad about referral fees, it's just whether it comes down to you as a customer paying more because of them. It's easy to believe that an estate agent is simply recommending their preferred solicitor, because they know them and like working with them, or because it's easier, but if money has changed hands for that referral then you have a right to know about it.
Always ask if the person making the recommendation will be paid a referral fee, and what it is. Always be sure to compare prices on different services, and check company reviews, so you can make sure you're getting the best deal.