Rachael McLeod’s article in Total Conveyancer on Thursday made some excellent points regarding the competing interests of Conveyancers and real estate agents.
What she failed to point out is that while Conveyancers and estate agents argue about who deserves a bigger slice of the pie; consumers are losing out.
Conveyancers - Bruised and Battered
Like weekend football referees, Conveyancers feel that they earn little but contempt from all sides. Their fees are among the lowest in the legal sector and their necessity is poorly appreciated.
The prevailing mood within Conveyancing appears to be one of melancholic wallowing. Neil Rose’s article, ‘Pity the Poor Conveyancer’, published in The Guardian last month, summed up the air of disillusion. The slice of the pie Conveyancers command has been constantly shrinking as has the profession’s self-esteem.
“Conveyancers, ” said Rose, “feel a pretty bruised and battered bunch: constantly sore that estate agents typically earn ten times or more what they do for a less skilled and, in particular, less risky job. ”
HSBC have piled on more misery by severely reducing the size of their panel. Conveyancing is hurting – and the vultures are circling.
This goes a long way to explaining McLeod’s response to an estate agent’s needling suggestion that Conveyancers’ fees should rely on the speed with which they complete sales.
“I replied, ” she replied, “pointing out that conveyancers are already bottom of the pile when it comes to fees. Conveyancers fees can be up to 85 per cent lower than the fees charged by estate agents. ”
It’s the ‘woe is me’ defence. McLeod raised further concerns over this comment from an estate agent:
“No offence but when I effect a sale, I then affect a sale. Solicitors can be fully controlled, if you know what you're doing. ”
Justifiably affronted, McLeod commented: “It would be interesting know what the “controlling” methods are. ”
This squabbling, which McLeod described as “the usual “banter” between estate agents and conveyancers as to who does the most work and who deserves the bigger fee”, is symptomatic of a malaise that challenges the ethical basis of the industry.
The question that Fridaysmove asks is:
What gives Solicitors and estate agents the right to divide up a pie that belongs to the consumer?
Collusion between Conveyancing Solicitors and estate agents puts the property industry in a headlock. The controlling method that McLeod queries is the threat that estate agents will no longer recommend certain solicitors to their clients.
How can consumers expect to get adequate and reliable service from a Conveyancer who has been recommended by their estate agent? Would you rely on a pre-sale check from a mechanic recommended by your used car dealer?
The nexus that exists between solicitors and real estate agents raises real concerns for the people who pay for the whole merry-go-round – the consumer.
Property service professions behave as though they are somehow entitled to negotiate their fees with ‘the other guys’. However, the price for their services should be negotiated in one place only – with the consumer. This is another reason why buyers should always seek out independent legal advice.
This is not an argument for or against Conveyancers’ claims that they are worth more than they currently earn. It is a reminder to the profession to remember who they work for. If they want a raise, they should talk to the boss.