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Buying or selling a home? Here's why you should NEVER use a cheap Estate Agent or Solicitor!

Low fee Buy Cheap Pay Twice!

Buying or selling property can be stressful at the best of times. Throw a bad or low fee estate agent or solicitor into the mix and it can quickly become a living nightmare. When you see adverts for very low cost estate agency or conveyancing AVOID AT ALL COST!


The old saying "you get what you pay for" couldn't be more apt. If you want your home move to go as smoothly as possible then who you pick to work with is crucial. You are dealing with possibly the biggest asset you will ever own here, so don't cut corners - it truly isn't worth it. 


There are many superb estate agents and solicitors out there, but there are also alot of unscrupulous ones who don't care about anything other than winning your business. They aggressively target buyers and sellers with the lure of rediculously low pricing. They over-promise and under-deliver because with such low fees it is impossible to provide the level of service required to meet their clients needs. They have this 'pile em high' culture which is unsustainable and is the main reason so many of those operators go out of business.


CONVEYANCING

In addition to offering low cost conveyancing many law firms are paying out referral fees to get your business. Some are being charged as high as £250 - this combined with the low fee means there is very little money left in the pot to carry out the work effectively. We have seen conveyancing services offered as low as £199 which is total madness. Not only that, it is insulting to those hard working conveyancers out there as de-values their knowledge and experience. Cutting corners when it comes to buying or selling low value items might be ok, but when it comes to property the risks are way to high. Don't do it!


For a decent conveyancing service you should expect to pay between £1200 - £1500. Some may charge slightly lower, others higher which should be reflected in their service offering. Buying cheap conveyancing is a false economy. There will be many hidden fees attached to those cut price offers and it could end up costing 2 - 3 times more at the finish. Plus, there is more chance of the deal collapsing due to poor service level and none existent communication, which has sadly been the experience for many homemovers. 


We've heard loads of stories from people who used low cost conveyancing that didn't end well. One instance was a first time buyer who found a solicitor through Google. Not knowing any better, he chose based on price and picked one that charged around £600. Communication was dreadful, everything was taking forever, they were holding everyone else up, never responded to emails or phone calls. When he had finally had enough (and managed to speak to someone at the firm) he asked "what have I got to do to get this sorted?" the reply he received was, "if you want to speed things up then you'll need to pay for our full service". They had him over a barrell and he had no option but to go with the full service. In the end he'd forked out just under £2500 for the conveyancing. 


ESTATE AGENCY

Our research has seen traditional high street estate agency fees being advertised anywhere between 0.8 - 3.6% (+VAT) with the majority charging between 1.2 - 1.5% (+VAT). This figure can vary depending on location. To put it into context, if we take a property selling for £250k at 1.2% it will cost you approximately £3600 (inc VAT). If you were to use a fixed fee agent for the same property, this figure could be substantially lower. For example, YOPA charges from £999 (inc VAT) and PurpleBricks charge from £1349 (inc VAT). You will also find many online only agency models offering to sell your property for a very low fixed fee (as low as £299 in some cases). 


Be aware that for both of those fixed fee providers mentioned earlier, it says 'from' which basically means you can opt for different service levels, so the price you pay can actually double.  


High street agents generally offer a no-win no-fee service so if the sale doesn't go through there is nothing to pay. A high street agent is more incentivised to make sure the sale completes because no sale means no fee. They are also more likely to try and get you the highest price possible. In other countries sellers offer additional incentives for agents to achieve higher than the asking price. It is win-win for the agent and seller, but the buyer would obviously be paying more!


With fixed fee models you pay regardless of whether the property sells. There is certainly no incentive to achieve a higher price and for some unscrupulous 'pay anyway' agents its actually more beneficial to them if the property doesn't sell at all! 


We've heard first hand from many homemovers who used a fixed fee service. One couple springs to mind. They were cash buyers with no forward chain. It still took 9 months from offer to completion. The agent the seller used was one of the larger 'fixed fee' brands and his input from day one was miniscule. He was difficult to get hold of, never answered calls, didn't have a grasp on what was going on, never attended viewings and didn't respond to messages left in their online communication portal. When they did manage to get through to anyone, it was a 3rd party call centre who had very little knowledge of the property or situation. In the end the couple buying the property had no choice but to take control and dealt with both solicitors and the seller - effectively doing the job they expected the seller's agent to do.


Another story, this time using a high street agent. The seller in this instance went for the agent who gave the highest valuation with the lowest fee at 0.8%. They went 18 months before a buyer was found (then lost). The service level was dreadful - much as described for the low-cost fixed-fee agent above and for very much the same reasons they failed to deliver. In the end they had to find someone else to represent them which caused a whole host of other problems in terms of contracts. Do you see a pattern is forming here? You truly do get what you pay for!


DO YOUR RESEARCH

As with any situation where you are going to part with your hard earned cash do your research! Look beyond the marketing hype to see what you are getting for the fee on offer. Read the solicitor or estate agent's small print because if it is a bargain bucket offer you can bet there are loads of hidden associated costs! Be aware too, higher fee doesn't always equate to the best service, as with any industry you still get charlatans - this is why doing your own research is important - to sort the wheat from the chaff. 


Read reviews from as many different review sites as possible. Keep in mind that these platforms are also flooded with fake reviews so read a broad selection to gain a decent overview of feedback, in particular around the customer service experiences. To follow are some things you should consider/look out for when selecting an estate agent or solicitor to work for you:


  1. Never select a provider based on fee alone. Certainly never consider a low fee provider. Think about your own work or that of others and what the job entails for the salary you get. Even if you were only earning £15k a year your monthly salary would be around £1250. Compare that with the average conveyancing fee mentioned above that deals with the purchase or sale of your biggest asset. A salary has to be paid to process your sale, so fees between £1200 - £1500 are incredible value!
  2. Look for an estate agent or solicitor who is licensed and regulated by a reputable body such as the Law Society, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), or National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA). This ensures that they adhere to strict standards of professionalism, ethics, and competency. Most display badges on their website and in online profiles - make sure they are active members and not struck off etc. as many have reportedly continued to display badges after their membership has expired.
  3. Check if the estate agent or solicitor has a good reputation in the industry and among their clients. You can do this by reading reviews online as mentioned earlier, or asking for referrals from friends or family members who have recently moved home.
  4. Look for an estate agent or solicitor who specialises in the type of property you are buying or selling, in this case residential property. If you are buying a commercial property, you might look for a solicitor who has expertise in commercial property law.
  5. Check the fees and any hidden charges so there are no surprises later on. Make sure you understand how they charge and what is included in their fee.
  6. Ask the estate agent or solicitor about their experience in the property market, including how long they have been in business (as about qualifications if conveyancer as sometimes it might be a paralegal or admin dealing with your case and not a fully qualified conveyancer as most expect). Ask how many properties they have sold or purchased. Get to know the person behind the brand as they need to be/become someone you know like and trust.
  7. Look for an estate agent or solicitor who is familiar with the local property market and has experience dealing with properties in the area.
  8. Check if the estate agent or solicitor uses modern technology, such as online property portals and social media to advertise properties.
  9. Find out how they communicate with you and the other parties going forward - do they use online technologies to communicate in real time? If they don't would they be open to using new platforms and technology? How regularly do they communicate? What is their preferred method? What are their communication protocols? This is important as you want your transaction process to be as efficient as possible. You might also want the convenience that modern technology brings. 
  10. Look for an estate agent or solicitor who provides excellent customer service and is responsive to your questions and concerns. This is particularly important during a stressful time like moving home.
  11. Check if the estate agent or solicitor has professional indemnity insurance, which provides protection against errors, omissions, or negligence in their work.
  12. Finally, make sure you feel comfortable working with the estate agent or solicitor and that you trust them to act in your best interests. Moving home can be a complex and emotional process, so it's important to have a good working relationship with your chosen professional.


To conclude, do your homework and don't leave anything to chance! If you do decide to take a risk on a low fee service then accept there may be consequences and always have a plan B ready in case things go wrong, which is more often than not. Accept that customer service will be limited, that communication will be poor and that there will be delays. Also concider the real possibility that the deal might collapse too as a result. 

If you are serious about moving, then look to pay the professionals a proper rate for the work they do. NEVER select an estate agent (and certainly not a solicitor) based on fee alone. Choose them based on expertise, experience, and their ability to handle the transaction effectively. While cost is an important to many, it should not be the sole determining factor when making a decision about about buying or selling your biggest asset. By working with a reputable and experienced solicitor or estate agent, you have a higher degree of certainty that the sale will complete.
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Comments 7

Guest - Chris Arnold (website) on Sunday, 05 March 2023 12:22

The world of estate agency is built on easy promises and half-truths. Claiming to deliver a higher selling price isn't the same as actually doing it. Those agencies that do deliver higher selling prices do so because they are expert negotiators - that expertise needs to be paid for.

An estate agency that negotiates a £10,000 premium on the asking price deserves their higher fee. My advice would be to adopt a sliding scale fee - the agency is paid on results, not promises.

The world of estate agency is built on easy promises and half-truths. Claiming to deliver a higher selling price isn't the same as actually doing it. Those agencies that do deliver higher selling prices do so because they are expert negotiators - that expertise needs to be paid for. An estate agency that negotiates a £10,000 premium on the asking price deserves their higher fee. My advice would be to adopt a sliding scale fee - the agency is paid on results, not promises.
Guest - Kieran on Sunday, 05 March 2023 14:33

Agree with you Chris Arnold. I am from Australia where the culture is different. I brought much of the Australian way into the agency I now work at. We operate a sliding scale fee like you suggest and are smashing it. It keeps us on our toes too.

Agree with you Chris Arnold. I am from Australia where the culture is different. I brought much of the Australian way into the agency I now work at. We operate a sliding scale fee like you suggest and are smashing it. It keeps us on our toes too.
Guest - Vic on Sunday, 05 March 2023 23:06

Im intrigued by this. Is there any training out there that will persuade our manager to think this way? Training to equip us with the skills to achieve this too? I keep saying we need to be different but the manager keeps on doing the same old stuff.

Im intrigued by this. Is there any training out there that will persuade our manager to think this way? Training to equip us with the skills to achieve this too? I keep saying we need to be different but the manager keeps on doing the same old stuff.
Guest - Stella Gormely on Sunday, 05 March 2023 22:15

We bought last year and the seller was using Yopa. It was a total nightmare. They don't care once they get their money. Like you mentioned in your examples, we had to deal with it all between ourselves in the end. We got there, but it was stressful and took nearly 11 months. Does anyone actually regulate these agents?

We bought last year and the seller was using Yopa. It was a total nightmare. They don't care once they get their money. Like you mentioned in your examples, we had to deal with it all between ourselves in the end. We got there, but it was stressful and took nearly 11 months. Does anyone actually regulate these agents?
Guest - Tony on Sunday, 05 March 2023 07:24

Avoid Strike. we were promised 4-8 weeks completion. its been 7 months now since sale was agreed. No progress has been made. They keep asking us to write a review. The solicitors they made us use are useless.

Avoid Strike. we were promised 4-8 weeks completion. its been 7 months now since sale was agreed. No progress has been made. They keep asking us to write a review. The solicitors they made us use are useless.
Guest - Jamie on Sunday, 05 March 2023 23:01

We got stung. We had never bought or sold a property before. Picked the lowest priced agent and solicitor because we thought they could all be trusted and we were just getting the cheapest. Because of this we lost out on the property we were buying. We went through the worst ordeal ever and are now in rented and looking to buy still. Like this man says, do your homework.

We got stung. We had never bought or sold a property before. Picked the lowest priced agent and solicitor because we thought they could all be trusted and we were just getting the cheapest. Because of this we lost out on the property we were buying. We went through the worst ordeal ever and are now in rented and looking to buy still. Like this man says, do your homework.
Guest - Daz on Sunday, 12 March 2023 14:55

Thanks for the advice. We are putting house up end of March and was considering one of the online agents but decided its not worth the risk

Thanks for the advice. We are putting house up end of March and was considering one of the online agents but decided its not worth the risk
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