“If you think Game of Thrones is brutal – try getting a conveyancing quote”
Despite the Government’s wonderfully naïve intentions to break down the walls that cause such divisions in the house buying process, there are no signs of any dragons flying in to save the day.
Which is a shame, because when clients are asked the question “Have you got a lawyer?” they are thrown into a Game of Thrones-like mediaeval world of unfamiliar terminology, awkward alliances and a completely unpredictable outcome.
Let’s face it, as an agent, you need your client to pick the best lawyer, but getting them to do this is quite difficult.
Especially, as it took you three months and seven viewings to get them to make an offer in the first place, the last thing you want to do is muddy the waters by bringing up a discussion about the importance of who actually does the legal work.
You will of course be familiar with the depressing disillusionment that sets in when your buyer, who you have been carefully nurturing for what seems like years, tells you they have selected a lawyer “we found online”.
The problem is that many buyers take the same approach to choosing a lawyer as they do for buying coffee capsules. Instead of googling “cheap nespresso” they just type “cheap conveyancing” and see what pops up.
Previously, such a search would produce results such as “£299 online conveyancing”.
However, these days they return price comparison websites typically sporting an “Expedia circa 2003” look about them. They all promise to deliver quotes from their “hand-picked lawyers … that are cheaper than the one your estate agent recommended”.
If you want to experience a similar level of bombardment to that suffered by Bolton’s infantry in the Battle of the Bastards, try asking for one of these quotes yourself.
You’ll want to give them your burner mobile number from your street days because these people make Sansa Stark look like TinkyWinky.
From the moment you click “Submit” you will find your email junk folder filling up with complicated lists of quotes from companies you’ve never heard of, based in places you’d never want to visit.
Just after you’ve finished understanding the difference between a telegraphic transfer (welcome to the 1890s, people) and an online banking disbursement, your burner phone will start ringing.
You do need to be aware that it doesn’t matter what time of the day or night you ask for a quote, sleep is not a perk of these people’s jobs.
Be warned, if you don’t take their call, they’ll start using text messaging, which can be very annoying when you’re trying to finish Series 7 before embarking on the final one.
Given all this grief, you do need to have some level of sympathy for your clients.
The problem is that, unlike buying coffee capsules which are pretty easy to understand and people buy frequently, when it comes to conveyancing, this stuff is complicated and they only need it every ten years or so.
It’s made all the more confusing as all these companies promise the same glorious nirvana:
- No hidden charges
- Dedicated conveyancer
- Clear, regular communications
How on earth are clients supposed to tell whether these are true or not – after all, they wouldn’t lie, would they?
Although clients will always tell you that they don’t “want the cheapest”, before they ask their first question “what is your commission rate?”, if they don’t know what they are buying, then naturally they will gravitate towards the cheapest – wouldn’t you?
To help your clients avoid making a mistake when it comes to choosing their lawyer, here are some pointers that might be of use to give to them:
- When you got a quote, did you actually speak to someone straight away? If they don’t respond to new business, what is the rest of their service like?
- What is their average time to exchange and what is their fall-through rate?
- How many cases are they currently running and how do they manage workload?
- How do they communicate with their clients – old-fashioned risky email or a secure messaging portal?
- Do they still use paper files or is everything electronic?
We know that questioning a client’s choice of lawyer can be difficult, but it is a conversation that needs to be had.
Especially when you remember Tyrion’s advice: “The day will come when you think that you are safe and happy and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth.”
* Peter Ambrose is founder of independent conveyancing business The Partnership