Posted on Friday, June 30, 2017


We’re often asked why it’s more beneficial to use a local legal firm for buying or selling a property, rather than a (possibly) cheaper online conveyancing service. Let us tell you!


For us, there is nothing to beat one-to-one conversation, availability on the telephone and local knowledge. You will not get much of this with an online conveyancing firm – which is why they can charge less – but these are valuable qualities that can positively impact a property transaction, not only in the event of complications, but also for sheer convenience. But let’s look at it in more detail.


When we say the words "large centralised call centre", what thoughts spring to your mind? Are you immediately filled with joy at the prospect of speed, efficiency and famous customer satisfaction, or does an image of menu options, queue times and repeating your story loom ominously into view?


We think it's fair to say that call centres are not something anyone wants to increase the presence of in their lives. We may have resigned ourselves to using them when calling a utility company, but we hope for as few occasions as possible because of the barriers to one-to-one conversations; help sections on websites; online contact forms; email addresses and even automated assistants. Anything to stop you picking up the phone and anything to avoid a service that is personal.


So let’s apply that thinking to your property sale or purchase. Is that what you want? We suggest not. Buying and selling a home is an extremely personal experience, so having a solicitor who really knows the neighbourhood and who is available to talk to is, in our view, an essential ingredient. Talking makes things happen faster, plain and simple


Here’s an example:


We recently sold a property at The Firs on Brighton Road, at the top of the hill (very important) near the Honda dealership, where the purchase was handled by an online conveyancing firm in the Midlands. The sale hit a delay because the conveyancer thought the location was a flood risk, but it took weeks to find out because the online file wasn’t updated. Eventually, when the story came out, we explained how the location was one of the highest points in Redhill and one of the last places likely to flood – at which point the sale moved on. A local solicitor would have known this instantly, and certainly have been more contactable, while the experience with the online firm is by no means unusual.


Using a local firm also encourages a thriving community. We often bump into local solicitors when we’re out and about in the day, or indeed after work and at weekends. We’ve even sorted out sale complications on these unexpected encounters – while walking the dogs, doing the shopping, or having a leisurely pint. We are all invested in the Redhill and Reigate neighbourhood and work together to help it flourish.


Thomas and Ashley here at Ralph James used to work in corporate estate agency and the emphasis was always on getting people to use a centralised conveyancing service, because of the referral fees they paid. The corporate model is built around monetising anything that moves, but our experience was that the lower quality of service, limited access to real people and the frustrations of the buyers and sellers we’d referred far outweighed any positives of extra income in referral fees.


In theory, the online model works. As a business (lower running costs, higher number of cases per conveyancer) the concept is sound, but a higher caseload means less time per case, which often means rushing things, which can lead to forgetting things (like updating files).


So we’re on the side of going local: for speed, for efficiency, for enjoyment and for community.