Why using the estate agents solicitors with a man with a gun to his head
Estate agent referral or your own choice?
Are you caught between working with your own solicitor or the recommended solicitor through your estate agent?

Read on for the Pros and Cons of working with the two plus get an online quote to compare.

Do I have to use the estate agent's solicitors?

(Last Updated: 01/02/2024)
7 min read

Estate agents often try and get you to use their preferred conveyancing solicitors and for many buyers they won't have previously worked with a solicitor and will appreciate the estate agent's referral in the hope that the process will be quicker.

This can also be the case with developers when you're buying a new build and the added time pressure of having to exchange within 28 days is a factor - it may seem that if you don't choose their preferred solicitor, your conveyancing may be derailed.

We have compiled a full list of all the tricks an estate agent can use and how to combat them. Read more - Estate agent tricks - How to spot and beat them!.

Why can't I be forced to use the estate agents solicitor?

The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team state:

4.18 Here are some illustrative examples of aggressive practices. It is not an exhaustive list. In each case, the test is whether the average consumer's freedom of choice or conduct is (or would be likely to be) impaired and, as a result, they take (or would be likely to take) a different transactional decision....Pressurising a potential buyer to use associated services, for example to take out a mortgage through the in-house mortgage advisor or to use a particular firm of solicitors or licensed conveyancers."

An estate agent who willing refuses your offer based on your choice of solicitor is in breach of this code of conduct.

You may think it makes sense to use the estate agent's solicitor however these are three key reasons why you should not (also applicable to using your developer's preferred solicitor):

  • the estate agent is instructed by the seller to sell their house in whatever condition it is in;
  • the estate agent is paid a fee by the solicitor they are referring; and
  • the estate agent is employed to sell the property for the highest price possible.

It is clear to see why it is in the best interests of the seller for you to use their chosen solicitor; however, it is clear there is a conflict of interest as a buyer is looking for a solicitor who:

  • will find legal issues as to why you shouldn't buy the property;
  • will help you buy the property at the current market price, not what the estate agent says it is worth; and
  • is independent to everyone except you.

As a buyer, you should work with a solicitor independent from the seller and the selling estate agent or developer. The clear answer to the question "Can an estate agent force me to use their solicitor?" is not. You don't have to, and for various reasons, you might be better off choosing not to.

Pros and Cons of using the estate agent's solicitor versus online solicitor?

Conveyancing Online
Agent's Solicitor
  • Cheaper than the high street
  • Save time by not having to go into the law firm
  • Online ID checks
  • Online case tracker

  • They often refer a local solicitor
  • The solicitor and estate agent have a close working relationship
  • Commonly working with a solicitor not a conveyancer
  • More experience with the types of legal titles in the local area
  • Some may offer online ID and case trackers

  • Often working with a conveyancer, not a solicitor
  • Larger online warehouses can often lead to working with multiple conveyancers
  • Sometimes difficult to speak on the phone
  • Use centralised emails so you aren't emailing your conveyancer directly

  • The conveyancing quotes are more expensive
  • The increased fees could be directly linked to a referral paid to the estate agent
  • For buyers they may find there is a question of how impartial this relationship could be
  • Visiting the local office takes time out of your working day

An estate agent's recommendation of their approved solicitors has to be balanced with the referral arrangement. You should research reviews online - and elsewhere - to get an unbiased idea of how good a firm of conveyancing solicitors is. For some pointers read 8 Tips for Choosing the Best Conveyancing Solicitors.

Myth Busting
"You CAN instruct your own solicitor but this may hold things up"
There is absolutely no reason why the conveyancing process would be held up because you instruct your own conveyancing solicitor.

As stated previously, any good conveyancing solicitor will work for a speedy conveyancing, having an attachment to an estate agent won't speed anything up.

"You CAN appoint your own conveyancing solicitor but this may force the seller to raise their price because they want a quick sale"

This is linked to the previous point - choosing your own solicitor won't add to timescales - and this is getting near coercion.

You should ask the estate agent to transmit the memorandum of sale so that your appointed to solicitor can communicate with the vendor through their solicitor. Then you can communicate directly about pricing matters.

Won't the estate agent then just hamper or even forget my bid/treat it unfavourably?

Estate agents are bound by The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice for Residential Sales, which is based on the Estate Agents Act 1979, which states that all bids must be passed onto a vendor without favour and in the order in which they are received.

Once again, the question of the agent breaching the law arises.

National Trading Standards (NTS) Guidance on Property Sales

The National Trading Standards' Estate Agency Team issued guidance on property sales in September 2015 which clearly sets out the duties which property professionals, particularly estate agents, must provide to consumers, what rights consumers and clients have and what redress they have.

You can access it by clicking on NTS Guidance on Property Sales but you should know that the guidelines are far-reaching and legally enforceable and breaches can be prosecuted in the criminal courts, resulting in possible jail terms and unlimited fines.

In particular, unfairness in practice, as defined in the guidance, is defined as results arising from the following:

  • Giving false or misleading information to consumers ('misleading actions'), regardless of how delivered, whether verbally, in writing or via telephone;
  • Hiding or failing to provide material information to consumers ('misleading omissions'); this can include not mentioning a serious problem with the title, failing to pass on offer details to a seller, failure to inform a buyer that a seller wishes a property to be marketed up to exchange of contracts, for example;
  • Exerting undue pressure on consumers ('aggressive practices'); this includes pressuring a potential buyer to use associated services for example to take out a mortgage through the in-house mortgage advisor or to use a particular firm of solicitors or licensed conveyancers;
  • Not acting with the standard of care and skill that is in accordance with honest market practice and in good faith (failing to show professional diligence); and
  • Engaging in 'banned practice' – e.g. displaying a trust mark without authorisation/claiming to be a member of a professional body when this is not the case.

If you are experiencing what you think is undue pressure from your estate agent or developer to use their preferred solicitor and need advice, please call us on 0207 112 5388.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are being forced to use a solicitor that you do not want to to use then you should:

Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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