I’m ‘gamekeeper turned poacher’ in the property market

'Sold' sign outside a property. Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire
'Sold' sign outside a property. Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire

There are two related issues: the seemingly relentless drive of big business to dominate the market for goods and services beyond their core offering and, secondly, the commodification of legal services.

These two themes should be a worry to consumers. To put it bluntly, I’m sure that, if they could, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and the like would put a barcode on a house and try to sell it along with the usual baked beans.

Gary Rycroft.

Gary Rycroft.

And, while the speed of the process would be welcome, the reality would be that many people really would end up with “an unexpected item in the bagging area”. Selling and buying a house can be fraught; I know as I’m going through the process at the moment so am having “gamekeeper turned poacher” experience. But, as I keep reminding myself, houses aren’t like any other purchase; not only are they probably the most expensive item you will ever buy, they are also the one with the most complexity and therefore potential pitfalls.

Commodification suits businesses trying to make money out of customers in as many ways as possible. But the dumbing down of legal services is not good for the client experience. An example happening every day in Lancaster is the referral of conveyancing services by estate agents and mortgage lenders. It’s usually sold to the house seller or buyer on the premise that “if you use our lawyer and it will be smoother and quicker”.

The fact the referrer gets paid for passing on the legal work is buried in the small print and you can rest assured that, more often than not, the legal firm the unassuming house seller or buyer is shunted off to is outside the area and using frontline staff with little legal knowledge and not enough time to offer a professional service such as actually speaking to their clients and taking the time to explain what is going on and why.

Professional services can still be friendly and efficient. So, if you are selling or buying a house, don’t let yourself be a money-making commodity for the big businesses involved; rather make sure you are looked after by someone independent who you can trust to put you and your best interest first.