PEOPLE selling homes in the Lothians are to be forced to shell out hundreds of pounds if they market them through the Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre.
The organisation, which accounts for 90 per cent of all sales in the area, is to introduce a compulsory £370 marketing fee – far higher than that charged by national property websites such as RightMove and Zoopla.
The charge will be levied to market properties through the group’s own advertising channels and sellers who decide to advertise through other means will have to bear this cost separately.
Under the stringent agreement drawn up by the board of the ESPC, which represents more than 140 solicitors’ firms in Edinburgh and the east of Scotland, member firms will be forced to take out an advert with the ESPC for each property on its books – even if the client would prefer to use other methods, such as local media or independent websites such as RightMove.
Legal firms who do not comply with levying the charge, or fail to market a property through the ESPC, risk disciplinary action and ultimately, expulsion.
The new membership agreement is also believed to include a clause insisting all member firms provide printed schedules for their properties – at the cost of the seller – to be handed out to members of the public in the ESPC showroom on the city’s George Street.
The move has been criticised by sectors of the property market. Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HomeOwners Alliance said “There are so many areas in which people can cut back on costs when they are selling a house,”
“They are really slamming consumers by putting this cost on to them – and ultimately, if they want to sell their home through any of the vast majority of solicitors’ firms in the area, they are not giving them the choice where they market their property.”
Only those who choose firms that are not ESPC members – a small number of independent solicitors and a few national estate agencies such as Rettie or Savills – will be able to avoid the extra fees. The new rule will ensure a steady stream of income for the ESPC, which fell into financial hardship four years ago and last year reported a slide in profits amid a slow property market.
Ms Higgins called the practice of printing expensive schedules to be handed out to people visiting the ESPC’s busy George Street showroom “archaic”. “It is not good for the environment, it is not good for the seller and it is just not how people get their information these days,” she said. “It’s just archaic. In other parts of the UK, very high-end properties costing millions of pounds might be marketed using glossy brochures, but it is not standard practice.”
“Some people are paying for schedules they just do not need,” added one Edinburgh solicitor.
An ESPC spokeswoman said: “One of the many benefits of being a member of ESPC is the ability to bring together all the properties being sold by member firms through our three marketing streams. This has benefits of scale for each solicitor estate agent and is one of the key initiatives supported by the members, following consultation.”