Can you bribe an estate agent?

I’m not sure which is worse. The fact that there could be estate agents out there who might be persuaded to recommend a conveyancing lawyer solely because of the referral fee they might get or the fact that there is a company who wants to conduct a survey to discover if this is actually the case?

In a report in The Law Society Gazette today an early challenger for ‘non headline of the year’ whimpers from the page. “Estate agents not influenced by referral fees”.

The recent preliminary findings by the OFT into the views of the buying and selling public published in November last year made uncomfortable reading for some in the estate agency industry with confusion in the minds of some buyers (53%) as to who the selling agent actually represented. That said, the survey did reveal the fact that 79% of people apparently take the advice of the estate agent when it came to Home Information Packs – the business that The Partnership are in by coincidence.

Retailers and manufacturers don’t declare the price they pay for the raw materials or mark up they put on their products so it may be unreasonable to expect agents to declare their revenue sources but common sense prescribes that like others they should disclose when and where they get a ‘procurement fee’ as it’s sometimes referred to in mortgage broking circles.

If it’s done with the knowledge of their fee paying client then I see no particular problem in this. However, if I were asking someone I trusted who they would recommend I wouldn’t phrase it “Can you tell me which lawyer bungs you the biggest back hander?”!