Question: Why do solicitors’ fees vary so much? Mine charged the same for dealing with the purchase of a leasehold garage costing £35,000 as for a freehold house costing £180,000 but then charged thousands of pounds for dealing with the very straightforward purchase of a £3 million barn conversion. Surely it’s roughly the same amount of work in each case?
© Merrily Harpur
Answer: Solicitors seem to be questioned about their costs more than anything else. However, solicitors’ charges do vary a lot — but then so do the charges of plumbers, builders, cleaners, dentists and accountants.
When someone is being paid to provide a service, the cost will depend on many things, such as the experience and expertise of the provider. The locality can also affect overheads, such as central London compared with a rural location.
Solicitors have different hourly rates and higher rates may be charged for a more experienced solicitor. Dealing with leasehold properties can often be more time-consuming than dealing with freehold properties because as well as dealing with the seller and the seller’s title, it is necessary to consider the title of the freeholder/landlord and the management of the leasehold premises, so although the price is less and the premises smaller the amount of work involved may be the same, hence a similar fee.
Solicitors normally take risk into account when estimating their fees and so with the more expensive property the risk the solicitor is taking is greater, which is likely to be reflected in their fee.
Ask for a quote and if you don’t like the fee, you can always instruct another law firm.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email email@example.com. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.
Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP (www.thrings.com).
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.