In-deed, the AIM-listed online conveyancing service, may alter its business model after struggling to convert quotes into instructions, its chairman has revealed.
Nonetheless, it is preparing to move into wills next year.
The company, which only launched in May, is also planning a major marketing push, having called in leading advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi to create a television campaign.
Harry Hill, the founder of Rightmove, told the Today’s Conveyancer conference last week that though traffic to the site is strong, and is providing consumers with around 700 quotes a day, “the conversion rate is low”. The plan had been for the service to operate entirely online, but In-deed may now recruit telephone operators to follow up quotes with users.
“People need more comfort that they can receive simply online,” Mr Hill said in a subsequent interview with Legal Futures.
But he said price was almost certainly a factor, particularly outside of London, as some conveyancers offered their services at a level far below the £450-600 (depending on the purchase price) quoted by In-deed, which currently has three firms on its panel.
The site statistics show that users are looking simply at the quote and not spending enough time on the site to appreciate what they get for their money, he said, and so a major marketing push is starting this month, with the television campaign likely early next year.
Mr Hill said he remained confident that In-deed would become the leading provider of conveyancing instructions. “The bad news for those who want us to go bust is that we’ve got £4.2m in the bank,” he told delegates. “That will take me quite a long time into the future.” He added that the company has access to further cash if needed because his investors are “keen”.
Mr Hill urged conveyancers to stop charging extremely low fees and writing them off as simply a contribution to overheads. “If you want to survive and prosper, you must make a profit or you can’t reinvest in your business,” he said.
In-deed’s AIM prospectus revealed the company’s intention to , and Mr Hill told this site that the plan is to start offering a wills service in the first half of 2012.
He was more cautious about personal injury because of the connotations around the industry; Mr Hill was also speaking before the government announced its intention to ban referral fees in personal injury.
Mr Hill said he was sceptical about the prospects of non-lawyers entering the conveyancing market. The “many bloody noses” of those who had tried to enter estate agency was one reason, he said, while “the track record of non-aligned businesses going into professional services is littered with corpses. Even if there are new entrants, most will make a complete horlicks of it.”
He argued that a more fundamental issue for conveyancers is the massive fall in property transactions as a result of the recession, down to around 500,000 a year from well over a million – a figure Mr Hill predicted is “not likely to change”.