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Rightmove founder vows to dominate online conveyancing market in three years


Harry Hill: price competition has driven service standards too low

The founder of property website Rightmove enters the law today with the intention of making his online conveyancing service the market leader within three years, Legal Futures can reveal.

In-deed [2], which is being promoted by TV property guru Phil Spencer, charges customers a transparent one-off “service management” cost of £240, rather than seeking a referral fee from the panel solicitor.

Legal fees, all of which go to the panel solicitor, range from £450 to £600 depending on the purchase price. “We make the legal side simple” runs the site’s tagline.

In-deed is seeking to distinguish itself on service quality rather than price. Founder Harry Hill said increased price competition to secure a shrinking market over the past five years has driven service standards in conveyancing “that are unacceptable in many cases”.

An opinion poll commissioned by In-deed last month found that 42% of people who had bought or sold a house in the past three years cited good communication as the most important factor in selecting a lawyer to do their conveyancing.

This was followed by “someone I trust” (29%) and a simple process (20%), with only 8% saying a low price.

In-Deed guarantees that the price quoted online at the point of instruction will be the one the client pays, on a “no completion, no fee” basis.

The conveyancer will also commit to updating the client at least every two days, while clients will be able to follow the transaction online in whatever level of detail they want, including seeing all correspondence.

The company is building a panel of solicitors and licensed conveyancers, with O’Neill Patient, Breeze & Wyles and Grindeys signed up so far, and more on the way.

It will publicise the service through property portals owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust [3], including Findaproperty.com [4] and PrimeLocation.com [5]. These receive nine millions visits a month.

Mr Hill is also a former chief executive of estate agency giant Countrywide. Among the team of property, legal, IT and marketing specialists he has recruited are Peter Gordon, a former partner of venture capitalists 3i, Julie Williams, ex-head of Countrywide’s conveyancing panel, solicitor Chris Harris, former legal services director at LMS [6], and Philip Williamson, former CEO of Nationwide and ex-chairman of the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

Mr Hill said: “We can’t change the UK legal system. What we can do is continue to work with some of the best people in the industry to bring conveyancing up to date. Our use of modern technologies simplifies the process and gives consumers more control over their property transactions at a time when they need all the help they can get.”

Mr Harris, who is acting as an adviser to In-deed, said they were paying conveyancers a “proper fee for a proper job”. He added: “We’re not trying to drive value or money out of the process.”

All firms accepted onto the panel are likely to be members of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme [7].