Reply To: who can u trust



Dear Chris,

You make a valid point.

However first let me explain why I have removed your company name from your post. I’m trying to keep this forum from becoming another one of those commercial billboards that so many of them end up as. The only way to ensure that companies don’t end up cluttering this forum with self-serving plugs (often pretending to be satisfied clients) is to make it clear that all company names will be deleted. I know you were making a point, but the point still stands with or without your company name, and I don’t want companies plugging themselves on the back of a discussion in this forum. I’m sure you understand.

Now turning to your point. What’s an agent to do if a client needs a lawyer and asks for a recommendation? Tell them to go and sort it out themselves or help them? It should surprise no one that you put clients in touch with a solicitor. However as you will know, in a small minority of cases estate agents have undeclared commercial relationships with the lawyers they recommend, which compromises the legal service that the client receives. As always the bad behaviour of a small minority affects everyone else. In many cases the buyer won’t know who the bad apples are and so in my opinion it’s best not to take the risk.

But my message isn’t in fact aimed at estate agents (who I can’t reproach if they recommend a lawyer when asked to do so); it’s aimed at the buyer. What I am saying to buyers is “don’t ask your estate agent to put you in touch with a lawyer, ask someone else”. Lets face it it’s not that difficult to find an English-speaking lawyer in Spain without having to resort to your estate agent. A quick search online will turn up hundreds. There are adverts in local newspapers and magazines. There are recommendations from others. And with a bit of initiative a buyer could contact the local Colegio de Abogados and ask for the contact details of English-speaking lawyers – I think they provide this information. And of course people can find a lawyer here at Insight in the resources and solutions section. For the record I have no financial interest in recommending the lawyers that I do.

On the whole I don’t look favourably on estate agents who make a real song and dance of the legal solutions they provide / facilitate. Estate agents earn commissions on sales and that’s a very powerful incentive that can distort their behaviour against the interests of the buyer. In an ideal world you keep your estate agent completely separate from your lawyer so that you can be sure there’s no hidden commercial relationship between them. Because in a (small) minority of cases there is a relationship and buyers have suffered as a consequence. Estate agents are not in the legal business so they should have no problem with clients finding their own lawyers. It should make all parties feel more comfortable.

Should all estate agents be tarred with the same brush? Absolutely not. There are many excellent estate agents providing an invaluable service to their clients. However some of your peers have put greed before integrity and in a business that involves clients spending a large part of their life’s savings that is just unacceptable. The challenge becomes how to distinguish the good from the bad, how to distinguish the professional and ethical (of which there are many) from the unprofessional and unethical. As we all know, size is no guide. It’s a difficult one.