Home sellers ‘no choice’ but to pay for £370 ESPC ad

ESPC's brochures 'archaic', says HomeOwners Alliance. Picture: Ian RutherfordESPC's brochures 'archaic', says HomeOwners Alliance. Picture: Ian Rutherford
ESPC's brochures 'archaic', says HomeOwners Alliance. Picture: Ian Rutherford
PROPERTY sellers will be forced to fork out hundreds of pounds to advertise their homes under stringent new rules laid out by the group which oversees the majority of residential sales in the Lothians.

Homeowners who sell their property through a member firm of the Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre (ESPC), which accounts for about 90 per cent of house sales in the capital, now have no option other than to pay £370 to market their home through the umbrella group’s own advertising channels – in addition to marketing provided by their individual solicitor, online or in local press.

A new agreement drawn up by the board of the ESPC, which represents more than 140 solicitors’ firms in Edinburgh and the east of Scotland, requires member firms to take out an advert with the ESPC for each property on its books – even if the client would prefer to use other methods, such as local media or independent websites such as RightMove. The cost of the advert is then passed on to the seller.

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If a member firm fails to market a property through the ESPC, it risks disciplinary action and ultimately, expulsion.

The latest membership agreement is also believed to include a clause insisting all member firms provide printed schedules for their properties – at the cost of the seller – to be handed out to members of the public in the ESPC showroom on the city’s George Street.

“There are so many areas in which people can cut back on costs when they are selling a house,” said Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HomeOwners Alliance.

“They are really slamming consumers by putting this cost on to them – and ultimately, if they want to sell their home through any of the vast majority of solicitors’ firms in the area, they are not giving them the choice where they market their property.”

Only those who choose firms that are not ESPC members – a small number of independent solicitors and a few national estate agencies such as Rettie or Savills – will be able to avoid the extra fees.

The new rule will ensure a steady stream of income for the ESPC, which fell into financial hardship four years ago and last year reported a slide in profits amid a slow property market.

The fee is far higher than that charged by national property websites such as RightMove and Zoopla – the cost of which is usually borne by the selling solicitor, who pays an annual fee.

Ms Higgins called the practice of printing expensive schedules to be handed out to people visiting the ESPC’s busy George Street showroom “archaic”.

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“It is not good for the environment, it is not good for the seller and it is just not how people get their information these days,” she said. “It’s just archaic. In other parts of the UK, very high-end properties costing millions of pounds might be marketed using glossy brochures, but it is not standard practice.”

“Some people are paying for schedules they just do not need,” added one Edinburgh solicitor. “The cost of printing that schedule is passed on to the seller – at a cost of up to £3.50 a time.”

An ESPC spokeswoman said: “One of the many benefits of being a member of ESPC is the ability to bring together all the properties being sold by member firms through our three marketing streams. This has benefits of scale for each solicitor estate agent and is one of the key initiatives supported by the members, following consultation prior to its introduction.”