Call for Scots-style housing groups

THE LAW Society faces calls from over 150 solicitors' practices to follow the success of Scottish solicitors in reclaiming the housing market by setting up joint property groups.

But the prospect of any English scheme could be threatened by a Monopolies and Mergers Commission investigation into the Scottish groups after complaints from estate agents of unfair practices.

Glasgow Solicitors Property Group is the latest success story north of the border, uniting more than 170 firms to win more than a quarter of the west of Scotland property market in just three years.

Leslie Dubow, chief executive of the Solicitors Property Group, which represents 150 firms in England and Wales, said the schemes were an outstanding success for solicitors. “We see no reason why similar progress could not be made in England and Wales,” he said.

“There has been much ineffectual talk here about how to protect our share of the conveyancing market, but Glasgow has shown us the way.”

But Dubow added that setting up the scheme would require substantial funds and said the Law Society seemed reluctant to back the idea.

Karen Aldridge, Law Society head of commercial property, said the society favoured the principle of the schemes, but attempts to create them had proved unviable in the past.

“If someone comes up with a scheme we will certainly look at it,” she said.

But she said Scots property markets worked differently. Chains were shorter and solicitors had traditionally had a greater role in house sales.

In 1995, the Glasgow group sold 2,819 properties worth nearly £150 million, earning solicitors nearly £2.25 million in commissions. GSPG expects to double those figures this year.

Previously, solicitors' share of residential property in Glasgow only totalled about 1 per cent, with six major estate agencies controlling most of the market. Schemes also operate in other Scottish cities.