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Kent estate agents Ward & Co has hit back against Hambro Countrywide's volume conveyancing operation by offering clients conveyancing from local firms conforming to a new customer service protocol.
In what is thought to be one of the first schemes of its kind the firms - Martin Tolhurst Partnership, Wright & Co, Dundas & Duce, James & Newell and licenced conveyancer Andrew Lee - will extend opening hours to 7pm on weekdays and between 9am and 3pm on Saturday.
They will work to a fixed fee scale and will charge no fee if the sale of a house falls through.
The scheme is a direct response to Hambros' link up with a national network of law firms to provide a 24-hour telephone conveyancing service.
Ward & Co managing partner David Lench said: "The firms on our panel will get the vast majority of our work. It is our response to Hambros and an attempt to keep the work locally. We don't believe telephone conveyancing is what the public want. It is still a personalised service."
James Carter, managing partner of Martin Tolhurst Partnership, said: "We have always had work referred to us by Ward & Co. Hopefully now we will get a bigger slice to justify the extra wages paid for the longer hours. It remains to be seen how much extra business will be brought in."
Robert Dundas, senior partner of Dundas & Duce, said: "It is heartening Ward & Co have chosen not to set up their own in-house conveyancing department."