Scots set up London Property centre

Scottish solicitors are looking for a conspicuous location in London's West End for their first English property shop, which is due to open in summer 1998.

The London Property Shop (LPS) will be modelled on the successful Edinburgh Solicitors' Property Centre (ESPC), which acts as a property display centre and has captured more than 90 per cent of the property market in Edinburgh.

It wants 350 firms in the South East to join the venture. They will be asked to pay a non-refundable joining fee, ranging from £3,000 to £7,000 depending on the firm's size. There will be an annual subscription fee of between £1,000 and £2,500, although rebates will be available for every property sold through the centre. Lawyers selling a property through LPS will also be charged a £300 registration fee compared with ESPC's charge of £145.

The property will then be displayed in the centre, on the Internet and through press advertising for three months.

Customers coming into the centre who are interested in a property will be given the details and name of the solicitor dealing with its sale and conveyancing, although they can choose to use their own solicitor. Mortgages will also be available at the centre as part of a buying package.

By offering one-stop buying packages, Scottish lawyers have been able to undercut estate agent rates with commission hovering at about 2.5 per cent of the selling price.

Unlike the nationwide Solicitors' Property Centre (SPC) scheme, which plans to open a network of solicitors' estate agencies, LPS will have just one flagship store.

ESPC chief executive Anne Murray said it was essential that the London centre was in a prime location to attract public attention. To that end, both West End and Victoria Station locations comprising 10,000 square feet are being scouted.

Murray said the LPS and SPC schemes could co-exist. She arrived at the official launch of ESPC's London venture last week armed with a specially commissioned Mori poll of 1,650 people showing that only 23 per cent of those questioned were unlikely or certain not to use a solicitor instead of an estate agent.

Asked who they would prefer to negotiate and market their property for them, 21 per cent said estate agents, 16 per cent solicitors and 49 per cent said both equally.