Could the rest of the UK adopt the Scottish system of property selling?

17/10/2018 08:37:59

Scotland’s system of buying and selling homes may not be perfect but it clearly has its benefits, evidenced by the fact that there are growing calls for England and Wales to follow our lead.

It’s almost a year since the Government launched its Call for Evidence, a request for views and ideas on how the home buying process can be improved south of the border.

Sajid Javid, the then housing minister, pointed out that buying a home is one of the biggest investments most of us will make and, if it goes wrong, it can be costly. The process of buying and selling property should be uncomplicated to allow homebuyers to focus on what matters – finding their dream home.

This week the head of a national estate agency suggested that the Scottish system offers a ready-made template for England and Wales to adopt that would simplify matters with relatively little disruption.

For anyone unfamiliar with the process, including first time buyers in Scotland, here are five simple tips to negotiate the Scottish system.

  1. Home Reports: In Scotland, the Home Report is a Single Survey (an assessment by a surveyor of the condition of the home, a valuation and an accessibility audit for people with particular needs); plus an Energy Report; and a Property Questionnaire (with information from the seller and other cost-based info that may influence a buyer).
  2. Gazumping: Because properties are typically taken off the market in Scotland once an offer has been accepted, gazumping is less common here, whatever the state of the housing market in a locality. Solicitors also have to decline to act for a seller if they accept a later offer from another party, unless the original offer has fallen through.
  3. Who Sells? Most homes in Scotland are sold straightforwardly through pure estate agents.
  4. Offers Over: Scotland has ‘offers over’ as part of the pricing structure with prospective buyers requested to note an interest with the vendor’s agent. This is usually the way that offers are then invited via a sealed bids system.
  5. Legally Binding Completion Process: In Scotland the exchange of documents between a vendor’s and a buyer’s solicitor does, eventually, lead to a point at which the transaction becomes legally binding - failure to honour it opens the way to litigation and damages. Some agents in Scotland see flaws in their own system although few call for an alternative along the lines of that operating in England and Wales.  

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