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North vs South in the Property World

Wed 17 September 2014

With the Scottish referendum on the door step I thought it might be an appropriate time to look at the differences in the processes involved with selling property in England and Wales compared with that of North of the border.


Our system in England and Wales can be somewhat questionable at times, a seller must obtain a market appraisal from an agent, put their property onto the market, receive offers, negotiate and agree a sale and then the whole thing hangs in the balance whilst surveys are conducted, finances are arranged and solicitors to and fro with enquiries and answers for weeks on end before hopefully contracts exchange, deposits are paid and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.

The main difference with the Scottish system is that when a formal offer is submitted and accepted, the deal becomes binding. As one Scottish solicitor suggests on their website, “we prefer not to wait until the removal men are at the door before concluding a binding deal.”

The fact that in Scotland once a formal offer is accepted the deal is binding means that neither party can then pull out without the risk of being liable for the costs of the other party. This by default encourages buyers to do their “homework” upfront before considering an offer. So many property transactions in England and Wales fall at the survey hurdle or during the conveyance but in Scotland a prudent buyer will have a survey and valuation report carried out prior to offering so they are well and truly going in with their eyes open!

The government took small steps closer to the Scottish system in 2007 with the introduction of the Home Information Pack or HIP. The HIP included title documentation on the subject property, local authority searches, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and a Home Condition Report (which was a form of survey). The HIP became a legal requirement and had to be in place at the time of a property going to market. This in theory (and in my humble opinion) was an excellent idea, allowing purchasers in England and Wales to enter into a transaction with more information and their eyes open in terms of what they were buying before even submitting an offer, more on a par with the Scottish system. However the implementation of HIPS was poor and they were suspended in 2010 when the coalition government came to power.

I fear that many of you reading this will give a nod of recognition to the frustrations involved with the process in England and Wales from your own personal experiences.

I would absolutely love to hear any thoughts, comments or personal experiences that you may wish to share on this topic. Do you think our system should change? If so how? Are you happy with the current system? Any interaction on these would be greatly welcomed.

In a period of change one way or another in Scotland, who knows, discussions like this could instigate change south of the border........for our property market at least!

Please contact me on or twitter @mccartneysllp

In the mean time we shall all wait with bated breath to see what Scotland decides tomorrow.

Tom Carter

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