Will we be breaking for the border?

Paul Norton of Carter Jonas Peterborough

With talk of either full independence or a boosted version of devolution, Paul Norton – partner and head of residential sales at Carter Jonas Peterborough – fixes his gaze o’er the hills and glens atScotland’s house-buying process.

It’s commonly believed that the house-buying process inScotlandis easier than in other parts of theUnionbut that’s not necessarily so. The process removes the risk of gazumping and sales don’t get caught in chains, yet it is a lot more rigid and there’s not much flexibility.

The main differences stem fromScotlandhaving its own legal system and the law regarding land and property ownership. Estate agents and agency chains have begun to gain a foothold in the past five years but, historically, solicitors have acted in an estate agency role as well as a formal, legal capacity. Appointing a solicitor is a pre-requisite from the start of the process, as is formal confirmation of money being available, because no offer will be considered seriously without having guaranteed finance.

For us, a property price – especially in this current climate – is often assumed as a starting point for downwards negotiation between purchaser and vendor. InScotland, a price is, commonly, a starting point for negotiating upwards. Prices are advertised with either ‘fixed price’ or ‘offers over’ qualification.

Offers ‘subject to survey’ are a fairly new aspect of the process inScotland. It’s more usual in the Scottish process for purchasers to commission a survey before putting in an offer.

Making an offer ‘subject to survey’ may seem more economical – in view of the fact that the alternative and traditional way in Scotland of surveying before making an offer can mean the prospective purchaser can be out of pocket when an offer is rejected. But if a ‘subject-to’ offer is accepted, the purchaser has an obligation to have a survey completed to a timescale which suits the vendor. Surveys at short notice – often as little as 48 hours – can be very expensive.

As well as price and date of entry, formal offers contain a range of other conditions of contract. In the case of multiple formal offers, the vendor’s solicitor will offer his or her client advice about the offers based on the vendor’s individual circumstances.

Bound by very strict Law Society of Scotland guidelines, vendors’ solicitors are not allowed to accept another offer once one has been accepted. Once an offer is accepted by the vendor than any deviation from the terms of the contract by the purchaser will mean liability for damages.

So, with free prescriptions for all ages, help with care costs if infirmity comes with the ageing process, a well-regarded state education system and no university tuition fees for ‘native’ students, which middle-aged estate agent with children of school age wouldn’t be thinking about the advantages of living in Scotland even before the recent political and cultural debates?

But give me fens over glens any time, even if it does mean I have to water my lawn in the summer and am still mowing it in November!

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