As both Solicitors and Estate Agents, we are uniquely well qualified to provide you with all the unbiased advice and help you need to guide you through the purchase of your home in Scotland.
There are many questions that Purchasers have and this note is designed to cover some of the main points. We always advise, where you may become seriously interested in offering for a property, you make contact with one of our Solicitors who will be able to guide you more thoroughly with reference to the particular property you are interested in.
- What does Offers Over, Fixed Price and Offers in the Region of mean?
- What is a Note of Interest?
- What is a Closing Date?
- What is a Home Report?
- What is a Formal Offer?
- What are the costs of purchasing a property in Scotland?
What does Offers Over, Fixed Price and Offers in the Region of mean?
One of the first questions we often get asked is what does “Offers Over” or “Offers in excess of” mean. Where the Solicitors and Estate Agents have used this wording then the seller is expecting to receive a sum in excess of the asking price. There is no hard and fast rule as to the amount you should be paying in excess of the asking price and this is where we, as Solicitors, can advise you by providing guidance as to the actual price you may have to Offer, bearing in mind market conditions at the time. The price can vary depending on various factors, for example market conditions, condition of the property, length of time on the market and amount of interest in the property. With all of these, we can provide assistance and give you guidance as each property has its own specialty.
Where a price is given as “Offers in the region of”, it may suggest some flexibility around the stated price.
Other properties are sold at a “Fixed Price”. This means that the seller is looking to achieve a sale price at the fixed price and essentially, is really bound to accept the first Offer at the fixed price. However, this does not mean that the Seller will negotiate around the price and, again, we would be happy to advise you in more detail if the property you are interested in is being marketed at a fixed price. Time may critical when the price is “fixed” and it should be “first come, first served”.
What is a Note of Interest?
As soon as you feel a particular property could be one you might wish to purchase, we would advise that you formally note your interest in the property, which can be by a simple phone call, note or e-mail to the selling solicitor and does not commit you in any way. If possible, identify your Solicitor to the Selling Agent but better still, get us to note interest on your behalf. We are happy to do this with the Selling Agents, and what this means is that the Selling Agents are giving you an undertaking that they will try not to sell the property without giving you a chance to Offer. Ultimately, however, it is the Seller’s choice if they wish to accept an Offer, but noting your interest protects your position to a degree.
What is a Closing Date?
If more than two parties have noted their interest in the property then, in order for the Seller to give both parties a fair chance to Offer for the property, the Selling Agents may set a closing date.
A closing date is simply a date and time set for all interested parties to make their best and final Offer for the property.
Should a closing date for the property you are interested in be set, you would need to speak to a Solicitor within our firm who would be able to guide you through the process and talk to you about the level of your Offer and, as importantly, what other aspects have to be covered in the Offer, including the date of entry, which is when you pay for the property and receive the keys and title – any Offer must include a date of entry.
We are here for you every step of the way to guide you through the process and at no stage should you think of this as a difficult process.
What is a Home Report?
Home Reports were introduced in Scotland on the 1st of December 2008 and have to be available for all properties which have come on the market after the 1st of December 2008.
If you are seriously interested in purchasing a property then you can request a copy of the Home Report from the Seller’s Solicitors or Estate Agents. They must supply you with a copy of the Home Report within nine days and they are entitled to charge an administration cost for the provision of this Report. Many of the Home Report providers are providing the Reports on line and details of how to obtain these Reports, as mentioned, can be obtained from each Selling Agent.
Unlike HIPS in England, the Home Report consists of three elements:-
- Property Questionnaire.
This is a questionnaire that is filled out by the Sellers of the property. It provides practical information, such as about parking, alterations to the property , utility providers, heating systems etc.
- Survey Report including Mortgage Valuation.
The survey report is carried out by a Surveyor who is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. It is a detailed survey which gives you information as to the current condition of the property and improvements which could be made to the structure of the property. Also included in the pack is a mortgage valuation report which can be used to send to your mortgage lender and is designed to avoid you having to obtain your own survey for mortgage purposes, although only recently dated surveys are acceptable to Lenders.
- Energy Performance Certificate.
Energy Performance Certificates are now required under European legislation and the Certificate forms part of the Home Report pack. These remain current for ten years and assess the energy efficiency of the house and suggest improvements.
The Home Report is designed to give the prospective Purchaser information about the property before offering for the property and, helpfully, now provides the Surveyor’s valuation of the property.
The Surveyor’s valuation of the property can be of assistance when guiding you as to the level of your Offer. However, for the reasons mentioned above, we would suggest that you do not look at the Home Report in isolation and always speak to your Solicitor for more guidance and advice before placing an Offer.
What is a Formal Offer when buying a house?
The price you Offer for a property is obviously one important part of your Offer. However, a formal Offer in Scotland is a written Offer which makes up the first part of the contract for your purchase. There are three main elements to an Offer which vary for every house purchase:-
- The price.
We have discussed price above and would always advise you come speak to us in more regard for guidance.
- The date of entry, namely the date upon which you will hand over the purchase price in exchange for the keys.
When formally offering for a property in Scotland you are saying to the Seller that you will have the full amount of the purchase price available on the date of entry that you specify in your Offer. As such, your funding arrangements must be in place before proceeding to Offer. On average, from the date of your original Offer to the date of entry is around eight weeks (although it can be shorter or longer than this if desired).
The date of entry is the date that is to be agreed between the Seller and the Purchaser in each individual contract for the purchase and sale and the eight weeks referred to above is suggested as an average and, again, if your circumstances vary for whatever reason then one of our Solicitors will be happy to talk to you in more detail about this.
If your funding from, for instance, a Lender is not totally secure, or if your purchase is conditional on your obtaining a mortgage or indeed selling another house, this position needs to be covered in the Offer.
- Any moveable items which you have agreed with the Seller are to be included in the price and other pertinents.
You must not assume that items are included in the sale, even if the Seller has told you specifically that something is included. Very often the Sales Brochure identifies inclusions and this may be referred to in the Offer but any additional items should be specified.
If other pertinents are essential for the enjoyment of the property, such as access, drainage or water rights over adjacent property, then you should make this clear to your Solicitor, so that again the position can be covered in the Offer and subsequent examination of title.
Statements contained in the Property Questionnaire are not contractual, so you may wish to repeat important stipulations in the Offer.
The Offer is virtually never signed by you, as Purchaser, but by your Solicitor as Agent, and though you have not signed, you are bound in contract.
In theory, an Offer can be accepted by the Seller, without qualification, and if the Seller accepts in that way, you are immediately bound in contract.
The contract is made up of the Offer and acceptance. More usually, the Seller will issue an acceptance containing “qualifications” or “modifications”, which you in turn have to consider, and either accept (to conclude the contract) or further amend.
Incidentally, this exchange of formal letters to conclude the contract is also referred to as the “missives”, which is just another expression for contract.
What are the costs of purchasing a property in Scotland
If you are interested in buying a house, then any of our Solicitors will be happy to provide you with more detailed general guidance as to the property system.
Any solicitor must provide a written quotation of the expected fees and outlays (including Stamp Duty Land Tax) involved in property purchase, as soon as it is practicable to do so.