'In Edinburgh, 90% of all sales of second-hand homes are handled by solicitors,' says Ross Kennedy at Edinburgh solicitors Dundas & Wilson. Other cities are different: in Glasgow, for example, only 30%-40% are handled by solicitors.
You appoint a solicitor as soon as you have seen a home you'd like to make an offer on. Your solicitor will then contact the selling agent to inform them of your interest in the property, or 'note interest'. As solicitors are more involved and there are fewer estate agents, the system is fairer and more certain for buyers in many ways. There is no risk of gazumping, as Ross Kennedy points out. 'There are strict Law Society guidelines to stop solicitors getting involved in it. They are also on hand to guide home buyers through the process.'
Since December 2008, sellers of most properties in Scotland have had to provide prospective buyers with a home report. This contains a single survey and valuation, a property questionnaire and an energy report. Unlike in England and Wales, where the seller decides the asking price and potential buyers can offer below that figure, in Scotland, most sellers ask for 'offers over' or 'offers around' the valuation in the single survey report. Occasionally - for example where a fast sale is needed - a home will be offered at a fixed price.
The seller or selling agent must provide interested buyers with the home report, and the buyer can rely on it, with a right to damages if it isn't accurate. If you are buying with a mortgage, you will need to ensure that the survey in the home report satisfies your lender. If not, you will be required to pay for your own survey.
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