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England v. Scotland - Could the House Purchase Process Be Improved?

on Thursday, 10 August 2017.

Now and then there are some who moan about the English conveyancing system, the system for buying and selling houses.

Some say it is slow, does not give certainty early enough, allows people to pull out at the last minute, and can lead to wasted legal and survey costs. They point to the Scottish system where an offer is binding as soon as it is made and would like a similar system here. So are house buyers better off in Scotland?

The Scottish system is not all good. Before a binding offer can be made, the buyer has to check out the property, make sure they have their mortgage arranged and carry out a survey. These take time and money. The Scottish solicitor then makes the binding offer to the seller's solicitor, not usually an estate agent. It can then be very frustrating to find that several other people are going through the same process on the same property and the seller chooses to accept someone else's offer. The unlucky buyer then has to pay abortive costs and start the process again with another property.

On the contrary, the English system starts with the buyer making a non-binding offer. It is only once it is accepted that costs are incurred with solicitors, surveyors and mortgage lenders. The conveyancing process then starts with the title being checked, searches and enquiries conducted, surveys carried out and mortgages being processed. Gazumping is a very rare occurrence. These all take time and delays can creep in. However, by the time this stage is reached, it is very likely that the sale and purchase will proceed to a successful exchange of contracts.

The English system gives more time for the buyer to take good advice from their solicitor and surveyor. You should reflect on this before legally committing to a purchase.


For more information, please contact David Marsden, in our Commercial Property team, on 01923 919 303.

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