ESTATE AGENCY IMPROVEMENTS

November 19, 2014

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I think that it is particularly important for clients to use proactive Estate Agents who are actually committed to selling their property rather than simply acting as an appointment service.  One of the things the Blackadders’ Estate Agency team prides itself on is its innovative approach to selling properties.

I was delighted when the team showed me a recent video schedule (http://www.vistabee.com/en/v/yzovta) which is being used to market a property.  Whilst there is still some room for improvement, I think that this is a very good video schedule and shows the leaps and bounds that have taken place in this area that, up to now,  has not really caught on with the selling public.

Watch for more announcements!

P.S. Property market update to follow shortly.

Lindsay Darroch
Partner & Head of Property
www.blackadders.co.uk

RURAL LAND AND BUSINESS TEAM

November 11, 2014

I am delighted to advise that  the Rural Land and Business team at Blackadders continues to go from strength to strength. Not only  are we seeing  an increase in instructions from clients and lending institutions but we have also now  received a very good ranking in Chambers UK 2015.  This is a great recognition for a growing and important part of the property team in particular and the firm as a whole.  With an increase in activity in the renewables and farming sector as a whole and with further developments in our Aberdeen and Perth offices I am sure that the team, headed up by partner Petra Grunenberg, will continue to go from strength to strength.

Lindsay Darroch
Partner and Head of Property
www.blackadders.co.uk

Nightmare on Elm Street

October 30, 2014

If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call?” Peter, Ray, Egon? What about your solicitor? Upon purchasing a property, it would be unsettling to discover an unexpected house guest at your new abode. Some buyers may consider it a “treat” and invite the presenter of “Most Haunted” to visit their home, creating a tourist attraction, and maximising financial return from human curiosity. I imagine that the majority of buyers however would want Casper to leave immediately, however friendly he may be.

Does the buyer have any comeback against the seller of the property? One may argue that “vacant possession” has not been granted. However, a seller has limited control over the presence of a ghost, in the same manner as they have limited control over an unwanted house burglar.

The onus is upon a buyer to satisfy themselves on the heritable property that they are about to purchase. Lawyers use the term “caveat emptor”, meaning “buyer beware”. During a property transaction this implied legal position is varied according to the terms of the contract (“the missives”) entered into between the parties. It is standard to include a condition that the seller will warrant that, so far as they are aware, there are no structural issues with the condition of the property or timber problems such as wet rot, damp, or infestation. Where problems are disclosed, either by the seller in the Property Questionnaire or indeed by the surveyor in the Home Report, the solicitor will recommend that the buyer instructs a specialist contractor to inspect the property and provide advice on any issues noted and the estimated costs of repair. There is no requirement within a standard contract to disclose the presence of paranormal activity and I have yet to see an additional clause added to a contract by a purchasing agent. However, one of my colleagues has read a clause within a Home Report highlighting that there was local knowledge that the property had a history of things that go bump in the night.

Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 there is a duty of care upon estate agents to advise potential purchasers of any material information that would affect an average person’s decision to purchase a property. Of course a seller could argue that they were not aware of the spooky presence and that they do not have the “Sixth Sense” of the buyer and therefore it may be difficult to prove otherwise.

The responsibility remains with the buyer to ask the pertinent question of the seller at the time of offering for the property. In the same light, as asking if any of the neighbours partake in a seasonal National Lampoon’s Christmas Light exhibition on the exterior of their house.

Happy house haunting hunting!

Joanne Grimmond
Partner – Property

 

Land and Building Transaction Tax

October 23, 2014

Following on from previous blogs regarding the LBTT, which comes into force on 1 April 2015, I would advise that the Scottish Government has now released the rates and bands.  As readers of previous blogs will know, the LBTT replaces Stamp Duty Land Tax in relation to transactions involving land in Scotland.  The LBTT is a progressive tax which means that slices will be taxed at different rates depending on the bracket they fall into, very much like Income Tax, rather than SDLT which was a slab tax. 

I would advise that the residential and non-residential rates are as follows:-

Residential Rates

Purchase Price up to £135,000 – LBTT Rate – 0%

Above £135,000 to £250,000 – LBTT Rate – 2%

Above £250,000 to £1m – LBTT Rate – 10%

Above £1m – LBTT Rate – 12%

Non-Residential Rates

Purchase Price up to £150,000 – LBTT Rate – 0%

Above £150,000 to £350,000 – LBTT Rate – 3%

Above £350,000 – LBTT Rate – 4.5%

I have been advised that the price at which SDLT and LBTT produce the same liability on a residential purchase is £324,285, with prices below that amount seeing a saving under the new rates, whereas prices above that level will be taxed more.  For interest, a purchase at £200,000 would currently generate a SDLT charge of £2,000.   Under the new regime, this will incur a charge of £1,300.  On the other hand, a purchase of £500,000 currently attracts an SDLT charge of £15,000 but under the new rate this will be £27,300.  In relation to commercial transactions, the point at which LBTT exceeds SDLT is a purchase price of £1.95m.

Whilst I welcome the introduction of a progressive rather than slab tax, I am concerned that the rates are onerous and will have a more extreme negative impact than the positive impact that will apply mainly for purchases between £130,000 and £250,000.   I would have preferred to see more bandings with a more gradual rate of increase.  I suspect that the new LBTT will have a significant impact in slowing down the mid-market purchases and I hope that the Scottish Government review these rates and banding levels sooner rather than later.

Lindsay Darroch
Partner & Head of Property

Scottish EDGE 2014

October 23, 2014

I am delighted to support Scottish EDGE which is a Dragon’s Den style competition for ambitious entrepreneurs who wish to grow their businesses.  EDGE stands for “Encouraging Dynamic Growth Entrepreneurs”.   Companies that demonstrate the most potential can win awards of up to £100,000 and access additional support for their business.   I have been involved in the judging round which entailed going through applications and listening to presentations and then judging accordingly.  It was a very intellectually rewarding and inspiring experience.  I am looking forward to the final round of the competition in early December when the finalists will make a pitch to a panel headed up by Sir Tom Hunter, with the winner being announced on the night.  There is also a young EDGE category specifically for those budding entrepreneurs in the 18 to 30 age group.  For more information, I would refer you to the Scottish Enterprise website.

Lindsay Darroch
Partner and Head of Property

Scottish Investment Forum

October 23, 2014
 
I spent a very interesting and informative day at the UK Property Professionals Scottish Investment Forum which was hosted at the stunning DWF offices at the Walkie Talkie building in Fenchurch Street, London.
 
UKPP had brought together a very impressive panel which consisted of Sue Bruce, the Chief Executive of Edinburgh Council; Anne Murray from Glasgow Council; Simpson Buglass, a Partner at Graham & Sibbald; Tim Allan, CEO of the Unicorn Property Group and David Lockhart, CEO of New River Retail. 
 
The first four speakers each presented the case for investment within their own city and this was followed by an open session with questions from the audience. It was great to see so many people in London interested, directly or indirectly, in investing in the Scottish property scene. 
 
Here at Blackadders, where we are currently east coast dominant with offices in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Perth, Forfar and Arbroath (watch this space for further westward expansion!), we pride ourselves in being involved in property transactions throughout the whole of Scotland for clients based throughout the world. It was therefore very interesting for me to hear the different views and ambitions in relation to the Scottish property investment scene.  I was particularly proud to see my home city of Dundee represented at such an august event and although I have seen the digital video of the Waterfront development several times, I still find it very impressive and extremely exciting for Dundee.
 
I am very much of the view that property investment, both residential and commercial, will  continue to attract an ever increasing amount of interest now there is post Referendum certainty and the economy continues to improve.
 
Should anybody wish to discuss property investment matters or require more information about UK Property Professionals then please do not hesitate to contact me.
 
Lindsay Darroch
Partner and Head of Property

ASSOCIATION OF SCOTTISH BUSINESS WOMEN – AWARDS DINNER 2014

October 7, 2014

I had a very enjoyable evening at the ASB National Business Awards Dinner 2014 last Friday.  The Awards Dinner was very enjoyable and afterwards I had the privilege of presenting the ASB Employee of the Year Award to Samantha Stewart of Clean Bee.  It was great to see so many individuals and businesses recognised for their contribution and a big congratulations to all those who took part. 

I would also like to congratulate the organising committee for a very enjoyable dinner and a special well done to Lynne Duffus who ensured that the evening crackled along with fun and good spirits.

The above photo shows all of the Judges that were presenting an Award in the evening.

Lindsay Darroch 
Partner – Head of Property 

Blackadders expands the brand further with acquisitions in Edinburgh and Perth

September 9, 2014

Leading Scottish Law Firm Blackadders,  has agreed merger terms with companies in Edinburgh and Perth, bringing the number of offices  operated to six and further strengthen its position as one of the fastest-expanding law firms in Scotland.

Perth4

Pictured from left to right are: James Morris, Johnston Clark, David Reid, Alastair Duncan, Lindsay Darroch and Campbell Clark.

The larger of the two takeovers involves Condies, which is based in Tay Street in Perth city centre. Under the agreement, David Reid and James Morris of Condies become partners at Blackadders and Alastair Duncan a consultant. There will be no job losses as a result of the merger.

Condies is one of the oldest law firms in Scotland. Boasting a wide-ranging client base, it is widely recognised for expertise in trusts, the agricultural sector and wealth management.

Under the second deal, Edinburgh-based solicitor Colin Blaikie, currently operating from Broughton Street, will become a partner in Blackadders and move to the company’s base in the capital at 5 Rutland Square, along with all members of staff.

The changes will take effect from 1 October.

Johnston Clark, managing partner, Blackadders, commented: “We are delighted to have established a base in Perth, which is arguably the most important urban centre in the East of Scotland after Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh, where we already have a presence.The merger will further strengthen our position in the market and will have a positive impact on our clients.The move will enhance our presence and allow us an opportunity to further develop in Perth and Perhshire.” In Edinburgh, the addition of Colin Blaikie to our senior team will further strengthen the client services we already offer in the capital enhancing our team and adding to the development of this office since our merger with McKay Norwell in 2012”

These latest deals bring the number of acquisitions made this year by Blackadders to three, having taken over the long-established Aberdeen firm of Adam Cochran in January.

Mr Clark added: “The market for legal services in all our practice groups is changing and the partners believe that our growth into a national firm offers increased brand recognition and the resources required to take advantage of the opportunities this will create.”

Further information, contacts, etc.
Lindsay Darroch -01382 342262 or 07525101949

Lindsay Darroch
Partner – Head of Property

STAGNANT PROPERTY MARKET – HOME TRACK

September 5, 2014

As part of the myriad of conflicting reports that are coming out about the property market, I was interested to read a report from the Home Track Consultancy which is focussed in on England and Wales.  They have advised that key indicators are showing a stagnating market  with less properties coming on to the market and also a much quieter summer.  I was also interested to read a recent report from the Nationwide which advised the house price growth edged up in August, UK prices being up by 0.8% but the number of mortgage approvals falling by almost 12% between January and May with a modest rebound in June.

I am still of the view that Autumn will see a gradually improving house market, with an increase in the number of properties coming on to the market.  I will keep you advised of trends.

Lindsay Darroch
Partner – Head of Property   

PROPERTY MARKET – SUMMER UPDATE: A PLETHORA OF OPPOSING FIGURES

September 3, 2014

So what happened to the Scottish property market in the summer?

As readers of previous blogs know, I caveat all my blogs, especially updating on trends by saying these words are my own personal view.  I think that here at Blackadders where we have a substantial presence in Dundee, Arbroath, Forfar, Edinburgh and Aberdeen dealing with property transactions throughout the whole of Scotland, makes us uniquely placed to comment on the Scottish property market.  I have been astounded this year by the number of opposing surveys and trends and as it’s often said, you can make statistics say anything that you would like them to say.  I have read reports showing the number of first time buyers have increased, the number of first time buyers have decreased, the amount of mortgages coming on to the market increasing, the amount of mortgages coming on to the market decreasing, so what is now my  overall feeling?

There is no doubt  that the number of properties coming on to the Scottish property market has not increased as rapidly as we would have liked and I refer you back to a previous blog regarding stagnation – 4 November 2013.  As mentioned, the shortage of properties coming on to the market has led to increased price volatility with a huge increase in the number of closing dates and significant price increases for properties that have been correctly marketed and that are in the right area.  This has led a number of developers also selling out all their stock for 2014 and, in my opinion, the new properties coming on the market are the key to getting the housing market moving.

In relation to first time buyers, like the many surveys, I have a mixed message here.  I think the number of first time buyers has probably increased due to targeted assistance from the Government.  The Help to Buy scheme, however, has now been withdrawn and the Help to Buy scheme that was targeted at newbuild properties was wrongly set up, allowing first time buyers to miss out the traditional first time first step property, causing part of the housing market to actually stagnate.  I also think that the Referendum in September is also now having a brake effect on the market, both curtailing property investment in Scotland and also putting some people off putting their property on the market, thus accentuating the shortage.

I also have a slight suspicion that the increasing economic confidence and job security that has happened to many people has actually caused a lot more people to think this year about summer holidays, postponing their property move until the following year.

So what about Autumn?  I anticipate it starting probably late September when there will be a steady increase in the number of second-hand properties coming on to the market.  I also think that the developers will be in a better position to start fulfilling demand for 2015.  This will cause second-hand stocks to increase and create a pool of expectant buyers, meaning that 2015 will see the start of a huge increase in transactional levels.  I think that there will be an increase in the number of property investors, both individuals and institutions, coming into the market.  I also hope that the Government comes up with a refined plan to carry on assisting first time buyers to get on to the property market via the second-hand market.

The figure that I will be watching very closely at the end of October 2014 is the number of properties coming on to the market.  If this shows a significant increase compared to 2013, then I feel that the property market will move forward considerably in 2015.  If this figure is the same, or down, compared to 2013, my concern is that 2015 will be a year of stagnation with more pressure put on the developers to come up with part exchange and other novel schemes to assist people in moving property.  I also have a concern that the Bank of England will move too quickly in to put up interest rates and I worry this may nip any recovery before it has time to get hold in the market.

I will continue to report on trends.

Lindsay Darroch
Partner  – Head of Property

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