House Prices: How long is a piece of string?

One of the questions that I am frequently asked is how much prices have gone up or gone down in the last couple of years. My trite response is “how long is a piece of string?”. Each property needs to be dealt with on its own merits and that’s where getting proper advice comes in.

To give you a couple of examples, I was recently involved in a transaction in St Andrews where the property was on at offers over £275,000 and valued at £295,000, at the closing date it went for in excess of £355,000. Conversely, I was recently involved in negotiations for a property over on the West Coast of Scotland where we managed to get the property not only considerably less than the asking price but also the valuation. These two extreme examples show the importance of getting proper advice from an experienced property solicitor.

My first port of call is always to note interest and it is amazing how much information can be teased out of a selling agent at that stage – the property has been empty for a long time, the seller is desperate, the seller has found somewhere else to go – all actual examples of information that has been passed. I would thereafter carry out an investigation into the area including recent transactions and that coupled with my own knowledge and experience, as far as negotiations are concerned, would then lead me to put together a proposal for my client.

In a non-competitive situation I can never guarantee success but my aim is always to smoke out the lowest possible price that the seller would be prepared to accept.

In conclusion, there is no formula as far as house prices are concerned but it is very important to get advice at the earliest opportunity. My recommendation would be that before you start looking you take advice as the adviser will be able to give you a rough generalisation in respect of your type of property and area and give you an indication of what sort of price range you should be looking at.

To quote an old Law Society campaign, “It’s never too early to call your solicitor”.

The future of estate agency: part 2

The previous post on the future of estate agency has caused a few people to ask me what I would recommend that they look for when choosing an estate agent.  The first thing I would stress is that cheapest is not always best.  Make sure that you get a written estimate of fees and outlays so that you are able to make sure that you are comparing apples with apples.  Once you have had a written estimate I would then recommend that you get three agents out to your property and ask them what price you are likely to achieve for your property and their overview of the property market. 

Find out about their available marketing options, and ask to see samples of schedules and photographs.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs I do think that technology plays an important part in selling and when speaking to the agent you should ask them about the technical data that they can provide you with (for example, the number of times a property has been viewed online).  Before making your final decision, have a look at the agent’s website whilst imagining yourself as a prospective purchaser, a site which is clear and easy to use is vital.

It is always good to take recommendations from friends and acquaintances and if it is a solicitor based estate agency and you have already had dealings with a solicitor in the practice then it is always a good idea to be introduced to the solicitor that would be looking after you.

Whilst I would always recommend Blackadders Property Services, I think that if the above rules are followed then you should manage to ensure that you achieve the maximum price for your property – which is ultimately what you are hoping to do!

There is no such thing as a ‘bad market’ – only a ‘different market’

A frequent frustration of mine is the lack of advice given to buyers and sellers in the property market. I regularly hear that we are in a difficult or bad market and I am concerned that because of a lack of advice not all opportunities are being fully explored and investigated. To combat this Blackadders has launched a Home Buyer Service. This is part of the service that we offer anyway but I felt that by giving it more focus and clarity more people will take advantage of this service which will hopefully increase the activity in the property market. In general it would entail discussing with a potential purchaser (who also has a property to sell) the other options that may be open to them if they cannot get their property sold or they have in fact received a lower price than anticipated for their own property. We feel that with a combination of our property market experience, access to the whole of the mortgage market and our negotiating skills that we can perhaps open other avenues for you that would be worth exploring.

I recently dealt with a case where we managed to convert the client’s existing house into a buy to let mortgage, raising enough money to pay off the current mortgage on this property and have a deposit for the new mortgage. This gave the client breathing space to purchase their new house. And because we were able to move quickly they were able to purchase at 20% less than the anticipated valuation – thus more than covering any extra cost and securing the client’s dream home. They subsequently managed to get their old house sold earlier than expected and for a higher price than anticipated – winning at both ends!

Whilst every case will not work out as well as this, it does show that it is well worth exploring all the options.

Lindsay Darroch
Head of Property Services

The future of estate agency

I deal with property transactions throughout Scotland and I’m always interested to see the differing approaches by agents in terms of receiving offers.   This approach differs from area to area, agent to agent and the most marked difference is between the solicitor estate agents that I deal with and independent estate agents.  Whilst the purpose of this blog is not to criticise independent estate agents, the Scottish Government is continuing to carry on its campaign against solicitor estate agents for whatever reason.  I think it is astounding that the Scottish Government continue to attack and are looking to replace highly regulated solicitor estate agents who have professional indemnity insurance, are regulated by the Law Society of Scotland and work to professional rules of conduct such as conflict of interest, respect of another agent’s client and replace this with an unregulated, unmonitored body of estate agents. 

Surely the first thing that should be done is to regulate the independent estate agents and put in place a regulatory body and other rules so that the consumer is protected and everyone is playing off a level playing field.

Home Reports: An update

I have been asked a few times over the last couple of weeks about when Home Reports in Scotland are being abolished.  As you may be aware the Coalition Government have now abolished HIPs in England and Wales.   This does not affect Scotland. My information is that the Scottish Government is still very much committed to the Home Reports and that there will be no change.  Given that it was a Labour/Liberal Coalition Government that brought them in and that the SNP are very supportive, I cannot even see the Scottish Elections in 2011 making any difference. 

The points I would like to stress, however, are as follows:-

  1. Costs do vary – cheapest is not always best!  Name and reputation of the firm of surveyors that are instructed might have an impact on the saleability and sale price achieved for your property.  Always speak to your property adviser about this.
  2. There are a number of deferred payment options available, the most common being to only pay when your property sells or after 9 months of your property going on the market, whichever is earlier.  There are, however, new insurance policies and no sale – no fee options. 
  3. Blackadders is currently running a special offer for properties in the Angus area with nothing to pay for the first 3 months.
  4. We run a number of offers throughout the year and you should ask your property adviser for more details.

I hope that this clarifies matters and should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact me, either through this blog, via email ( or on the telephone (01382 229222).  I shall keep you updated should there be any change in the Home Report situation.