ESPC: Scotland sees a fifth fewer property sale collapses than England
Property sales fall through far less frequently in Scotland than in England, according to data showing one in four sales collapsing in England compared to around one in 12 across Scotland.
Research from Quick Move Now found that one in four (27.3 per cent) property sales in England fell through during July-September 2023, due to a variety of factors including gazumping, difficulties in securing a mortgage and buyers getting ‘cold feet’.
By contrast, data from Scottish property portal ESPC shows just 8.7 per cent of properties for sale with ESPC during July-October this year experienced a collapse and went back onto the market.
Paul Hilton, CEO of ESPC, said: “If you have friends or relatives south of the border, you may have heard them profess that buying a home is ‘so much easier’ in Scotland than in England, where the legal and conveyancing system differs greatly to ours in the north.
“While both systems are incredibly in-depth and can experience complications, generally, the conveyancing process is widely considered smoother in Scotland due to a variety of factors – one of them being the lower probability of your sale falling through.
“The Scottish conveyancing system greatly reduces the chances of property sales failing, with the missives concluded much earlier in Scotland and those in the process being held to a penalty if they pull out of the sale after that point, while in England, buyers and sellers are under no legal obligation to continue with the sale process until the exchange of contracts, which often happens just days before the official completion.
“In Scotland, we are less likely to see property chains too, although this is slightly growing in frequency, with more offers coming in ‘subject to sale’, according to increasing numbers of firms. The more transactions that are involved, the higher the risk of the sale collapsing.
“Solicitor estate agents, such as those represented by ESPC, also help to make sure the process of a property sale or purchase runs smoother, and they are held to high standards to ensure that their client receives the best possible advice, care and service. A secure, supported buyer is a buyer who is less likely to pull out of a sale.
“Alongside this, solicitor estate agents make offers on behalf of their client, and therefore can do their own due diligence before allowing them to make an offer, which reduces the risk of complications arising further down the line.
“By contrast, if a client offers directly to an estate agent, they could be anybody, in any financial position; there is no guarantee that a buyer will be vetted prior to the offer being made, and there may be issues, financial or otherwise, as you proceed with the sale.”
Mr Hilton added that for sellers, using a solicitor estate agent can also be very beneficial.
Solicitor estate agents will establish any issues upfront with the property when selling, but with estate agents, sales can fall through as the solicitor is often not instructed until a sale is agreed. Only then will some problems come to light, such as defective titles, boundary or planning issues, or even probate issues – which solicitor estate agents could iron out at the first hurdle.
Mr Hilton concluded: “Gazumping is a common problem in England – whereby a sale collapses when a seller decides to pull out of the existing sale to accept a late, higher offer that’s come in from elsewhere.
“This is rare in Scotland, especially when choosing to use a solicitor estate agent to sell your property; solicitor estate agents are held to certain codes of conduct which means that while your sale isn’t legally binding while the missives aren’t concluded, they will remove your property from the market and honour the verbal and written agreements of the initially accepted offer – so your purchase as a buyer should be more secure, which can only be good news for sellers.
“In fact, these codes of conduct are so well enforced that solicitors are guided to advise their client to instruct another solicitor should they wish to accept an offer that comes in after an initial offer has been accepted.”