Where can I find properties?
Before you can buy a property, you have to find one that you like! But even this can be confusing: where should you look?
In Scotland this will depend a lot on the regional area that you are looking for a property in. If you don’t already live in the area that you are looking for a property in, this can be slightly confusing. Why?
In Scotland, property was traditionally sold by solicitors who also acted as estate agents. In the 1960s and 1970s, non-solicitor estate agents started competing widely with solicitor/estate agents. In some areas they made huge in-roads into the marketplace and in many parts of Scotland property sales are dominated by non-solicitor estate agents. In many areas of Scotland, solicitor/estate agents still dominate and indeed have almost 100% of the market share. Following so far…?
Many UK-wide property advertising channels were actually created by large non-solicitor estate agency firms, mostly huge estate agency chains based mainly in England. Because non-solicitor estate agents and solicitor/estate agents are competing with each other, they don’t want to support the other’s marketing channels. So they favour different marketing websites.
What effect does this have on YOU as a property buyer? Well, if you’re in an area where solicitor/estate agents are dominant, most of the properties for sale will be advertised in the place favoured by solicitor/estate agents. However, if you are in an area where non-solicitor estate agents are dominant, the properties will be advertised in their favoured place or places. And if the market is quite evenly split, half of the properties will be advertised in one place and the other half will be advertised somewhere else!
So, what are these places and where should you look?
Solicitors’ Property Centres
With property traditionally being sold by solicitor/estate agents, a number of Solicitors’ Property Centres (SPCs) sprung-up around Scotland. They have their own websites, some have their own paper-based marketing channels too, and some have shop premises where you can go and browse the properties that they market. The most well-known are the ESPC and ASPC, in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, respectively. In these geographic areas, nearly all estate agents are solicitor firms so you’ll find the vast majority of properties that are for sale in these areas on the ESPC or ASPC websites or weekly newspapers. Only solicitor/estate agents can advertise properties in this channel so for non-solicitor/estate agents properties you’ll need to look elsewhere. See below…
‘Property portals’ are property advertising websites where solicitor/estate agents and estate agents advertise their clients’ properties. So the websites of the Solicitors Property Centres are property portals too. You can click to arrange viewings, browse photos and sometimes get further information about the area and local amenities. Any estate agent can advertise properties on these websites, whether they are solicitors or not. So, in theory, that means that you’ll find ALL properties on these websites, right? Well, no! Because many solicitor/estate agents don’t advertise on the national property portal websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla. And more estate agents, at the time of writing, advertise on Rightmove than Zoopla. So you’ll find nearly all non-solicitor/estate agent properties on these websites. But several properties being marketed by solicitor/estate agents won’t appear there.
Local and national newspapers often have property pages or property supplements. They are of course open to solicitor and non-solicitor estate agents as well as directly to the public. However, with the expansion of much more cost-effective web-based portals, a limited number of properties now appear in newspapers. It’s just our opinion, but newspaper advertising seems to be more about advertising the estate agent than the property!
For Sale Boards
You can of course just walk around the area that you are interested in, look for For Sale Boards, and call the estate agents’ phone numbers on the boards. However, beware that some people don’t want to have a For Sale Board on their property. So you won’t find everything this way.
Okay, I think I get that…so in conclusion, please…?
If you want to be sure of finding all of the properties that are on the market, we’d recommend that you look in all of the above places. You’ll find that some estate agents will allow you to sign-up for alerts about properties that match what you are looking for, as and when they come on the market, so it’s worth doing this if you enjoy dealing with certain agents in particular.
Is there anywhere I can get advice on the property I’m thinking of purchasing?
Well, you’re in a good place because this guide contains lots of useful advice. But there’s no substitute for speaking to an expert on the property buying process.
Since solicitors do the legal part of the property purchase, they’re a good place to start. However, not all solicitors are born equal and some are better at giving advice about the buying process and about what you should be bidding for a property than others.
We’d recommend finding someone who is experienced in this process and handles several transactions every day. That way they are most likely to be clued-up about the area that you are looking at and they are likely to be sharper negotiators. That way you’ll get the best price.
How would I know if the asking price is reasonable?
There are a number of online resources that you can check yourself which will tell you what other properties in the area sold for. However, they don’t tend to give a huge amount of detail about the specifics of the property such as how many bedrooms it had or how it compared decoratively to the property that you are interested in. Solicitors have access to a number of resources that give them much more detailed information about other properties that have sold in that area so they can give you far better advice about what the property is ‘worth’ and then advise on how best to negotiate the very best price.
You’ll also be able to use the Home Report as a guide to whether the asking price is reasonable. The Home Report contains a survey by a chartered surveyor. This is similar to the valuation survey that you or your lender would obtain if you are getting a mortgage, prior to you making your purchase. It’s only one surveyor’s view of what the property is worth and your surveyor might value the property higher or lower than the Home Report, but it’s a useful starting point.
What is the difference between Offers Over, Offers Around and Fixed Price?
These are called ‘price prefixes’. They just give you an indication of the seller’s desired selling price. They are a selling tactic and will vary depending on the seller’s intentions.
Regardless of the ‘prefix’ though, you have to be aware that a seller doesn’t have to sell their property to you. So even if you bid the full asking price, or more, there is no guarantee that you will be successful.
Fixed Price suggests that a seller will be content with an offer for the full asking price, as long as they like the other conditions of the offer.
‘Offers in the Region of’ or ‘Offers Around’ suggest that the seller is open to negotiating and that something a little bit below or a little bit above the asking price is likely to be enough.
‘Offers Over’ is much harder to determine: the seller could be looking for 2%, 5% or 25% above the asking price. Offers Over tends to indicate that the seller is hoping to get multiple parties interested in the property so that they can set a ‘Closing Date’ where the multiple potential buyers bid against each other. This tends only to work in the most attractive areas or for the most desirable types of properties.