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Selling a home

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only.

The home report

Most houses or flats for sale need a home report, which must be available to potential buyers. In some circumstances you don't have to produce a home report, for example if you're going to sell your property to a private individual without putting it on the market.

The person marketing the property is responsible for producing the home report. That person is the seller, unless they've appointed an agent to sell the property and have transferred that responsibility to them.

There are 3 parts to a home report:

  • a single survey of the property
  • an energy report
  • a property questionnaire.

There's information about the home report on the Scottish government website.

Energy Performance Certificates

You'll have to provide a free Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to potential buyers. When you advertise your property for sale, you must include EPC information in the advert.

The EPC must include details of any Green Deal plan, as the buyer will have to take over any repayments for the Green Deal loan. There's information about the Green Deal scheme on GOV.UK.

If you're producing a home report, the EPC will be included in it. If you don't provide an EPC, the local council can fine you £500.

If you're not required to produce a home report, you must obtain an EPC from an agency accredited to Scottish Building Standards, which is part of the Scottish government.

You can read more about Energy Performance Certificates on mygov.scot.

Finding a buyer

There are 3 ways to find a buyer for your property:

  • find a buyer yourself
  • use a 'quick house sale' company
  • use an estate agent or solicitor.

If you want to find a buyer yourself

You can advertise your property, set a price and show people round. However, you'll need a surveyor to carry out the single survey and the energy report for the home report.

Before a property goes on sale, a selling agent can provide essential advice about:

  • the price that might attract the greatest interest
  • any repairs or decorating that will make the sale more straightforward
  • any likely problems, for example unauthorised alterations.

It's advisable to find a buyer yourself only if you're familiar with the property market or already know of at least 1 person interested in buying.

You can choose whether to sell your property yourself, but the legal side of the sale must be dealt with by a solicitor. Even if you're going to sell the property yourself, you should talk to a solicitor first to try to make sure there are no unexpected legal technicalities later.

Using a 'quick house sale' company

Several companies offer 'quick house sales'. A quick house sale provider offers to buy a property or find a third party to buy it quickly, usually at a discount.

If you're considering selling your home using one of these firms, you should be careful. The Office of Fair Trading warned people about the risks of using some companies. For example:

  • a company might reduce the offer to buy your home at the last minute
  • it might not be clear who is actually buying your home
  • it might not be clear if the buyer has the necessary finances in place.

Using an estate agent or solicitor

In almost all situations, it's advisable to use a solicitor or an estate agent to act as a selling agent and find a buyer. It might be more expensive to have a selling agent, but they'll take responsibility for:

  • producing the home report
  • advertising
  • negotiating a price for the house
  • if necessary, showing potential buyers round.

There are several issues you should consider in trying to decide whether to use a solicitor or an estate agent to organise the sale. These include:

  • if either a solicitor or an estate agent specialises in the type of property you're selling or has particular local knowledge
  • if an estate agent belongs to a professional association - all solicitors' firms are members of the Law Society of Scotland
  • what's known locally about the firms
  • if a solicitor or estate agent has been recommended to you by someone who has used them before and whom you can trust
  • any conflict of interest - an estate agent can work for you and the buyer, whereas a solicitor can act for only 1 party at a time.

Estate agents' and solicitors' fees for selling

If you're just using a solicitor, it will be useful to get quotes from several firms, as there can be differences. If you use an estate agent for selling the house, you'll also need a solicitor for the legal side of the transaction.

This means you'll need to get quotes from both types of firm, perhaps several of each, to get an estimate of the fee.

You should check what's included in the fees for selling or if you have to pay extra for:

  • producing the home report
  • a valuation before selling
  • advertising costs
  • a 'for sale' sign
  • VAT
  • providing a viewing service.

Agreements with the selling agent

Many estate agents provide a contract that specifies what services they'll provide and what your rights will be - for example, to end the agreement.

If you have problems with the agreement, you might need the help of an experienced adviser. Find out where to get advice.

Complaining about an estate agent

All estate agents must belong to an approved redress scheme. There are 2 approved schemes:

  • the Property Ombudsman
  • the Property Redress Scheme.

If you have a complaint that your estate agent has not resolved in a way you're happy with, you can complain to the redress scheme that your estate agent belongs to. Estate agents that refuse to join a scheme can be fined.

Read more about problems with buying and selling a home.

Choosing a solicitor or conveyancer

Most firms of solicitors offer both an estate agency service and a conveyancing service. Conveyancing is the technical name for the legal work in buying and selling property. Although most firms can do this work, some concentrate on this area and have substantial experience.

You should ask for written quotes from 2 or 3 firms. Even if an estate agent has recommended a solicitor to you, you should get a quote for their services and meet them before agreeing to give them the work.

For details on choosing a solicitor, read more about using a solicitor.

What a solicitor or conveyancer does

A solicitor might be involved in both the selling and the conveyancing side of the transaction. The main tasks involved include:

  • discussing your needs and explaining the procedures and costs of selling the property, including the home report
  • receiving and accepting any offers for the property, in consultation with you
  • getting formal consent to the sale if you're separated from someone with rights to occupy the property
  • checking title deeds and preparing a deed confirming the change of ownership
  • getting searches of the official records carried out - this is to check that you're the owner of the property and that it's not subject to any legal action that would call that ownership into question
  • getting the money from the buyer and, where necessary, repaying the existing loan on the property
  • checking that all documents are correctly completed, signed and recorded
  • negotiating with the buyer's solicitor.

If there are problems with the solicitor's work, there might be grounds to make a formal complaint. Anyone who wants to make a complaint should get the help of an experienced adviser.

You can get a list of independent qualified conveyancers from:

The Law Society of Scotland
Atria One
144 Morrison Street
Edinburgh
EH3 8EX

Tel: 0131 226 7411
Fax: 0131 225 2934
Email: lawscot@lawscot.org.uk
Website: www.lawscot.org.uk

Deciding on the sale price

If you're using a selling agent, you should discuss the price you want for the property with the estate agent or solicitor handling the sale.

You might advertise the property at a price described as 'offers over', which means that you want no less than that price and ideally more.

Or a property can be advertised at a fixed price, which means that the first offer of that amount should secure the sale - although in some circumstances a seller might accept less than the fixed price.

If the property is small and attractive to first-time buyers, it might be important to set a realistic price, as these buyers might only be able to borrow what a surveyor says the property is worth.

It's important to discuss the situation with the selling agent, as there might be different price tactics to consider because of the type of property.

Receiving offers

Your solicitor or estate agent will receive offers from the agents of prospective buyers. If an estate agent is selling the property, they'll have to pass the best offer onto your solicitor. There might be a variety of offers, depending on whether you were looking for a fixed price or an 'offers over' price.

If 2 or more prospective buyers have shown enough interest in the property, it's likely that a closing date will be set for the interested parties to make an offer. On the closing date, you can then choose the offer you want. You don't have to choose the highest one.

If only 1 person is interested in the property, a price can usually be negotiated between your agent and the buyer's agent.

Offers 'subject to survey'

As the seller of the property, you'll already have provided a home report, which contains information about the property, including a survey and a valuation.

However, the buyer might need to get another survey to satisfy their mortgage lender, or they might want to get a full structural survey. A full survey is more common if the property is very old or unusual. 

Because of this, a buyer might submit an offer 'subject to survey'. This means that they're interested in the property but want a price negotiated for the property before having to pay for a survey.

Accepting an offer

An offer for a house includes certain basic terms, such as:

  • a price
  • a proposed date of entry
  • a large number of technical clauses, for example about liability for common repairs or alterations to the property that have been done without proper permission.

You might be advised not to accept the highest offer because other terms in the offer aren't suitable. A solicitor must be involved in the process of accepting an offer.

Once an offer has been accepted, there's usually a period of negotiation between your solicitors and the buyer's solicitors about the terms of the offer. During this time, the sale is not legally binding and either side can break the agreement.

Deciding who to sell to

Whether you've arranged to sell the property yourself or used an estate agent, you might receive more than 1 offer. You can sell the property to whoever you want, and you don't have to sell to the buyer who offers the most money.

Discrimination

It could be illegal for a seller to treat people unfairly by discriminating against them. For example, it's against the law to refuse to sell a property, or offer it on less favourable terms, just because the prospective buyer is of a particular religion or belief.

If you use an estate agent to sell your property, it's illegal to discriminate against someone because of their disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

If you sell your home yourself, it's usually only illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race.

Concluding the missives

The sale of the property isn't concluded until your solicitor and the buyer's solicitor have reached full agreement on the terms of the contract. This is achieved by several formal letters passing between the solicitors. This is technically known as 'concluding the missives'.

Once this stage is concluded, neither the buyer nor the seller can break the agreement without having to pay compensation to the other party.

Completing the sale

The sale is completed on the date of entry, when you must have left the property and handed over all the keys to your solicitor.

Your solicitor must deliver the keys to the buyer's solicitor along with a formal document called a 'disposition'. This transfers ownership of the property.

In turn, the buyer's solicitor must deliver a cheque for the full amount of the agreed purchase price to your solicitor.

Discharging the loan

If you still have an outstanding loan on the property, this must now be paid off. This will be dealt with by your solicitor, who will obtain a 'redemption statement' from the bank or building society and repay the loan from the proceeds of the sale of the property.

The solicitor should transfer any profit from the sale to you promptly once the transaction is concluded.

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