A leading independent property consultancy with expertise covering a broad spectrum of property related services

Buying a Residential Property in England

Our three English offices, in Penrith, Blagdon and Hexham, joined the Galbraith fold in early 2019. We offer the full range of residential and rural property services, as well as estate management, land agency and forestry advice across the whole of Northern England. 

Between us, we have decades of experience in the English property sector and we are very much enjoying the benefits of our relationship with our Scottish colleagues, in addition to learning the language! 

For those looking to buy or sell a property in England for the first time, there are some important differences to bear in mind compared with the Scottish system.  

Pricing

Residential property is marketed at a guide price which is realistic in terms of the market conditions at the time and demand in the local area, but also designed to have widespread appeal and generate interest. 

It is not usual to use the phrase ‘offers over’ in England, but in some cases there may be a high degree of interest in the property, in which case the price  agreed may be in excess of the advertised price.

Documentation and Surveys

At the time that the property goes on the market,  the vendor is legally obliged to obtain an Energy Performance Certificate, which is made available for potential purchasers to inspect. It is not a requirement for the seller to commission a Home Report or survey. 

The English approach is that the buyer will commission a structural survey, usually after a verbal offer has been accepted subject to contract. Realistically, it is the buyer who is keen to understand everything about the property they are about to acquire. 

Making An Offer

Those viewing a property may formally register their interest in a property with the agent, although it is not a requirement to do so. An offer may be made verbally or in writing and is essentially treated the same way in either case. The agent is legally required to report all offers to the seller verbally and in writing. 

Best and Final Offers

Much the same as in Scotland, where there are several offers advanced, all parties will be requested to put forward their best and final offers at a closing date. 

The vendor will be advised of all the offers and the circumstances relating to each potential purchaser.  For example, a  good agent will have verified that a purchaser has their mortgage in place, or agreed in principle, and will ascertain whether each party has a property to sell or has already accepted an offer on their own house. Understanding where each person is in the buying chain can make a significant difference to the appeal of their offer. Attention to detail at this point in the proceedings is crucial as it could save a considerable amount of time for the seller and avoid the huge inconvenience of a sale falling through.

Instructing A Solicitor

Once an offer has been accepted, the seller’s solicitor will draft a standard contract agreeing to the transfer of the title deeds, for the buyer’s approval. At this point the buyer’s solicitor will begin the necessary searches with the local authority and other relevant statutory bodies to ensure that the property is not subject to any special conditions, rights of access and there are no other issues that need to be addressed. 

Missives and Date of Entry

The equivalent of conclusion of missives is the exchange of contracts.  This is the point at which the purchaser becomes legally obliged to proceed with the sale on the date of entry, which is referred to as the completion date in England. Usually there is a delay of about 28 days between exchange of contracts and the completion date.

English and Scottish law differs. You need a solicitor who is qualified to act in the purchase of English property when you are buying south of the border.  We would advise that it is preferable to instruct a local solicitor, because their local knowledge has often proved invaluable to clients in the past.

Tax

Stamp Duty Land Tax applies to all residential property, with the first £125,000 tax free and an increasing percentage levied in bands, as the purchase price increases. In both England and Scotland (where the property tax is Land and Buildings Transaction Tax) different rates apply if you are purchasing a second home (an additional 3% in England). A discount is applied for those purchasing their first home.

At the time of writing, if you have paid the additional stamp duty applicable as the owner of a second home, and you subsequently sell your first residence within three years, you may be entitled to apply for a refund. 

Our Hexham based estate agency team covers the whole of the north of England. Sam has worked in the estate agency world north of the border too. If you would like to discuss any element of the sales process then please get in touch.