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Debunking Common Misconceptions When Buying A New House

New home buyers

Anyone remembering buying their first property will also remember being inundated with free advice from friends and family, and anyone else who considers themselves a property expert.

While this is well intentioned, it’s not always helpful - and sometimes it’s just plain wrong, and can end up being more a hindrance than a help.

So to help you decipher between fact and fiction as a new home owner, the trusted conveyancing solicitors at Burnett & Reid are here to debunk the common misconceptions surrounding the process of buying a house for the first time.

Myth: Contracts in Scotland are immediately binding.

Truth: While it is true that in Scotland there’s a push to tie up contracts as soon as it is safe to do so, regardless of the actual completion date, it really doesn’t make sense for contracts to be instantly binding on all parties. Unless there is no mortgage finance and no chain, it is impossible for the buying solicitors to immediately commit to a deal.

In the vast majority of cases, any offers submitted are conditional on finance and the purchasing solicitor will not be in a position to conclude the contract until they have the mortgage offer from the bank. That can take a number of weeks.

Once an offer has been verbally accepted by the selling agents, the property is essentially “sold subject to contract” but it is not a binding deal for a number of weeks, and both parties can still change their minds.

Myth: Buyers have 14 days to report any problems to the sellers.

Truth: This is completely untrue.

When purchasing a new build property, builders have an obligation to remedy any “snagging defects” with the property for a certain period after the completion date.

When buying a second hand property, the house is very much “sold as seen” and sellers have no obligation to remedy any defects post completion.

There is a very limited period of time to report any issues with the central heating system (usually 5 working days) but other than this, sellers have no obligation to address any problems and it is a case of “buyer beware”.

Myth: Payment of the price on the completion date must be before a certain time.

Truth: There is generally no obligation on sellers of a property to be clear of the property by a certain time nor any obligation on the purchasers to pay over the purchase price by a certain time.

If either party is not in a position to implement their side of the contract before 5pm on the day, they would be in breach of contract, but there is no general 12pm or 3pm cut off point. Why? Because there are so many aspects of every transaction beyond the control of the parties or their solicitors (waiting for a chain to complete, waiting for movers to clear a property, waiting for a bank to release funds) no one can commit to a specific time for completion.

Buying and selling lawyers will, however, both be anxious to complete as soon as possible on the day.

Myth: If you occupy a property for 10 years you become the legal owner.

Truth: This is completely untrue (and makes very little sense!)

The misunderstanding stems from pre-land register rules regarding “prescriptive title”. If a party held title to a property and occupied without third party challenge for 10 years they essentially had an unchallengeable title to the property. There was a two step process to proving ownership, and that involved holding title as well as possession.

In the event of competing titles to the same area, then possession of a piece of ground will give one owner priority over the other. But possession on its own counts for very little. There is a process whereby parties can apply to the land register for title to an area they occupy, but it’s an expensive and laborious process.

Myth: You don’t need council approval or a Building Warrant for internal alterations to a property.

Truth: Building Control rules are complicated, and completely different to planning regulations.

The fact a wall being removed isn’t load bearing doesn’t necessarily mean no consent is needed, and can become an issue when you sell the property in future.

Builders are not experts on building control regulations, and their assurance that no consent is needed won’t be enough for any subsequent buyers. To comply with mortgage lending rules, buying lawyers will likely need to see either a warrant or something in writing from the council confirming that the work was exempt.

If you are in any doubt as to whether a Building Warrant is needed, it’s best to contact the council for advice. If the council confirms that no consent is needed, it’s sensible to keep a copy of any emails they send, as you may need to exhibit that to any future buyers.

Purchasing a new or first home is an incredibly exciting experience that should not be overshadowed by misconceptions and potential pitfalls. Working with an expert conveyancing solicitor can significantly reduce the stress involved and streamline the path to finding and purchasing your dream home.

Our expert team at Burnett & Reid help buyers navigate the exciting milestone with the right knowledge and support every day, and we're here to help you too.

For guidance and support, get in touch now.

We recently used the team at Burnett & Reid to help us with one property sale and two property purchases. We found that Colin, Leanne and Rebecca were really exceptional at what they did, providing fantastic support and advice whilst guiding us through matters which were far from straight forward.
We would highly recommend them and would not look anywhere else for property advice!”

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