Buyers snapping up new properties without viewing them are being warned they could be left thousands of pounds out of pocket or even saddled with a property they won’t be able to sell on.

The growing trend for buying houses and flats online carries significant risk because there is no legal obligation on sellers to disclose issues that might render the property worthless, according to a leading Solicitor Estate Agent.

Struan Douglas, managing director of Edinburgh-based Purdie & Co, said sellers who walk into properties they’ve never seen, as the new owners, could find themselves facing a range of unforeseen problems, including disputes with neighbours, local eyesores, noises or smells not mentioned in sales brochures and even expensive structural issues.  

Scotland’s housing boom is being partly driven by people from south of the border and overseas buying properties blind, without viewing them in person.

With some homes being sold for more than 30% over the asking price, competition has never been more intense and some buyers are resorting to extreme measures to ensure they don’t lose out.

The average cost of a property in Scotland rose by £22,500 last year, the highest annual growth rate since records began 17 years ago, with cash rich buyers from the south-east of England fuelling demand.

The average price of a property is now £180,832, compared with £150,272 at the same time last year, according to latest figures published by the Registers of Scotland.

Sellers in Edinburgh – Scotland’s most expensive property market – stand to make more on their investment, with the average cost of a home in the capital now £314,042.

The phenomenon of blind purchasing comes as Scotland’s swelling property market persists, with reports of homes selling for upwards of 30% over the asking price.

It was prompted by the pandemic lockdown with people being unable to physically view properties. A Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) holiday and low interest rates have contributed to the current boom.

Mr Douglas said that sellers will generally answer potential buyers’ questions truthfully, but there is no legal obligation on them to volunteer information that might only be otherwise gleaned from viewing a property.

According to Mr Douglas, sellers may fail to disclose existing disputes with neighbours over boundaries, local factories or plants that create a nuisance or the existence of damp or Japanese knotweed.

While most structural issues should be covered in the Home Report, it is based on a basic survey that may not always alight on items that can only be picked up on by physically viewing the property.

He said: “Not viewing a property in advance of making an offer, definitely carries a risk. It could be something that would never be included in any official documentation such as noisy or anti-social neighbours.

“The home may be further from local shops, schools or transport links than you thought and the garden might be smaller or the ceilings lower than they look in the online photographs.

“Everyone will have had experience of seeing something they love on Rightmove but, when they turn up to view the property, it’s not quite what they thought it would be. In Scotland, once you have formally made an offer and it’s been accepted, you can’t pull out of the purchase without incurring a penalty.”

Mr Douglas added: “There may also be structural issues not mentioned in the Home Report, either because they are hidden from the basic survey or because the surveyor has failed to spot them, for example the existence of subsidence.

“There is no substitute for being there, in person, to see for yourself. Even if you don’t spot a potential issue, at least you’ll know you’ve taken every reasonable precaution to mitigate against encountering problems.”

For more information on buying or selling a property in your area, call Purdie & Co on 0131 346 7240 or visit www.purdiesolicitors.co.uk