The Home Report, a peculiarly Scottish feature of the system of property selling, has its supporters and detractors but few would argue that it has largely settled the once thorny issue of home surveys.

The days when prospective buyers were landed with the often, onerous cost of paying for surveys on properties which they then lost out on in the blind bidding system north of the border, are long gone. Mind you, before the system was introduced the competitive market in Scotland had led to offers being submitted subject to survey, with only one survey being necessary at the time after an offer was accepted.

The Home Report, introduced by the Scottish Government more than a decade ago, obliges the seller to commission a survey that then forms part of the report and many buyers will say ‘hallelujah!’ to that.

So, it may be surprising to learn that a new study has found that 22% of Scottish people want to abandon the current system and switch to a model where the buyer is responsible for commissioning the Home Report.

In England and Wales it is up to the buyer if they wish to commission a survey and more than half of Welsh and 43% of English residents believe their system should fall in line with Scotland’s, where the seller is responsible for the home survey, according to the report.

Whatever the system, the poor old survey continues to be regarded as the opposite of the prize in a game of musical chairs. When the music stops, no-one wants to be left holding the responsibility for the cost of it.

However, the same study contains some interesting findings that demonstrate the potential value of a comprehensive survey to buyers.

Last year, of the 11.7 million homeowners who had access to a survey before buying a property, some 40% used it to negotiate a reduction in price, based on its findings.

The main findings negotiated over were structural issues (55%), subsidence (31%) electrical issues (29%) and roof issues (23%).

Some 38% of buyers raised issues but continued with the sale without asking for a price reduction, while 8% were unsuccessful in securing a reduction but proceeded with the sale anyway and 14% opted to walk away.

The average saving for buyers who raised survey issues to negotiate a discount was £5,744 (2.4%)

The report also found that while structural issues (56%), subsidence (23%) and roofing problems (14%) were the main reasons for property sales falling through, a large number of buyers said they would not seek to haggle if such major issues were flagged up in the survey.

Around 550,000 homebuyers say that they would not do anything about subsidence, 600,000 said they would not do anything to resolve an issue with asbestos raised in a survey, 580,000 wouldn’t do anything about Japanese knotweed and 340,000 wouldn’t do anything about structural issues

Such cases are miniscule however compared with the millions of property transactions that go through smoothly without any major issues being raised in the Home Report. In addition the figures above about price reductions being negotiated may well be more to do with the markets outside Scotland as with Home reports they are of course published for all to see when a property goes on the market rather than being carried out after an offer has been submitted. So, in Scotland, you are effectively going into the purchase with your eyes wide open meaning that negotiating on the price may not be so likely, particularly when many sales are after a competitive closing date.

The market continues to experience a mini boom following the lifting of lockdown restrictions in the summer, which has contributed to a 2.3% rise in the cost of the average property in Scotland - now worth £141,000 - in the year to September.

More evidence of the spike in demand has been provided by Halifax, Britain's biggest mortgage lender, which last month recorded its highest level of approvals since October 2008. It also received more mortgage applications from both first-time buyers and home movers than any time since 2008. 

The market was being driven by a combination of pent-up demand released after the lockdown market freeze, a temporary cut in the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and home workers looking to 'upsize' to larger properties, according to experts.

Having said that there are some signs of a slowdown in interest for some properties in Scotland which may be due to an over-supply on the market and the uncertain economic future. We will need to see how that develops in coming months.

Arguments about who should commission the survey may continue but the property market continuers to flourish irrespective of who pays.

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