Scots keeping solicitors at the heart of the deal

Most people know that the process of buying and selling property is dramatically different in Scotland to elsewhere in the UK. The solicitor is at the heart of Scotland's distinct approach.

Since 1980, Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre (ESPC) member firms have maintained over 80 per cent of the sellers' market in Edinburgh and the Lothians, with actual sales topping £1bn for the first time in 1997.

In Scotland, most people selling their home approach their solicitor first, who arranges for an appraisal of the property, advises on setting an asking price, prepares full sales particulars and handles all elements of marketing the property.

The solicitor registers the property for sale with ESPC. At a flat rate of £145 for six months, the property is advertised within the ESPC property sales guide, appropriate property centres and is also included on the ESPC Homeline property matching service and Web site.

Most properties are marketed on an 'offers over' basis. If a prospective purchaser is interested in the property, he or she will instruct a solicitor to 'note interest' with the seller's solicitor. The purchaser's solicitor will then advise on the most appropriate type of survey to have carried out and instruct a surveyor – a process which can be turned around quite quickly north of the border. By this stage, any purchaser must be confident that mortgage funding is available, often relying on their solicitor to advise them on the mortgage.

If a number of prospective purchasers note interest, their respective solicitors will be notified that a closing date for receipt of offers is to be set. Once all these offers have been received, the selling solicitor will advise on which to accept. The selling solicitor will then negotiate with the buyer's solicitor regarding title, alterations and the results of any local authority searches. Once this exchange of letters has been concluded satisfactorily, a legally binding contract exists which can only be broken under certain specific and rare circumstances.

The legalities underpinning the property transaction are similar either side of the border. It is the process which shapes Scotland's distinct approach and it is the solicitor's all-encompassing role which shapes the process.

ESPC is pressing ahead with plans to launch a Solicitors Property Shop in London and the South East and the Evening Standard will publish its property sales guide as a supplement to the Wednesday paper. Our aims are simple to keep the solicitor at the heart of the property transaction and persuade buyers and sellers to go to their solicitor first.