Scottish housing market differs only in accent

In my first column since leaving the bright lights of London to return to Glasgow I\'m taking look at two recent initiatives that lenders and brokers doing business in Scotland should be aware of.

The Scottish housing and mortgage market has always varied from the rest of the UK and this can cause problems, as I know from personal experience.

When I was trying to remortgage, it took a lot of persuading for an adviser at a Lloyds TSB branch in central London to believe my flat in Glasgow couldn’t be put into the category of either leasehold or freehold as these just don’t exist north of the border.

With Scotland having its own parliament, things continue to be done differently but it’s hard to miss the parallels with initiatives from Westminster.

Earlier this year the Scottish Executive unveiled its own version of the HomeBuy scheme that was launched in the rest of the country earlier this year to help first-time buyers and others struggling with affordability.

Homestake, which the Scottish Executive is heralding as “unique in the UK”, will apparently “help thousands of people in Scotland on low incomes buy their own home”.

The scheme offers people a majority share in a property they will own, and most Homestake owners will have the option later to increase their stake and own their home outright.

Does this sound like the English version with a kilt on? It certainly does to me and it’s hard to see how it won’t be met with the same cynicism as was HomeBuy.

Another scheme given the green light last month in Scotland which again seems suspiciously like something brokers are all too aware of in the rest of the UK, is the single survey.

A year-long pilot was carried out before the Scottish equivalent of the Home Information Pack was given the go-ahead.

Once again the reception given to mandatory single surveys closely resembles the way the market south of the border has responded to HIPs.

The single survey pilot was a response to growing discontent among buyers who often had to pay for several costly surveys for homes they wanted to buy but for which they were out-bid.

Out-bidding is unique to Scotland because most houses are advertised at a price with offers over.

This means if more than one party is going for a house, each has to make a secret bid and never know how much they lost by, or how much more they bid than the others.

But the Scottish pilot was no more widespread than its English counterpart – less than 100 single surveys were commissioned, far short of the target of 2,000.

Despite the small scale of the pilot, from 2007 nobody in Scotland will be able to sell their home without paying for a full house survey, costing up to 700.

As you know, in the rest of the country HIPs are mandatory from the same time.

On the evidence of recent initiatives, it would seem the main difference between the English and Scottish housing markets is one of accent or at least lies more in the terms used than in what is actually being done.