Introducing the Society's online survey on the single survey and other matters, which will help inform the Society's representations

Having not long come to terms with the full implications of the abolition of feudal tenure, coneyancers are now facing a series of new challenges. Some, such as the rollout of ARTL, have been widely welcomed.

Others less so. The meat is shortly to be put on the bones of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, the legislation allowing the introduction of purchasers’ information packs (PIPs) containing single surveys.

The consultation on the detailed draft regulations under the Housing Act is due to begin this month (January), before the final regulations emerge in 2008. In response, the Society is keen to gauge the opinions of practitioners, with an online survey launched this month, to establish the best way forward.

The issues surrounding the single survey have been well rehearsed. Will purchasers trust a survey produced by the seller, particularly if they don’t have the opportunity to approach the surveyor? Will single surveys encourage sellers to renovate their properties? Will underpricing disappear? Are multiple surveys still a problem, given the use of offers subject to survey, and could single surveys paradoxically lead to a resurgence in the problem? What of those selling in slower markets, if a single survey becomes out of date?

Solicitors have responded to the challenge of providing buyers with more information. Along with an energy certificate, the property sale questionnaire (Journal, November 2006, 48), which contains practical information about the property, such as maintenance contracts and access rights, would also form part of the PIP. Indeed, PSQs could soon become standard for Scottish firms associated with the Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre, which has 320 UK members.

Janette Wilson, Convener of the Society’s Conveyancing Committee, commented: “Opposition to the single survey is not based on the effects on solicitors’ workload or work practices. People will not stop buying and selling houses – I think the effect would be very neutral on the profession. The Society’s concerns are based on the effect on the consumer.

“For the majority of people, buying a house is the biggest purchase they will ever make and it’s important that we continue to work to improve the process of buying or selling a home in Scotland. That is the point of the online survey – we want to know exactly what practitioners think so that we can make further improvements and help to inform the ongoing debate. In the meantime, the Society will continue to engage with the Scottish Executive to make sure that any product launched is as good as it can be.”

Ross Mackay, lead residential property partner at HBJ Gateley Wareing, agrees. “No-one knows what the effect of the single survey would be on the market, but it would be a major change in practice for the consumer, rather than the solicitor. It is our clients who will be affected by this – solicitors have no axe to grind and are not acting out of self-interest.

“If practitioners are concerned about the impact on their clients, they should raise the issue in their local press or with their MSPs.”


The Society is giving its members the chance to contribute to the debate on the single survey, and voice whether they have concerns or think it is part of the future of conveyancing, in an online survey.

The online questionnaire, to be launched this month, also invites respondents to comment on the impact that unauthorised alterations to residential properties have on their day-to-day workload.

Section one asks for feedback on the aims of the single survey, including the use of mortgage valuations, averting multiple surveys, improving information available to prospective buyers, deterring low upset prices and improving Scotland’s housing stock overall.

The survey then asks solicitors to comment on what impact they think the introduction of the single survey might have, and key issues such as the lifespan of the single survey product, and the property sale questionnaire (PSQ).

This is followed by a multiple-choice section on domestic alterations to try to determine the impact they have on the Scottish housing market, and the amount of time solicitors spend on unauthorised alteration inquiries. Members will also have an opportunity to comment on the most common problems they and their clients encounter.

James Ness, Deputy Director of Professional Practice, said: “This gives us a great opportunity to canvass the profession directly on an issue that will affect hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland. There has already been a huge amount of discussion surrounding the planned introduction of the single survey, but our online survey will allow those practitioners who may not yet have been part of the debate to get involved.

“Conducting an online survey will also allow the Society to collect valuable information on the views of conveyancers, whether they operate within a property hotspot or in a slower market.

“It takes less than 10 minutes to complete the survey and I urge any solicitor with an interest to take part, to ensure that the Society not only has as much information as possible, but truly reflects the views of the wider profession, and not just the most vociferous, and fulfils its duties to represent the interest of its members and the public.”

To complete the survey, log on to the Society’s website, or click on the link in the next e-zine.

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