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We tend to accept that sales people can occasionally use jargon to promote their product or service, and estate agents may do just that to make their properties attractive to prospective buyers. While there are rules in place to prevent misleading customers, and many descriptions are genuine, it’s important for buyers to exercise a degree of caution to ensure the description used isn’t open to interpretation..

Carol Crowther, head of Residential Property at Stronachs LLP, describes some of the common terms used and explains how to arm yourself with the right information before making an investment decision.

‘Blank Canvas’

These words can give the illusion of space, or possibly infer the property may be a good starting point to create your home, but usually this phrase means that the property needs a complete overhaul.

‘Quaint’

A ‘quaint’ property could be the kind of picture-perfect cottage you’d see on a chocolate box, however, it could be a property which is stuck in a time warp or one with features that may be difficult to incorporate into daily life.

‘Ocean View’

From where? It may only actually be visible from an attic window, so it’s worth asking for some specifics if this outlook is important to you.

‘Rural’

A rural location can be beautiful, but this description could also mean the property is completely cut off from civilisation. It is important to confirm the location suits the lifestyle you are looking for.

‘Period Property’

What period is it from? It could be a beautiful Victorian home, or a house which was built in the 1960s which may not be what you’re looking for.

‘Rustic’

This can mean charming, but could equally be translated as old-fashioned or very basic.

‘Benefit from upgrading’

This generally implies that there’s a degree of work needing done, but it’s important to establish the extent of repairs and modernisation required to help you decide if it’s worth the investment.

Know the facts

A property lawyer or expert can cut through the jargon for you and use their local market knowledge to offer a deeper understanding and interpret any property descriptions.

You should also consider getting as much information as you can about the property from the agent; any problems with subsidence or other serious factors regarding the condition of the property, such as wet or dry rot, or is there a history of flooding? Any of these issues may impact on your ability to get a mortgage.

Viewing the property a number of times will provide an insight into traffic, neighbours, security and noise levels at different times of day, so make sure you ask if this is possible.

Further questions should be asked relating to how long the home has been on the market, whether there are any boundary issues or active planning applications, or possible restricted access to a water supply, as these are all valid factors to take into account when making your investment decision.

In Scotland, homebuyers can access important information about the property from the home report and raise any concerns with their lawyer, who will be able to advise on an appropriate course of action.

Carol Crowther
Partner, Private Client Team 

Chambers Leading Firm 2019

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