Page last updated at 08:29 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 09:29 UK

Is it over for 'offers over'?

House buyers
The recession seems to have hastened a change in the way house prices are set

Could we be seeing an end to the inflated "offers over" system in Scotland for house buying?

With adverts asking for "offers around" or "offers in the region of", the property pages are now looking a bit different.

BBC Scotland's Suzanne Allan has been finding out.

Laura Jardine has been flicking through the schedule of her new family home. After twice being thwarted by the "offers over" system, she finally got her house - without paying a penny over the asking price.

She recalled: "It was an 'offers in the region' so we had a good indication of what the seller was looking for.

"Then with the survey report there as well, we could see if there was anything wrong with the property or if it had picked anything up before putting an offer in, so we knew exactly what we were looking at."

She is very much in favour of the new way of buying - and thinks the blind auction of "offers over" is a lottery.

The property market has changed as a result of the economic downturn.

If you flick through the Scottish property pages you will see plenty of adverts for "offers around" or "offers in the region of" the asking price - whereas in a more buoyant market it is mostly "offers over".

We have seen cases where people have been paying 40% or 50% over
Sarah O'Neill
Consumer Focus Scotland

So what has changed?

Michael Miller, sales director for Countrywide Estate Agents, explained that market forces were at work.

He said: "The language has changed as a result of the market conditions and 'offers over' clearly indicates the seller is hoping to achieve a figure in excess of the asking price.

"With an 'offers around' or 'offers in the region of', the seller is hoping to achieve a figure hopefully in excess of the 'offers around' figure but may consider a figure at the asking price or below the asking price."

A couple of years ago, in property hotspots houses and flats could have gone for 50% over the asking price under the "offers over" system.

"Offers in the region of" makes it much clearer to the buyer how much the seller wants for their house.

But there is something else to take into consideration - the introduction of Home Reports in December last year.

Estate agent window
It is claimed that ending the 'offers over' tag will make buying simpler

Sarah O'Neill from Consumer Focus Scotland said this had made buying simpler.

She added: "All potential buyers see one valuation.

"They all see exactly the same valuation, so it's very difficult for the seller to put the property on the market for anything other than something around that valuation.

"Whereas what we saw in the past was 'offers over' prices where people had no clue in many cases what was actually being looked for by the seller.

"We have seen cases where people have been paying 40% or 50% over.

"And actually in the past many people were misled into thinking they had a realistic chance of buying a property when actually they were way below what the seller was looking for, but that was not clear."

So that is good news for you and me.

Is it the end of "offers over"? Not officially - only the market can decide that.

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