'Offers over' properties off the market

ITS price tag is enough to put most people off investigating further, but the way Scotland's most expensive home is being marketed is a significant change for the Edinburgh property market.

Yester House in Gifford has been put up for sale at "offers in the region of" 12 million, potentially spelling an end to the traditional "offers over" system in Scotland.

This method of selling property is closer to that used in England and Wales, and experts predict it will soon be seen more and more north of the Border. The change has been prompted by the dramatic downturn in the housing market, which now favours buyers rather than sellers.

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The introduction last year of Home Reports, which ensured buyers had an independent valuation of any property for sale, also encouraged more sellers to abandon the "offers over" system, for fear of scaring off potential buyers.

This could mean that even when the market recovers, fewer agents will use the old system.

A number of high-value properties in Edinburgh and the Lothians are already being sold for "offers in the region of", including Yester House.

Edinburgh-based estate agent Knight Frank has asked for around 12m for the 14-bedroom A-listed mansion. It originally asked for offers between 12m and 15m for the house and its 500-acre estate at the foot of the Lammermuir Hills, which went on the market last year.

The estate, bought in the 1970s by the Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti, includes the remains of Yester Castle, thought to date from the 13th century.

It was commissioned by the second Marquess of Tweeddale in the late 17th century and completed in the 18th century by William Adam and his son Robert. The property is currently owned by Francis Menotti.

The company is also selling a five-bedroom villa in Hope Terrace, The Grange, for "offers in the region of" 1.8m, and a six- bedroom Victorian villa in Fountainhall Road for "in the region" of 2.5m. Michael Jones, a partner at Knight Frank, said: "Nobody is paying a premium above the asking price and this new way of describing a property takes away that risk.

"People can view it as a straightforward asking price and it does not have the same air of desperation as a fixed price.

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"It also brings us in line with England and I believe if the current slump in the market continues for any great length of time, these new terms will remain a permanent fixture.

"The other influencing factor is the introduction of home reports. It is simply pointless now for people to start altering the price for their homes when the valuation is attached to the document seen by every viewer."

Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre (ESPC) business analyst David Marshall said an increasing number of properties were being sold by agents looking for "offers around" rather than "offers over".

"This is something we are seeing more and more of in the wake of the home reports being introduced, which include an independent valuation of the property and so give people a better idea of what they should be paying," he said.

"We are also seeing a lot more homes being offered for a fixed price, rather than offers over.

"At the moment the market favours the buyer and because of the amount of information they have it makes sense to look for 'offers around' that price."