How to go off plan when buying a home

On paper, buying a property finished to your exact specifications is an ideal solution. Yet buying “off plan”, where a home or flat is bought before it has been completed and can be customised to suit, has the reputation of being fraught with bureaucracy. Lead times can be long, the lending system is different, and there are fees not commonly associated with the conventional house-buying process.

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Despite this, it is a process that more buyers are turning to in an effort to secure their dream home. Michael Hodgson, an associate of Strut & Parker selling flats off-plan in developments in Edinburgh, has seen firsthand the effects an overcooked market has had on buying activity over the past 12 months.

“In Edinburgh especially there is a serious lack of property coming to market,” he says. “People are looking at other options.” Hodgson say sales and inquiries have rocketed at an unfinished development in Morningside in recent weeks. “Newbattle Terrace has sold seven apartments.” He says. “It is a good location and is being completed by a good developer.” Although buying off-plan is not a precise science – there can be delays. “The main benefit is that you can customise a property and that flexibility is appealing. One buyer at Newbattle terrace has bought two penthouses and wants to join them together. They have brought in an architect. It depends on what stage you buy into a development if you want to do something like that.” Says Hodgson.

Local buyers in their fifties and sixties are driving the market for off-plan living in Scotland’s biggest cities. They are interested in “lateral” flats without stairs, as well as smaller properties they can lock up and leave.

In commuter locations, buyers who have been priced out of Edinburgh and Glasgow consider off-plan homes as a cost-effective alternative, even though properties often come at a premium.

Where can I buy off-plan?

Strutt & parker is marketing nine off-plan flats in Newbattle Terrace in Morningside, Edinburgh. The properties, which cost between £499,995 and £1.2 million, come with south-facing balconies and give buyers a choice of door finishes, kitchen work surfaces and splashbacks, bathroom floors tiles and bedroom carpets.

In Glasgow Cala Homes is selling properties at Weavers Court, the first phase of its 21 Mansionhouse Road development. Completion is expected early next year, but all the one-bedroom flats and penthouses have been reserved. Guide prices range from £253,000 for a two-bedroom Mackintosh flat to £352,000 for a three-bedroom Holmwood flat, through Savills.

City & country, which is restoring the Playfair at Donaldson’s, an A listed sandstone building in west Edinburgh, will begin marketing a phase off-plan flats in November. Prices are expected to range from £250,000 for a one-bedroom flat to £750,000 for a three-bedroom flat and £2.5 million for a penthouse.