The Process Of Buying And Selling Property In Scotland

Buying & Selling Property In Scotland
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Even though a part of the UK, the process of buying and selling property in Scotland is different from the rest of the country.

It has its own laws and legal system, which both sellers and purchasers in Scotland should be aware of.

This article explains the process and examines how it differs from the process in the rest of the UK. If you are considering buying and/or selling property in Scotland, this article will give you all the information you need.

How selling property works in Scotland

Let’s first look at how the process of selling property works in Scotland. We look at each step of the process so that you get a clear picture and know what to expect.

Putting a property up for sale

for sale signes out side of several houses

The first step in selling a home in Scotland is to contact your solicitor. For this, you have to provide your solicitor with any information and documents you have on your home, including things like warranties and guarantees.

The solicitor will carry out searches on your behalf to ensure that there aren’t any obstacles that could prevent you from selling your home. This could be a legal notice from the local council.

They also check your title deeds to make sure you are the outright owner and have the right to sell the property. If everything is in order, you can go ahead and decide how to sell your home.

You can market it yourself or engage an estate agent or your solicitor to do it for you. Most people use a selling agent, which means they hire an estate agent or solicitor to do the job.

Either way, you will need a Home Report, which is mandatory for most properties that are sold. You can either arrange for this report yourself or ask your selling agent to arrange it for you. Find out more about what the Home Report is and when it’s necessary in our handy guide.

The valuation that’s part of the report will give you an idea at what price you should put your home on the market. In Scotland, properties either have a fixed price, which is non-negotiable, or the price is the minimum the seller is willing to accept.

Often, properties are sold for more than the asking price in Scotland.

Deciding on your selling strategy

Depending on the level of interest you get, you have two options on how to proceed. If your solicitor has received several notices of interest, you can set a closing date.

This means that all interested buyers have to submit their best and final offer by the given date. Apart from their price they are willing to pay, they will also include conditions. These will suit the buyer, but not necessarily the seller.

Conditions could include a moving-in date, items they want included in the purchase price or things that have come up in the Home Report.

You can then choose which, if any, one you want to accept. This doesn’t have to be the highest offer, if the conditions don’t suit you. You can ask your solicitor to negotiate the conditions.

If none of the offers work for you, you can re-advertise your home and see if new buyers will provide better offers.

If you don’t get much interest at first, you can decide to wait longer. Or you could decide to consider individual offers.

Your estate agent or solicitor will be able to advise you which is best.

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Accepting an offer

Once you have received an offer you are happy to accept, your solicitor will get to work. They will send the buyer a so-called “qualified acceptance” letter. This letter tells the buyer that you accept the offer and which conditions are attached.

Then the negotiations start. Your and the buyer’s solicitor will wrangle to find conditions that both are happy by sending what’s called missives.

If an agreement is reached, a final “concluding missive” is produced, which is a legally binding contract. At this point, neither you nor the seller can withdraw from the sale without consequences.

Conveyancing process

convyancing solicitor

Now the solicitors will start the conveyancing process, which is the legal process that is needed to transfer the ownership of the property from you to the buyer.

As part of this process, the solicitors check that everything is in order with the title deeds, that there aren’t any limitations and if so, that the buyer is aware of them.

If you have a mortgage, your solicitor will also arrange for the repayment of the loan, as this has to happen before you can sell the home.

At the end of this process, the buyer’s solicitor will draw up a “disposition”, which is a legal document that transfers homeownership from the seller to the buyer. Your solicitor will check it carefully and if all is in order, agree to it.

You then sign the disposition, normally this happens close to completion day or settlement, as it is sometimes called. At this point, you also have to arrange for the handing over of the keys.

Completion day

On the day set for completion, the contracts are exchanged, and the money is transferred. This is all handled by your solicitor, who will also pay off your mortgage.

Once all is completed, the buyer is now the new owner and will be able to pick up the keys.

Buying a property in Scotland

Now let’s move on to the second part of our guide about the process of buying and selling property in Scotland: the buying side. Like the selling process, it differs from the rest of the UK.

Finding a property

finding a property

Like in the rest of the UK, you can find properties for sale in Scotland on property websites, such as Rightmove, estate agents/solicitors and property centres.

Your own solicitor can also help you find properties for sale in the local area. It’s advisable to hire a solicitor once you have to decide you want to buy a home, as they are heavily involved from the start.

If you have found a property you are interested in, arrange for a viewing to see the property and if you like what you see, ask for a Home Report.

Ask for the Home Report

As we have already said, most properties for sale in Scotland have to have a Home Report. The seller is legally obliged to send it to you within nine days of your request, otherwise they can be fined.

Find out more about when it’s required and when a seller can refuse to give you it, in our Home Report guide.

It’s important that you read this report very carefully, as it will give you all the information you need to know about your potential next home. It will tell you in what condition the property is and at what price it was valued.

You will also see if any repairs will need to be made. Make sure you are happy with carrying these out and get quotes for them, so you know if you can afford them.

Your solicitor will be able to answer any questions you have regarding the information in the report.

In some cases you might want to arrange for your own survey, if the survey in the report isn’t sufficient, for example. Mortgage lenders also often request a survey, depending on the circumstances. Again, your solicitor will be able to advise.

If you are happy with the information in the report, you are ready to make an offer.

Arrange your mortgage

mortgage lender

You want to be sure that your finances are in order before making an offer. So once you have found a home you are interested in and are happy with the Home Report, it’s time to get your mortgage sorted.

If you don’t need a mortgage, make sure that your funds are available.

Making an offer

Before you make an offer, your solicitor will lodge a “note of interest” with the seller’s solicitor. This doesn’t oblige you to buy the property, but will allow you to be informed of any developments.

The next step will depend on how the house is priced and how much interest it’s getting. We have already explained before that in Scotland properties either have a fixed price or are listed with the minimum price.

If your dream home has a fixed price, then you can’t offer below. If it’s advertised with “offers in excess of”, you will have to offer more. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on what offer to make.

If there is a lot of interest in the property, it’s likely to go to the “blind biding system”, which is how many homes in Scotland are sold. This means that your solicitor has to send your best offer in writing to the seller’s solicitor by the closing date.

Your offer will also include under what conditions you want to buy the property. For example, you could stipulate that the seller has to make repairs highlighted in the Home Report. Then it’s a waiting game.

In the case that the seller doesn’t set a closing date, you can submit an offer at any time. As it would suggest that there isn’t much interest, you could try to negotiate the price. Take advice from your solicitor.

Exchanging missives

If your offer is acceptable to the seller, their solicitor will send a letter of “qualified acceptance” to your solicitor. Both solicitors will now start to exchange missives to negotiate the conditions of the sale.

This can take some time as the conditions need to be agreed by both you and the seller. Once an agreement that suits both parties has been reached, a legally binding contract will be drawn up.

At this stage you can no longer withdraw from the sale without financial consequences. But neither can the seller, so no chance of being gazumped.

Take out home insurance

Once the concluding missive has been drawn up, it’s a good idea for the buyer to take out insurance for the property. Depending on what exactly the missive states, the buyer might be responsible for insurance once the purchase is legally binding.

Your solicitor can advise you on this.

Conveyancing process

conveyancing solicitor

Now the conveyancing process starts. Your solicitor will check all the relevant details and ensure you are aware of anything you need to know.

If they and you are happy, they will draw up the disposition, which will legally transfer ownership from the owner to you.

At some point you will have to sign the contract. Your solicitor will then exchange contracts with the seller’s solicitor.

Completion day

On completion day or settlement day, your solicitor will transfer the funds to the seller’s solicitor. They will also pay any taxes you owe.

Once everything is complete, you can pick up the keys to your new home and move in.

Title Deed registration

Your solicitor will also add you to the title deeds at Land Registry as you are now the owner of the property. Congratulations!

The difference between buying a house in Scotland and England

Putting up home for saleHomeowner/estate agentHomeowner/estate agent/solicitor
Main point of contactEstate AgentSolicitor
PricingMaximum priceFixed price or minimum price
Information gatheringBuyer - via surveys, searches, enquiriesSeller - via Home Report
Offer communicationMade verbally to homeowner/estate agentMade by buyer's solicitor to seller's solicitor in writing
Offering systemIndividual offersBlind bidding system or individual offers
Offer priceTend to be below asking priceAsking price or more often abve asking price
Offer conditionsGiven verbally to estate agentGiven as part of offer letter and negotiated between solicitors
Legally bindingAfter exchange of contracts - end of conveyancing processAfter concluding missive - before conveyancing process
Home insuranceBuyer needs to have insurance in place from day they move inBuyer might have to have insurance at point of concluding missive
Duration3 - 4 months on average - but varies3 - 4 months on average - but varies

As you can see in the comparison table above, there are some differences between the two systems. What’s often seen as the main difference is that in England the buyer’s solicitor gathers all the information, whereas in Scotland the seller provides them via the Home Report.

We quite like this, because it means that as the buyer you know exactly what you let yourself in for from the start. But also for sellers, in our opinion, it’s an advantage, because you don’t have to worry about a survey bringing up something.

All in all, it feels like the Scotish system is less stressful for both sellers and buyers.

Another difference is the offer system. While not all properties will use the blind bidding system with a closing date, many do. For sellers, it’s a great way to get all offers and then choose the one that’s best for them.

And occasionally, this system is also used in England. We have been in this position ourselves when selling our first property. We had multiple offers around the asking price, so we asked all interested parties to make their best and final offer to secure the property.

On the other hand, for buyers it’s a difficult system to navigate, because they have to guess what the price will be that secures them their dream home. No doubt, many will have missed out and walked away disappointed.

One thing we really like about the Scotish system is that it becomes legally binding much earlier. Once the offered price and conditions have been agreed by both parties, they are legally obliged to go ahead with the sale.

In England, homeowners and buyers have to wait until the last moment, when contracts are exchanged. This tends to happen a few weeks, sometimes days before the completion date. We would say this makes buying and selling a house in England one of the most stressful things you can do in your life.

Solicitors also play a much bigger role in Scotland than in England before the the conveyancing process starts. This is something to keep in mind for anyone considering buying or selling a property there.

Overall, it feels like the Scottish process just cuts out a lot of the uncertainty we have experienced in the English system. It may still not be perfect but most people who have bought in both countries prefer the Scottish system.

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As can be seen, there are significant differences in the process of buying and selling property in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, which purchasers need to be aware of.

In particular, they should note that once an offer and purchase conditions have been agreed on by both parties, they are legally obligated to purchase the property or face considerable financial penalties.

Another important difference is that the purchaser becomes responsible for insuring the property from the day that the offer is accepted, and not the day that they take possession of the home.

We have bought properties under the English system and when we compare the two, we definitely prefer the Scottish system as both the buyer and seller. It may still have its downsides, but overall, there’s much more transparency and certainty with the process of buying and selling property in Scotland.


  • Jason Taylor

    Jason is a former estate agent who now splits his time between managing his own property investment portfolio and writing for Property Road.

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