Topics

LAST UPDATED: Friday 15th January at 11am

Here is some advice for property buyers, sellers and homeowners. We will update this page as regularly as we are able to with new information and the latest advice.

Due to a rising number of Coronavirus cases in the UK, from midnight on Monday 4th January 2021, all of mainland Scotland will be subject to a lockdown. This will be in place until at least the end of January and reviewed by the Scottish Government at the end of the month. 

The Scottish Government has emphasised that during lockdown people should stay at home and conduct matters remotely where possible. Following the announcement, the Scottish Government has updated their stay at home guidance to detail reasonable excuses to go out, which can be found here

The Scottish Government has said: “Whilst it is permitted to leave your house for activities in connection with moving home (including viewing a property), or for activities in connection with the essential maintenance, purchase, sale, letting, or rental of residential property that the person owns or is otherwise responsible for, at this time it is advisable to postpone, if possible. Travelling for the purposes of undertaking essential work on a property other than your main residence should not be used as a pretext for a holiday. You should not stay longer than for the length of time required to undertake the necessary work."

This means that house moves, property viewings and valuations are permitted at this time. However, the Scottish Government has said that, taking into account the new strain of COVID-19, it may be advisable to delay house moves or viewings if possible. 

They also are continuing to strongly emphasise a virtual-first approach - properties should be viewed virtually initially if possible. You should only progress to a physical viewing if necessary and you are seriously interested in the property. Read the full guidance from the Scottish Government on house moves and COVID-19

The Scottish Government has advised that the process of buying or selling a house will be different to before COVID-19 and that you should speak with your solicitor in the first instance.

We have answered some commonly asked questions below to provide advice to those looking to buy or sell a home.

You can find information and advice for landlords here and information and advice for tenants here.

ESPC solicitor estate agents are here to help at every step of your house movecontact an agent today to find out more about buying or selling a property.

Quick links

Scotland is being put into lockdown - what does this mean for my house move?

What does the five level approach mean for the Scottish property market?

Can I move house now?

Can I attend property viewings?

Can I get my property valued?

Can I get a Home Report now?

Are solicitor estate agents open in Scotland?

Can I apply for the First Home Fund?

Has LBTT been changed in Scotland?

Can offers on properties be accepted?

Can I apply for a new mortgage?

Are there many properties on the market right now?

Who should I contact with any concerns about buying or selling a property?

I am worried about paying my mortgage due to the current circumstances – what do I do?

Advice for property buyers and sellers

Scotland is being put into lockdown what does this mean for my house move?

Due to a rising number of Coronavirus cases in the UK, from midnight Monday 4th January 2021, all of mainland Scotland will be subject to a lockdown. This will be in place until the end of January and reviewed by the Scottish Government at that point.  The Scottish Government has emphasised that during lockdown people should stay at home and conduct matters remotely where possible. Following the announcement, the Scottish Government has updated their stay at home guidance to detail reasonable excuses to go out, which can be found here

One of the reasonable excuses to leave your home is “for activities in connection with moving home (including viewing a property), or for activities in connection with the maintenance, purchase, sale, letting, or rental of residential property that the person owns or is otherwise responsible for. Travelling for the purposes of undertaking essential work on a property other than your main residence should not be used as a pretext for a holiday. You should not stay longer than for the length of time required to undertake the necessary work."

This means that house moves, property viewings and valuations are permitted at this time. However, the Scottish Government has said that, taking into account the new strain of COVID-19, it may be advisable to delay house moves or viewings if possible. 

What does the five level approach mean for the Scottish property market?

The Scottish Government adopted a five level protection approach to limit the spread of Coronavirus in November 2020. The levels run from zero to four, with the most restrictions applied at level four, up until the lockdown was announced on 4th January 2021. These protection levels where applied to different areas in Scotland based on the number of cases in those different areas.

The Scottish Government updated their COVID-19 guidance on moving home, to make it clear that home moves and associated activities, including viewings, will continue to be permitted across all protection levels, provided they can be carried out safely. People could move in all protection levels, and to and from areas with different levels. 

People could also travel between areas with different levels (including levels three and four) to view properties, although the Scottish Government advised that you should view properties virtually in the first instance and then only physically visit properties which you have a serious interest in. The Scottish Government is also continuing to ask people to minimise travel as much as possible for everyone's safety.

Businesses, such as agents and surveyors, can also continue to support people to move home in all areas, provided they follow the relevant guidance.

This meant that, regardless of which level your local area was in, you could continue to move house and undertake activities associated with moving home, including property viewings, provided these could be carried out safely and the necessary guidance is followed. You could also travel between different tier levels in order to move house and undertake associated activities. 

However, all of mainland Scotland was moved from level four to lockdown on 5th January. House moves and associated activities are still permitted, if they can be carried out safely, but the Scottish Government has said that it may be advisable to postpone house moves or viewings if possible. Viewings should also be done virtually first if possible, and a physical viewing should only take place if necessary and you have a serious interest in offering on the property. 

If you would like to find out more about moving home in the present circumstances, speak to an ESPC agent for expert advice on the latest guidance and local market.

Can I move house now?

House moves are now allowed to go ahead, provided they can be done safely and the correct guidance is followed. This remains the case following the new lockdown restrictions which were put in place from 5th January. However, the Scottish Government has said that it may be advisable to delay a house move if possible due to the new strain of the virus. 

If any member of either household involved in the transaction presents with symptoms of COVID-19 or has a confirmed case, efforts should be made to delay the house move until it is safe to do so.

If you need a removal company, be aware that they will be in high demand, and you should notify them of your date of entry as soon as you are able to do so. The moving process will also likely take longer as removal companies have adapted their processes in order to protect the health and safety of their staff and home movers.

Find out more about moving house and the new removals process

The Scottish Government has also confirmed that two or more households can now combine to form a new household (for example in a flat share). They said: "Home moves includes students moving home and other home moves resulting in two or more households merging on a permanent or semi-permanent basis."

However, once you have formed a new household, you must comply with government guidance on meeting others when interacting with other households. You cannot be a member of more than one household and repeated moving between homes, causing households to mix beyond extended households, is not permitted without reasonable excuse.

Can I attend property viewings?

Property viewings are still permitted under the new lockdown restrictions, if they can be carried out safely, are necessary and the viewer has a serious interest in making an offer on the property. . 

However, the Scottish Government has advised that people may wish to consider postponing viewings if possible due to the new strain of the virus. The Scottish Government is also continuing to ask people to minimise travel as much as possible for everyone's safety.

It's important to note that government guidance advises that you view properties virtually in the first instance if possible and only proceed to a physical viewing if necessary and you are seriously interested in offering on the property.

If a virtual viewing isn’t available for the property you’re interested in, you should make use of the photographs, Home Report, schedule and other property information made available to you in order to decide if you would like to go ahead with a physical viewing.

Open viewings are not permitted and so all viewings will be on an appointment-only basis. Agents may ask you questions in advance of scheduling an appointment with regards to your status as a buyer to confirm neither you nor anyone in your household has symptoms or a confirmed case of COVID-19.

When attending a viewing you should adhere to government guidance on hand washing, social distancing and respiratory hygiene. The Scottish Government also advises wearing a face covering.

Find out more about how to view a property safely.

Can I get my property valued?

Getting your property valued is the first stage of selling your home and generally involves inviting an agent to your home to assess its value. Previous lockdown restrictions meant agents couldn’t go to a property to value it, so many started offering virtual viewings.

Doing valuations remotely allowed our agents to review the features and conditions of your home without entering your property.

In person property valuations are permitted and this is still the case with the level approach and new lockdown, provided they can be done safely, so agents can come to your property to do a valuation if necessary. If you do this then agents will contact you in advance to discuss the process and let you know of health and safety precautions they are taking. All parties should adhere to government guidance on hand washing, social distancing and respiratory hygiene. You are also advised to wear a face covering.

In light of the new strain of the virus, the Scottish Government has advised that people may wish to consider postponing house moves and related activities, including in person valuations. However, many ESPC agents are still able to offer virtual property valuations which may be more suitable at this time. Please note that the valuation services on offer will differ depending on each agent's individual circumstances and you should speak to the agent to decide on the best approach to you.

Request a free property valuation today.

Can I get a Home Report now?

Surveyors are now permitted to go to properties for the purpose of completing a Home Report. This remains the case following the lockdown on 4th January 2021, provided it can be done safely. 

When a surveyor comes to your property, you should both take care to follow government guidance on social distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene. You may also wish to consider wearing a face covering.

The surveyor will likely get in touch in advance to advise you on the process and any health and safety precautions they are taking.

However, the Scottish Government has advised that, due to the new strain of the virus, people may wish to consider postponing house moves or related activities. 

Find out more about bringing your home to market in the current circumstances

Are solicitor estate agents open in Scotland?

Solicitor estate agents are open and able to help you with your house move, but many are working from home. It is therefore best to contact an agent by phone or email first – ESPC agents are happy to assist with enquiries this way and answer any questions you may have. Find an ESPC agent today.

From the 14th August 2020, the Scottish Government also made face coverings mandatory in estate agents' offices. 

Can I apply for the First Home Fund?

Due to the high number of applications in recent months, the First Home Fund (which offers first time buyers loans of up to £25,000 to boost their deposit) closed to new applications on 2nd October at 6pm. 

However, the Scottish Government has confirmed that they plan to reopen applications for the scheme in the new year for home purchases due to be completed in the 2021/2022 financial year. We will update our website with details of this as soon as we have them.

Has LBTT been changed in Scotland?

Yes, on 9th July 2020 Scotland's Finance Secretary announced that the initial threshold for Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT), which is Scotland's equivalent of Stamp Duty, would be raised from £145,000 to £250,000. The Scottish Government later confirmed that this change would take effect from Wednesday 15th July 2020. This change will be in place until 31st March 2021. 

The Scottish Government has stated that this will mean that residential property transactions where the purchase price is under £250,000, and to which the Additional Dwelling Supplement (ADS) does not apply, will attract no LBTT. For transactions where the purchase price is above £250,000, the rates and thresholds that usually apply remain unchanged.

Where the ADS does apply, the change to the starting threshold will also apply to such transactions. This means that a residential property transaction that is liable to the ADS will not pay the standard rates of LBTT on the first £250,000 of the purchase; however the ADS will remain payable at 4% of the total purchase price.

Can offers on properties be accepted?

Yes, offers on properties can be accepted. House moves can also go ahead now. However, you may still need to prepared for potential delays if anyone in either household involved  shows symptoms of COVID-19.

You should be prepared that the process of buying or selling a property may take longer than usual as the businesses involved adjust to the new normal.

Can I apply for a new mortgage?

You can still apply for a new mortgage, but some lenders have tightened up loan-to-value ratios and require a larger deposit than usual. However, there are lenders who are still accepting lower deposits. It is best to speak to a mortgage adviser to find out what your options are.

Are there many properties on the market right now?

There are lots properties on the market which you can browse on the ESPC website or app.

If you would like to be kept up to date with new properties coming to market, you can do so by signing up to My ESPC and opting in to receive our email alerts.

Who should I contact with any concerns about buying or selling a property?

Your solicitor estate agent is the best point of contact for any questions or concerns about buying or selling a property at this time.

Advice for homeowners

I am worried about paying my mortgage due to the current circumstances – what do I do?

If you have encountered financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 situation, you can apply to your lender for a mortgage payment holiday. The UK Government announced the scheme in March, allowing homeowners to pause mortgage payments for a period of time.

The application deadline was at the end of October but the scheme has now been extended by a further six months - if you have not yet requested a mortgage payment holiday, you can request one from your lender now for a period of six months. Those who had their payments deferred already can extend their mortgage holiday until they reach the six-month limit. 

Peter McGregor, Independent Mortgage Adviser with ESPC Mortgages, said: “Although the term ‘holiday’ has been applied, it is in fact a pause from making your mortgage payments for a set period. Interest will still be applied on the outstanding debt and the debt will still need to be repaid, so you will end up paying more in the long term. Under the current situation, a mortgage holiday should not affect your credit score.”

Useful resources

Scottish Government guidance on house moves

This document contains the full outline of the Scottish Government guidance on house moves. 

Scottish Government stay-at-home guidance

Find out more about the Scottish Government's stay-at-home guidance and a list of reasonable excuses for leaving your home. 

Scottish Government guidance on travel

The document outlines the current Scottish Government position on travel, including a list of exceptions to current travel restrictions.

NHS Scotland advice on Coronavirus (COVID 19)

This helpful guide outlines symptoms, answers common questions and provides stay at home advice.

Coronavirus in Scotland

This web page outlines the latest information of Coronavirus in Scotland, including the latest number of positive cases by Health board.

Support for those affected by COVID-19

More information about the package of measures announced at Budget 2020 to support public services, individuals and businesses affected by Covid-19, including legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

*The initial consultation with an ESPC Mortgages adviser is free and without obligation. Thereafter, ESPC Mortgages charges for mortgage advice are usually £350 (£295 for first-time buyers). YOUR HOME MAY BE REPOSSESSED IF YOU DO NOT KEEP UP REPAYMENTS ON A MORTGAGE OR OTHER LOANS SECURED AGAINST IT.

ESPC (UK) Ltd is an Appointed Representative of Lyncombe Consultants Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.