Coronavirus COVID-19: Advice for property buyers and sellers in Scotland
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.
The Scottish Government relaxed some property market restrictions on the 29th June. The following activities are now permitted.
- Visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes
- Viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or rent
- Preparing a residential property to move in
- Moving home
- Visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property.
However, 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. Read the full guidance from the Scottish Government on house moves.
We have answered some commonly asked questions below to provide advice to those looking to buy or sell a home.
LAST UPDATED: Monday 13th July at 2.30pm
Advice for property buyers and sellers
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.
Provisional affirmative legislation facilitating the change in LBTT threshold will be laid in the Scottish Parliament next week. The change will be made with effect from Wednesday 15th July but will require approval by the Scottish Parliament within 28 days to remain in force. The rates for the Additional Dwelling Supplement (ADS) and non-residential LBTT remain unchanged.
The First Home Fund is currently still accepting applications, though these are taking longer to process. If you already have your application approved, then these funds have been reserved for you and you should not be concerned.
On 9th July, Scotland's Finance Secretary confirmed that they would be adding a further £50 million to the First Home Fund in order to assist more first time buyers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In person property viewings are now permitted. However, government guidance advises that you still view properties virtually in the first instance if possible and only proceed to a physical viewing if you are 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. You may also wish to consider wearing a face covering.
Find out more about how to view a property safely.
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.
However, the latest guidance indicates that in person property valuations are now permitted, so agents will be able to come to your property to do a valuation. 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 may also wish to consider wearing a face covering.
Some ESPC agents may also still be able to offer virtual property valuations if you would prefer. 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.
Are solicitor estate agents open in Scotland?
In the latest guidance from the Scottish Government, solicitor estate agents and estate agents are permitted to open their offices. However, the Scottish Government has advised that visits from the public should be on an appointment-only basis.
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.
Surveyors are now permitted to go to properties for the purpose of completing a Home Report. 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.
Find out more about bringing your home to market in the current circumstances.
House moves are now allowed to go ahead. If your house move was delayed as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, then you should speak to your solicitor about the progress of your transaction.
However, 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.
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.
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.
There are many properties on the market which you can browse on the ESPC website or app.
ESPC agents have also reported that they had a number of properties waiting to come to market when the restrictions were eased, so we are expecting to welcome more new properties onto the market in the coming weeks.
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.
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
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 three months. The first of these holidays were due to end in June but in May, the UK Government announced that they can be extended for three months. The application deadline has also been moved to the end of October.
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.”
This document contains the full outline of the Scottish Government guidance on house moves.
This helpful guide outlines symptoms, answers common questions and provides stay at home advice.
This web page outlines the latest information of Coronavirus in Scotland, including the latest number of positive cases by Health board.
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.