Coronavirus COVID-19: Advice for property buyers and sellers in Scotland
LAST UPDATED: August 9th 2021
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.
As of Monday 9th August 2021, all parts of Scotland have moved to 'Beyond Level 0'.
The Scottish Government states: “The process of finding and moving into a new home may still be different from before COVID-19. Everyone involved may need to adapt practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of COVID-19 is managed as far as possible. This will include doing more of the process online, such as initial virtual viewings, and ensuring that you continue to follow government advice on physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene."
The Government continues to strongly emphasise a virtual-first approach, meaning that 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. These properties should be made by appointment only, with no open viewings permitted currently. Read the full guidance from the Scottish Government on house moves and COVID-19.
If you do choose to attend a physical viewing of a property, it is important to note that physical distancing guidelines have been amended from two metres to one metre. It is also very important to ensure that indoor spaces are well ventilated, with plenty of fresh air, and that when viewing a property, both buyers and sellers should continue to wear face coverings indoors and adhere to hand hygiene guidelines, with viewers avoiding touching surfaces of the property.
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. The Government advises that all parties involved in home buying and selling should agree to be as flexible as possible to accommodate any changes in circumstance, dates or progress due to COVID-19.
We have answered some commonly asked questions below to provide advice to those looking to buy or sell a home.
Advice for property buyers and sellers
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. As of 9th August 2021, we are currently in the stage termed 'Beyond level zero'.
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 can move in all protection levels, and to and from areas with different levels.
People can also travel between areas with different levels 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.
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 is in, you can 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.
Therefore, house moves and associated activities are still permitted, if they can be carried out safely, but the Scottish Government has said that viewings should 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.
House moves are allowed to go ahead, provided they can be done safely and the correct guidance is followed.
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.
Property viewings are permitted under all levels of restrictions, if they can be carried out safely, are necessary and the viewer has a serious interest in making an offer on the property.
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 and avoiding touching surfaces while inside a property.
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 allows our agents to review the features and conditions of your home without entering your property.
In-person property valuations are however now permitted and this is still the case with the level approach, 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.
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.
Surveyors are permitted to go to properties for the purpose of completing a Home Report. This remains the case under all of the levels of restrictions, 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.
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.
No, the LBTT holiday in Scotland was not extended past the end of March 2021. The zero tax threshold dropped back to £145,000 from 1st April 2021, although first time buyers will still benefit from relief up to £175,000. Use our LBTT calculator to find out how much LBTT you will have to pay.
Yes, offers on properties can be accepted. House moves can also go ahead. 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 and there are also schemes available that may help you get on the property ladder with a smaller deposit, such as the 95% mortgage guarantee scheme. It is best to speak to an independent mortgage adviser to find out what your options are.
There are lots of 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.
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 are worried about making your monthly mortgage repayments, it is best to speak to your lender in the first instance to find out if they what options are available to you.
This document contains the full outline of the Scottish Government guidance on house moves.
Find out more about the Scottish Government's stay-at-home guidance and a list of reasonable excuses for leaving your home.
The document outlines the current Scottish Government position on travel, including a list of exceptions to current travel restrictions.
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.