David Marshall from Warners solicitor estates agents explains how the buying and selling process differs north and south of the border.

property for sale edinburgh

If you are looking to sell your home in Scotland and move south of the border, or maybe make the reverse trip north and buy somewhere in Edinburgh and the Lothians, you may not  be aware of the differences in the buying and selling process in England and Scotland which could make the process more complicated.

What are the differences?

For the most part, the buying and selling process in England and Wales can be a lot more stressful than it is in Scotland. The exchange of contracts between buyer and seller tends to happen very close to the date of completion. If it transpires that one person in a chain is unable or unwilling to exchange, nobody can. If your sale falls through, that invariably means that you won’t be able to complete your purchase leaving you to change plans for moving at the last minute.

In Scotland we have ‘missives’ which are essentially contracts between lawyers on behalf of a buyer and seller. Where a buyer has their mortgage in place and their offer is not subject to sale, this means that ‘missives’ can be concluded. At that point the contract between buyer and seller becomes binding, meaning that as a seller you are in a position to conclude your purchase.

What it means in practice

If you are selling a home in Scotland and buying in England, you’ll probably find the move to be less challenging than someone making the reverse journey. Once missives have been concluded on your sale in Scotland, that binding contract will allow you to move forward and complete the purchase of the property that you are buying in England.

If you are selling in England and buying in Scotland, this isn’t possible because the exchange of contracts doesn’t happen until close to completion. You won’t be able to press on with the purchase of your new home until very late in the day and, if anyone in your chain is unable to complete, you can often find yourself needing to change your buying plans at short notice. Even where everything progresses well with your sale, you may well find yourself having to rush the purchase of your home in Scotland as you won’t know that you’ll be able to proceed with it until the last minute.

Thankfully, this is not an unusual situation and it’s one that a good solicitor estate agent will be well used to dealing with. If you’re thinking of buying or selling and have any questions, feel free to get in touch with Warners, or indeed any other ESPC member firm, and we’ll be delighted to help you with any questions that you may have.


For more expert advice, visit espc.com/news