How to buy a house in Scotland
Looking to buy your next home in Scotland and unsure about the process? We look at what is involved in the property buying procedure and commonly asked questions about the buying process in Scotland below, along with why ESPC is the best place to search for your new home.
ESPC agents cover areas across the south of Scotland, including Edinburgh, the Lothians, Fife, the Scottish Borders, central and west of Scotland, and Dumfries and Galloway. So, whether you would like to buy a property in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Dunfermline, one of our expert solicitor estate agents can help.
Trying to find the right home can be tricky. ESPC is here to make the process of buying your next home easier, by helping you finding the right property first:
- Sign up to My ESPC to receive property alerts straight to your email inbox. My ESPC allows you to save a search with all of your filters and requirements and you can get email notifications of homes that match what you’re looking for. You can also watchlist properties and be alerted if any of your favourite properties are updated, have a price change, have a closing date set or come back to the market.
- Beat the crowds with ESPC exclusive. Each week, we advertise hundreds of properties 72 hours before any other property website, which helps you to find your dream home first.
- Easily find out all the information you need about a house or flat. We ensure that the properties advertised on our website contain all the useful information you want to know before viewing a home, including council tax band and school catchment (you can even search by school catchment area). You can also download Home Reports immediately to find out detailed information about a property as soon as possible.
If you are interested in buying a property in Scotland for the first time or just want a reminder of the process, here’s our overview.
1. Find a solicitor to represent you
You’ll need a solicitor to purchase a property in Scotland. All ESPC agents are solicitor estate agents so they can take care of the legal buying process for you and will also be able to help with selling your property if you are selling a home in Scotland.
2. Work out your finances
Whether you’re moving home or buying for the first time, you’ll need to work out what your budget is for a new home. You may wish to get independent mortgage advice to work out your mortgage options for your next home.
For those who already own a property, it’s worth getting a free property valuation from an agent as that will help to give you an idea of what your home is likely to sell for, and therefore inform how much you can spend on a new home.
When considering the financial side of things, make sure to factor in other costs such as removals and LBTT.
3. Finding the right home
Once you have a budget in mind, it’s time to find the right home. Use ESPC’s explore areas tool to find areas that may work for you. Once you know the area or areas that you’re interested in, write a list of requirements you have for a property and work out which ones are must-haves and those you could live without.
Now you have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for, sign up to My ESPC to register your requirements and get email notifications of properties that suit your needs as soon as they come to market.
4. Notes of interest and making an offer
Once you’ve decided you like a property enough to make an offer, you should alert your solicitor so they can submit a note of interest in the property. This doesn't commit you to anything but does register your formal interest in the property. If more than one note of interest has been made, the seller may choose to set a closing date – all offers must be in by then. However, a seller isn't obliged to set a closing date and can accept any offer at any time.
Your solicitor will be crucial at this stage – their expertise in the local market will allow them to advise you on how much to offer.
5. Conveyancing and concluding the missives
After you’ve had an offer accepted, the conveyancing process will begin - conveyancing is the legal term for transferring ownership of property . If your offer is verbally accepted, the seller’s solicitor will send your solicitor a formal acceptance, called a ‘qualified acceptance’, which may include ‘qualifications’ in response to the conditions of your offer. Your solicitor will discuss the acceptance with you and negotiate on your behalf with the seller’s solicitor.
The offer, acceptance and any subsequent letters, which are intended to be part of a legal contract, are known as the ‘missives’. When the final acceptance letter is issued, missives are said to be ‘concluded’ meaning the purchaser and seller have entered into a legally binding contract and cannot withdraw from it without penalty. Your solicitor will advise you when the missives are concluded and send you a copy of the full contract.
6. Settlement and date of entry
Settlement takes place on the date of entry, as provided for in the missives. The purchase price is paid to the seller’s solicitor in exchange for the disposition (the legal document that will transfer ownership of the property from seller to purchaser), title deeds, other documentation and the keys to the property.
Your solicitor will calculate the balance required for settlement, including any Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and fees due. You will be asked to transfer the funds to your solicitor, and they will liaise directly with your mortgage lender to arrange for the funds to be transferred in advance of the date of entry.
Once you’ve moved in, if there are any discrepancies with the property, then you have five working days to notify your solicitor.
After you've settled in, sit down, relax and celebrate the fact that you've bought a new home!
What are the differences between buying a house in Scotland and England?
While there are many similarities between the process of buying a house in Scotland, there are a few differences. A key one to highlight is that, in Scotland, a solicitor submits offers on your behalf. In England, conveyancers are not generally involved until the price is agreed.
There are other differences, including that most properties for sale will also be legally required to produce a Home Report in Scotland. Property tax is also different in Scotland, with LBTT replacing Stamp Duty in 2015.
To find out more about the differences between the processes, it’s worth speaking to a solicitor. ESPC agents are experts in the Scottish property buying process so can help advise you on the differences.
Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) is a property tax in Scotland. It replaced Stamp Duty from 1st April 2015
How much property tax you’ll be required to pay in Scotland depends on the value of the home, whether you’re a first time buyer (first time buyers benefit from tax relief up to £175,000) and if you are purchasing the house or flat as a second home or buy-to-let (an Additional Dwelling Supplement of 4% applies to most second homes).
What does ‘offers over’ mean?
Many properties in Scotland are advertised as ‘offers over’. This means the seller is looking to receive an offer over the asking price set. Knowing how much to offer for a property priced like this can be tricky. Your solicitor will be able to assist with this by looking at how much other homes have been sold for and offering their expertise and insight.
Some properties are also set as ‘fixed price’ which generally mean the first clean offer of the asking price will be successful, although this isn't always the case. However, you may still be able to negotiate and offer under the asking price – your solicitor can help you more in this regard.
‘Offers over’ and ‘fixed price’ are generally the most common pricing terms, but you may also come across ‘offers around’, ‘offer in the region of’ and ‘guide price’ amongst others.
How long does it take to buy a house or flat?
The exact time it takes to buy a home is dependent on how long it takes you to find the right property and get an offer accepted, among other factors. Find out how long the different stages of buying a property tend to take.
How much deposit do I need to buy a house in Scotland?
Many lenders now offer 95% mortgages, meaning you may only have to provide a 5% deposit. Many buyers will choose to put down a larger deposit as a bigger deposit means a smaller loan and lower monthly payments. Plus, interest rates tend to decrease as deposit size increases
Can I pull out of a property purchase in Scotland?
An offer isn’t legally binding until the missives have been concluded. If you wish to withdraw your offer before this point, you should alert your solicitor and seek their advice.
Once missives have been concluded, neither seller or buyer can withdraw without facing penalties.
Coronavirus COVID-19 update
The government restrictions on daily life as a result of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic have impacted on the usual processes for buying, selling and letting properties in Scotland. Read the latest information and advice for property buyers and sellers, as well as homeowners, landlords and tenants.
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The information contained on this page is provided in good faith. Whilst every care has been taken in the preparation of the information, no responsibility is accepted for any errors which, despite our precautions, it may contain. The initial consultation with an 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.