How long will it take to buy a house in Scotland?
It may take between four and eight weeks to buy a house in Scotland and eight to twelve weeks in England, Northern Ireland or Wales.
The below Scottish timeline gives you an indication of how long it could take to buy a house in Scotland.
- Get a good solicitor
- Sell your house
- Get to know the local Estate agents
- Arrange viewings with prospective properties & get a mortgage in principle.
- Evaluate the home report
- Put in an offer & ‘Note of Interest’ on the property.
- The closing date
- Exchange of missives ( aka exchange of contracts)
- Pay your LBTT
Buying a home in England vs buying a home in Scotland has some significant differences.
Step 1 – Get a good solicitor
Getting a good solicitor early in the process will mean you are immediately ready to make an offer if you find a property you like.
solicitors handle the buying process in Scotland and you won’t be able to make an offer on a property without a solicitor.
You can search for solicitors at the Lay society of Scotland.
Step 2 – Sell your house
If you already have a house then selling it is best. The Scottish housing market prefers guarantees and will usually not care if you are in a chain.
Step 3 – Get to know the local Estate agents
Have a look online for properties you may find and see if they all sit around the same region. If they do then you should contact the local estate agents and ask them to drop you a note when or before a property gets to the market.
Step 4 – Arrange viewings with prospective properties & get a mortgage in principle.
In the city, you will find a lot of estate agents doing the viewings although in the countryside it will likely be the house seller.
Be early for your viewing and take notes and pictures if you have to so you can compare with other houses later.
At this point, you may want to get a mortgage in principle as it will give you much credibility amongst home seller.
Step 5 – Evaluate the home report
When looking to buy a home in Scotland you should be happy to know that the sellers will need to provide you and any other potential buyers with a homes report detailing most parts of their property so you can have a good idea of what you are buying and make a decision on if it is worth the price on offer or not.
The only exceptions where a home report does not need to be produced when a home is being sold in Scotland are new-builds and buildings that have recently been converted into residential properties.
Home reports are pretty standard when buying a Scottish home but more often than not the buyers and mortgage lenders will usually commission a more in-depth home report to be sure they know what they are buying. The home report will usually contain a valuation of the property so this can be the first guide as to if you are getting a good deal or not.
The Scottish home report will consist of a single property, an energy report and a property questionnaire which has been filled in by the home seller.
The property survey contains a valuation and assessment of the property’s condition. This will include both the exterior and interior and will mention points such as the walls, the roofs and any plumbing. The Scottish property survey which the seller is obliged to produce is pretty basic in this regard so if the home is a much older home and you have any concerns then you may want to ask the seller for permission to carry out your own detailed survey.
The Scottish energy report which comes enclosed in the home report will give the property an energy efficiency rating and assess its environmental impact by looking at carbon dioxide emissions.
The property questionnaire will be completed by the property seller and will contain important information on parking, council tax bands, history of flooding, subsidence, wood rot etc.
If you decide to carry out your own property survey then there are three main types which include:
The building or structural survey:
This is the most comprehensive surveys and is suitable for very old homes. It can cost from £600 upwards.
Home condition survey:
The home condition survey is usually the cheapest and most basic survey available. It is mostly used for new build homes but not really useful if you want an in-depth analysis of the property. This survey can cost from £250 upwards
Homebuyer’s report :
The home buyers report is a more detailed survey looking thoroughly inside and outside a property. It also includes a valuation. Check whether you can get the valuation and homebuyer’s report done at the same time to cut costs. Typical cost: £400+.
Step 6 – Put in an offer & ‘Note of Interest’ on the property.
Buying a home in Scotland is quite different from the process in England. The offer process is especially different.
When a property is marketed in Scotland it is marketed as fixed price or for ‘offers around’ or ‘offers over’ a certain price and usually sold by solicitors rather than estate agents as we have in England.
For properties which are marked as for ‘offers around’ or ‘offers over’ a certain price, they will be given a fixed deadline for everyone to submit an offer and usually the best offer will be chosen as the winning bid.
The bids are essentially sealed until that date and no decision is made prior to the deadline date or closing date.
If you want to bid for a property in Scotland you will have to do this through your solicitor who will have to prepare your offer and send it to the seller’s solicitor.
Your offer should include how much you want to pay for the property, when you will pay that amount if you win the bid and when you will want the keys to move in. You may also include any other clauses or terms you want to be attached with the sale e.g you may want it to include some furnishing.
When you submit an offer you don’t make any payment to the seller except the home is a new build then you may need to pay a reservation fee.
You can also file what is known as a “note of interest.” This means the seller will have to keep you updated on any changes and developments concerning the property.
As solicitors are very important in the Scottish buying process you may want to instruct a solicitor as early as you can so they can start assisting you with your buying process. Without a solicitor, you won’t be able to make an offer so having one early could reduce how long it takes to buy a house in Scotland.
The role of your solicitor:
Go through the home report with you
Check that the home has been built with the right planning permissions and has building control approval
Make your offer to the seller’s solicitor
Liaise with the mortgage lender to agree on the entry date and carry out the legal searches and inquiries about the property
In most cases the agent might have multiple offers, if this is the case they will wait for the closing date and then decide the winning bid. You will need to have submitted your offer by 12 noon on the closing day.
Step 8 – Exchange of missives ( aka exchange of contracts)
The exchange of contract in Scotland is known as missives. This contract is legally binding for both the seller and buyer and your solicitor can sign this on your behalf. An accepted offer on a home does not guarantee you the home and is not legally binding until the missives have been exchanged
Once you have reached this part of your Scottish buying process your solicitor will start the conveyancing process and will then look to transfer ownership of the property to you.
At this point, the solicitor will undertake the conveyancing process to transfer ownership of the property. This will involve your solicitor doing the below:
checking if any planned local developments could affect the property;
checking that any work on the property had the right permissions; and
paying the money to your seller’s solicitor on the date of entry (the day you get the keys).
checking the property’s title and deeds;
checking the property’s legal ownership and ensuring the seller is not bankrupt and thus disqualified from selling;
explaining any ‘title burdens’ to you – these are conditions you will have to abide by as the new owner;
Step 9 – Settlement
On the date of entry that’s agreed in the contract, you’ll pay the whole of the purchase price in exchange for the keys to the property. This is known as ‘settlement’.
Your solicitor will then pay any Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) that is due, register the change of ownership with the Registers of Scotland, and lodge title deeds with your mortgage lender.
You solicitor will then send you a copy of all of these documents.
Step 10 – Pay your LBTT
The land and buildings transaction tax are equivalent to the stamp duty tax in the UK.
It is applied to the below:
First-time buyers: properties costing £175,000 and above
Non-first-time buyers purchasing a home for themselves to live in: properties costing £145,000 and above
Buy-to-let or second home buyers: properties costing £40,000 and above
If you need financial advice and you live in the UK then you could contact the Money Advice service over the phone or via chat for impartial advice.
You can also contact the debt charity “Step Change” if you are in debt and need help.