How to buy a house in Scotland

  • 3rd Feb 2022
  • 5 minute read
  • Written by Maisie Eames
How to buy a house in Scotland

Thinking of buying in Scotland? We’ll walk you through how to land your ideal home in Scotland.

In this guide
Buying a property in Scotland vs England, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Making an offer on a Scottish property
What does ‘offers over’ mean?
What is a ‘note of interest?
What is a closing date?
Home Reports and Surveys in Scotland
The Conveyancing Process in Scotland
How much is stamp duty in Scotland?
Help to Buy Scotland


Buying a property in Scotland vs England, Wales, and Northern Ireland

There are a few key differences between buying in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Making an offer

Making an offer is slightly different. In other parts of the UK, properties on the market have an asking price, but this can be negotiable, and buyers can make an offer simply based on what they want to or can afford to pay, typically people will offer just below or dead on the asking price, unless there is really intense competition. In Scotland, however, properties are put on the market with a fixed price or an ‘offers over’ price, and it is expected that buyers put forward a sum of around 15-20% above the offers over mark. Potential buyers ‘note their interest’ in the property, which means they will be kept informed about other offers on the property and the closing date for further offers (if there is one). Then, once all offers are made, the seller will decide based on price and time scale for moving.

Stamp Duty

Another difference is stamp duty. In Scotland, this was scrapped in 2012 for Land & Buildings Transaction Tax and whilst it’s very similar, the rates are different, but we’ll go over this later on.

Home Report

There are differences in the legal documents too many people choose to get a survey done on their property, to check that there aren’t any major issues with the home they are buying, but this isn’t a legal requirement and is only done at the buyer’s discretion. In Scotland, sellers must provide a Home Report before they can put their home on the market – unless the property is a new-build. A Home Report is a survey on the property’s condition and includes information on its energy efficiency as well as a completed questionnaire from the seller.

When a sale becomes legally binding

A sale becomes legally binding at different stages in Scotland. In other parts of the UK, a sale is not legally bound until contracts are exchanged (which can take 6 weeks or several months) but until this point, either party can pull out of the sale. In Scotland however, there isn’t a specific exchange date that legally binds the buyer and seller, instead just several official signed letters called missives, which are sent by solicitors, and this can take as little as one or two weeks – there is often a much longer gap between the conclusion of missives and date of entry than there would be between exchange and completion, but nothing is set in stone and it’s what works for both the buyer and seller.

Making an offer on a Scottish property

Once you have found the home for you and have also agreed a mortgage in principle, it’s time to take action. The process of making an offer is split into the stages below. First, hire a solicitor and ‘note your interest’ in the property, submit your ‘offer over’ price and wait for the closing date to hear.

What does ‘offers over’ mean?

In Scotland, homes are put on the market with an ‘offers over’ feature. This means that buyers are expected to offer above the price being asked usually 15-20% is a good guideline to work with, but depending on the market activity, this could vary. The seller essentially has to ‘bid’ or choose the offer they feel is best – not always in terms of most money, but also in terms of when the potential buyers could move.

What is a ‘note of interest?

When you have found a property that you like, you need to instruct a solicitor and ask them to submit your interest. This is not binding, but it tells the owner that you have a genuine interest in their home and as a result will receive updates and be made aware of the offer closing dates and potentially how many other offers have been submitted.

What is a closing date?

A closing date is set for the submission of offers, but only usually be set if there is a decent amount of interest in the property, otherwise an offer can be accepted at any time.  Once the date arrives, the seller will decide on the offer they want to accept and after that, you should hear if you have been successful. After the offer is accepted and the closing date is passed, it will be non-negotiable.

Home Reports and Surveys in Scotland

Before putting your property on the market in Scotland, it’s a legal requirement to submit a home report. Failure to do so could end with a fine of £500 – So it’s important you get it done. Here’s what the home report includes:

A single survey and valuation

This part of the report comes after a visual inspection by a chartered surveyor. It tells you all about the home, its condition, accessibility, and any repairs you may need to carry out, as well as providing a rough idea of how much the home is worth.

If there happens to be urgent repairs needed, this will be your chance to consider whether you can cope with the potential cost or inconvenience of the repairs or at least working out how much they will cost to do so and if these will be covered by your budget.

A property questionnaire

This questionnaire covers several categories and simply gives a more in-depth description of the property.

These include the following:

·       Any previous property issues or damage from storms, fire etc.

·       Council tax band

·       Any changes/ extensions made to the property

·       Specialist works or guarantees

Energy report

This will cover the home’s energy efficiency in the form of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). It tells you roughly how much it’ll cost you on average for heating, lighting, and hot water. As well as this, you will find contact details for advice on how to make your home more energy efficient and save fuel costs.

The Conveyancing Process in Scotland

Once the offer is accepted, the conveyancing process begins. As mentioned, in Scotland, there isn’t a specific exchange date that legally binds the buyer and seller. Instead, missives are used – which are a collection of official signed letters sent between solicitors. This process can take as little as one or two weeks and, once complete, the sale is then considered legally bound.

On completion day, also known as ‘date of entry in Scotland, the buyer’s solicitor will transfer all funds to relevant parties and, once this is complete, the buyer can relax with the keys to their new home.

Once missives are concluded, neither can withdraw and the sale is legally binding. If you do so, the seller is entitled to take you to court as you will be in breach of contract. This could cost you a lot of money and you may also have to pay the sellers’ expenses.

How much is stamp duty in Scotland?

Stamp duty in Scotland is slightly different to the rest of the UK – as after 2012 it was changed to Land & Buildings Transaction Tax.

The stamp duty rates in Scotland are as follows:

Property price                                 LBTT rate

Up to £145,000                                0%

£145,000 to £250,000                    2%

£250,000 to £325,000                    5%

£325,000 to £750,000                    10%

Over £750,000                                 12%

However, first-time buyers are given a relief, which increases the residential nil rate band of LBTT to £175,000 for them. For more information or to work out how much you will have to pay in LBTT, find out more https://revenue.scot/calculate-tax/calculate-property-transactions

Help to Buy Scotland

Scotland have previously had two help to buy schemes: The Affordable New Build scheme (closed 5th February 2021) and the Smaller Developer scheme which will close April 2022. Once closed, there are no plans to reopen either scheme.

For more information on the scheme available, visit  https://www.mygov.scot/help-to-buy

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