There are many reasons why people choose to relocate to Scotland. Stunning scenery, vibrant culture and a lower cost of living than much of the UK are just some.
If you’re thinking about relocating from England to Scotland, you may already know that Scotland has its own legal system and laws that differ from the rest of the country. But did you know that some of these laws relate to the buying and selling of property?
If you’re selling a house in England and buying in Scotland, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explain the main differences and take you through the house-selling process in England and the house-buying process in Scotland.
What’s the difference between buying and selling houses in England and Scotland?
In England, properties are often listed at the maximum price the seller can expect to receive, with offers often coming in below the asking price, whereas in Scotland, properties are usually listed at a fixed price or “Offers in excess of £XX”. Unlike in the rest of the UK, in Scotland, an offer less than the specified amount is unlikely to be considered. If, however, you see a property in Scotland advertised as “Offers around £XX”, it indicates that the seller is willing to negotiate, and if there are several interested buyers, there will be a closing date for offers.
Another difference is that as soon as an offer is made on a Scottish property, it will be taken off the market. As a result, gazumping is rare because there’s no opportunity for another buyer to come in with a higher bid. In fact, gazumping is discouraged, as solicitors are not allowed to continue representing sellers who choose different buyers.
Keep reading for step-by-step guides to selling your house in England and buying a house in Scotland.
Selling your house in England: A step-by-step guide
In this section, we’ll walk you through the house-selling process in England.
Step 1: Prepare your home for selling
Before doing anything else, it is a good idea to prepare your home for selling by throwing away excess clutter, giving it a good clean, and finally finishing those niggly little DIY jobs on your to-do list. It is also worth considering giving each room a lick of neutral paint to make it easier for potential buyers to imagine themselves living there.
Some of the things to focus your efforts on include cleaning the windows, ensuring the roof is in good condition with no tiles missing and tidying the entrance and front door in order to make a good first impression.
“Staging” your house can not only help you sell faster, but you may also find it increases its value.
Step 2: Apply for an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
You will need to provide an EPC to potential buyers to let them know how energy-efficient your home is.
You must have at least applied for this before putting your house on the market.
Step 3: List your property with an estate agent
You can sell your house through an online estate agent or a local estate agent. Online estate agents tend to be cheaper, but with either option, you will need to agree on a fee.
When choosing which estate agent to use, you should base your decision on their success rate, the average time it takes for them to sell a property and how often they manage to sell at the full asking price.
Step 4: Organise a valuation
When deciding how much to sell your home for, the first thing to do is to research the market so you know what similar properties are worth.
Then, you should ask several different estate agents to do valuations to ensure you are listing your home at a realistic asking price.
Step 5: Find a conveyancing solicitor
Next, you will need to find a conveyancing solicitor to deal with the legal aspects of selling your property.
Even though you have to wait until you have agreed to an offer before you can formally instruct, it is wise to know which solicitor you want to use early on in the process. This is to help the sale go through as quickly as possible.
Step 6: Fill in the paperwork
Throughout the house-selling process, there will be many forms, documents and questionnaires for you to fill in. Try to stay on top of these, as it will make your life much easier.
Step 7: Accept an offer
You may receive offers that are well below the asking price. If so, you can either reject them and wait for a better offer to come along or ask your estate agent to negotiate.
Once a buyer has made an offer you’re happy with, it’s time to formally accept. Even after accepting, you can change your mind and go with a different buyer. However, you should note that this isn’t considered ethical practice.
Step 8: Negotiate the contract
After accepting an offer, you and the buyer will negotiate how long to wait between exchange and completion, which fixtures and fittings will be included and any discounts that may have been proposed as a result of problems highlighted by the buyer’s survey.
Step 9: Exchange contracts
Once contracts have been exchanged, both you and the buyer are legally obliged to ensure the sale goes through. If you pull out at this stage, you risk being sued.
Step 10: Move out
While you can move out on completion day, it is advisable to move out beforehand to ease the stress.
You must ensure that the property is in the condition agreed in the contract by the day of completion.
Step 11: Complete the sale
The sale will be completed on a previously-agreed date. This is when the solicitors transfer the money and deeds, and you hand over the keys.
Step 12: Pay any outstanding mortgage
If you have a mortgage on the property, your lender will inform you of the outstanding amount, which your solicitor will pay off after receiving the payment from the buyer.
Step 13: Register the transfer of ownership
Finally, your solicitor will register the change of ownership with the Land Registry and send you a breakdown of their fees, as well as information about the sale price of the house and any mortgage payments.
Buying a house in Scotland: A step-by-step guide
In this section, we’ll walk you through the house-buying process in Scotland.
Step 1: Hire an estate agent and solicitor
Some estate agents in Scotland employ solicitors to keep the conveyancing process all under one roof.
However, like England, Scotland also has dedicated estate agents. If you use one of these, you will also need to find a solicitor to deal with the legal side of buying a house.
Step 2: Speak to a mortgage advisor
Before you start searching for properties, it is a good idea to speak with a mortgage advisor so you don’t waste time viewing houses you can’t afford. They will be able to tell you how much you can expect to borrow, and you can then start searching for properties within your budget.
Step 3: Begin your property search
As well as enlisting the help of an estate agent, you can find your dream home by searching the internet, looking in newspapers and noting ‘For Sale’ signs in the street while you’re out and about.
Once you’ve found a house you like, you then ask your solicitor to submit a Note of Interest to the seller’s estate agent or solicitor. This is only to express your interest in the property, and you are not required to buy at this stage.
Step 4: Ask for a Home Report
Most homes for sale in Scotland are now required to have a Home Report, which tells potential buyers everything they need to know about the property. A Home Report consists of a single survey, a property questionnaire, an EPC and — sometimes — a Mortgage Valuation Report.
It is worth noting that the Law Society of Scotland recommends you to only rely on Home Reports that are less than 12 weeks old.
Properties that are exempt from having a Home Report include:
- Those that have been on the market continuously since before 1st December 2008
- Brand new properties or those that have been converted into homes and are not yet occupied as such (although they will need an EPC)
- Right To Buy homes
- Private sales that haven’t been advertised on the open market
- Properties that are both residential and non-residential
- Holiday homes which are only allowed to be occupied at certain times of year
Step 5: Arrange a survey
If the property does not need a Home Report, you should have it inspected by a professional surveyor instead. This is to confirm that there are no underlying issues which could cause you trouble down the track.
Step 6: Exchange contracts on property in England
If you haven’t done so already, you should exchange contracts for the sale of your English property before you make an offer on a property in Scotland. This is because, once you have made an offer, it can lead to a legally binding contract very quickly in Scotland — and without additional input from you. So, it is essential to have all your financial arrangements in place for when your offer is accepted.
Step 7: Make an offer
If the seller of a home you like has had multiple offers, you may be asked to submit your best offer by a particular date. If you are the only one making an offer — or the property had been listed at a fixed price — you may be able to put in an offer straight away.
To make an offer, it is best to ask your solicitor to prepare and sign a formal document on your behalf and then submit it to the seller’s agents. Otherwise, you risk buying a property at the wrong price or without the right protections.
Step 8: Sign the missives
Once your offer has been accepted, and any outstanding points regarding the property have been agreed upon by both parties, it is time to sign the “missives”.
Unlike in England (where both the buyer and seller sign a single contract document), in Scotland, a contract is made up of a series of formal documents that pass between each party’s solicitor to negotiate things like the date of entry and the items to be included in the sale. When the seller’s solicitor issues an unqualified acceptance, the missives are concluded, and the contract becomes legally binding.
Step 9: Check the title deeds
Your solicitor will then check the title deeds and let you know of any rights relating to the property, as well as any conditions or “title burdens” that you will be required to observe. Some examples of title burdens include:
- Aerial or satellite dish restrictions
- Alteration and new building restrictions
- Common repair cost obligations
- Height restrictions of walls, fences and hedges
- Insurance obligations
- Parking restrictions
- Restrictions on use
- Rights of neighbours to access your property to carry out repairs to their property
- Rules regarding the upkeep of parking areas, pavements and private roads
- Where rubbish bins should be kept
Step 10: Final preparations
For the property title to be transferred into your name, your solicitor will need to prepare a disposition, which the seller will sign once their solicitor has checked it.
At this point, you will also need to sign a mortgage agreement, which gives your provider certain rights over the property to protect them if you are unable to make your repayments.
Step 11: Transfer the funds
After your solicitor has checked that there is nothing to prevent the transaction from going ahead, they will make arrangements for funds to be collected and paid to the seller.
The date on which this happens is known as the “date of entry” in Scotland, whereas in England, it is referred to as “completion day”. It is possible for your date of entry to be the same date as your completion day — but only if your English solicitor transfers the funds from the sale of your old property in time.
Step 12: Complete the purchase
On the same day your solicitor pays the seller’s solicitor, the documents of transfer will be delivered to your solicitor, and you will get the keys to your home so you can move in.
It is vital that at this point, you have adequate buildings and contents insurance, and your will has been updated to account for your new home.
Step 13: Pay Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT)
There is no Stamp Duty on residential property purchases in Scotland. However, once you’ve purchased your new house, you have 30 days to pay LBTT.
Your solicitor will deal with this for you, as well as a fee that’s charged by the Registers of Scotland for maintaining property records and the details of ownership.
The main difference between buying and selling houses in England and Scotland is that in England, properties are often listed at the maximum price the seller can expect to receive, while in Scotland, properties are usually listed at a fixed price or “Offers in excess of £XX”. Another difference is that as soon as an offer is made on a Scottish property, it is taken off the market, meaning gazumping is rare.