The Scottish system for buying property differs significantly from elsewhere in the UK, with its own distinct nuances, procedures and terminology. So whether you're planning to purchase a Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh or a medieval castle in the Highlands, here's how it's done.
Pricing: Offers Over
Most properties in Scotland are marketed at ‘offers over’ a certain amount. This generally means that the seller is hoping to secure a sale price above the amount quoted.
Note of Interest
If you are interested in purchasing a particular property, it is important that you engage a solicitor and ask that they formally note your interest with the selling agent. It does not oblige you to buy, it simply indicates that you are interested in the property and wish to be kept informed of developments, such as when an offer must be made or when a Closing Date is set. Your solicitor may be informed of the number of Notes of Interest on a property, but the level of any offers will not be disclosed. If you have not already done so, you should appoint a solicitor and agree a fee – they will need to carry out anti-money laundering checks before they can submit an offer on your behalf.
It is not unusual for a closing date to be set for the submission of offers. Purchasers are invited to submit written offers through their solicitor to the seller’s agent by a fixed time on a certain date. The offers will then be considered by the seller. The seller is not obliged to accept the highest or, indeed, any offer at a closing date. Normally, you will hear the result of your offer on the day of the closing date. The seller is expected to accept or decline the offers as submitted and cannot negotiate on price after the closing date.
Home Report and or Survey
Despite the availability of a Home Report which include a Single Survey, Mortgage Valuation and Energy Performance Certificate, you may still wish to have an independent report on the property you are considering buying (your mortgage lender may require an independent report). This can be a simple mortgage valuation report, a more detailed survey report or a lengthy building survey.
Making an Offer
In Scotland, a formal offer for property must be submitted by a solicitor. A verbal agreement is never binding and an informal offer would probably be ineffectual. Once you have instructed your solicitor to make an offer on a property, he or she will prepare a formal offer which will include the price, the date of entry, details of any extra items to be included in the sale, and the standard legal terms to complete the conveyancing and to take legal title to the property. This offer may be ‘conditional’ on certain requirements on your part. A time limit for acceptance is normally included.
The offer will also make provision for your solicitor to have a period of time within which to check all the legal details, such as studying the title deeds for any restrictions on use or obligations, ascertaining that any previous alterations and/or additions have been properly certified, whether there are any planning applications that may affect the property, and so on.
Acceptance and Missives
If your offer is verbally accepted, the seller’s solicitor will send your solicitor a formal acceptance, which may include ‘qualifications’ in response to any conditions in your offer. The acceptance is therefore referred to as a ‘qualified acceptance’. Your solicitor will discuss any such qualifications with you and negotiate on your behalf. The offer, acceptance and any subsequent letters, which are intended to be part of a legal contract, are known as ‘missives’.
When the final acceptance is issued, missives are said to be ‘concluded’. It is at this stage that you and the seller enter into a legally binding contract. Your solicitor will advise you when the missives are actually concluded.
In the case of more expensive properties, a deposit, usually 10 per cent of the purchase price, may be required as an indication of your good intent. It is generally payable within 14 days of the contract being concluded and held on joint account. It may or may not be refundable in the event of the sale not proceeding. Your solicitor will advise you.
Settlement takes place on the date of entry specified in the contract. The purchase price is paid to the seller’s solicitor in exchange for the disposition (the legal document that transfers ownership from seller to purchaser), title deeds, other documentation and the keys to the property. It is very important that your funding is fully in place as otherwise interest on the purchase price will become payable to the sellers until they receive full payment. Prior to the settlement date your solicitor will prepare a State for Settlement, detailing the purchase price and outlays, including Land and Buildings Transaction Tax required at settlement.
Immediately on taking entry you should check that the property is in good order, that any specified fixtures and fittings and any extras, such as carpets and curtains, which were included in the sale, are present and that equipment, such as central heating, is fully functioning. If there are any discrepancies, you should advise your solicitor immediately.
Disposition and Registration
Your solicitor will arrange for Land and Buildings Transactions Tax to be paid and obtain a certificate confirming that this has been paid which is then sent with the disposition for registration in the Land Register. Once the disposition and all relevant documents have been registered, they will be sent to your mortgage provider, if applicable, or to your solicitor for safe keeping.