How to buy a house in Scotland

Find out how buying a home in Scotland differs from the rest of the UK and the risks and advantages.

Key points

  • To buy a home in Scotland you'll need to have your funding in place before you make an offer 
  • This can be difficult to accommodate if you're also selling a home, but means chains are rare and the process often has more certainty
  • You'll also need to engage a solicitor at a far earlier stage, as they'll put your offer forward

Moving house can be a very stressful time but if you’re buying in Scotland, it can be a little easier.  

Scotland has a different legal system to the rest of the UK so the process is more strictly regulated and solicitors get involved at an earlier stage. 

The Scottish system is simpler, working to the advantage of both the buyer and the seller. 

How is buying a house in Scotland different? 

There are three main differences in buying a house in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK. These are speed of transaction, clarity of valuation and certainty of sale. 

You may find property prices advertised as 'offers over' in Scotland, which means that only offers higher than the advertised price will be considered by the seller.  

For properties situated in high-demand locations, you'll need to act fast as there may be a closing date for offers. This could be as early as two or three weeks after it's advertised. In this case, offers are submitted via blind bids to the seller's solicitors. 

The advertised price is usually 5-10% below the property valuation given in the Home Report.  

After the bids are submitted, the seller then chooses which offer they want to accept. The winner might not always be the highest bid - it may be the one which fits best with the seller's timescale.

If there's a lot of interest in the property, the final price may be much higher than the figure in the Home Report valuation. In areas where demand is lower, the property may sell for a lot less than the original valuation.

Once the bid has been accepted, the transaction is seen as binding but it's still possible for either side to pull out of the transaction, though this rarely happens.

The buyer and seller then negotiate on the finer details, such as the entry date and what items will remain in the property - this is known as 'concluding the missives'. The sale is legally binding when they have been concluded. Because of this, it's rare for a chain to collapse in Scotland and gazumping is unheard of.

In Scotland, virtually all properties are freehold, so when you buy a house it's yours in perpetuity. 

How long does it take? 

Property transactions generally complete in six to eight weeks from the date of the bid acceptance, but they have been known to complete in around four weeks if it is a straightforward transaction.  

Home Report 

In Scotland, all properties being sold on the open market must have a Home Report.  

This consists of a “single survey”, a home energy report and a property questionnaire, completed by the selling party. The single survey is carried out by a chartered surveyor and reports on the condition of the property and gives a valuation of the property.  

The Home Report valuation is normally used by mortgage companies when they consider lending on a property. 

Buying a house in Scotland 

When looking to buy a house in Scotland, it is a good idea to have a Mortgage Agreement in Principle first. This lets the buyer know what their budget is.  

It is also recommended to find a solicitor early in the process – your mortgage adviser will be able to recommend someone if you don’t already have one. 

Once you have found the house you want to buy, your solicitor will make your offer for you.  

Following the acceptance of your offer, you need to make a full mortgage application. If you have a Mortgage Agreement in Principle in place first, this process is a lot quicker and more straightforward.  

Your mortgage advisor will then liaise between the mortgage company and your solicitor to ensure that everything is progressing smoothly and any issues are addressed promptly.  

They'll also be able to advise you on what insurance and protection products would be recommended for your property and personal circumstances. 

By Catherine Evans