How to Sell a House in Scotland
Find out how the process of selling your home in Scotland works, including the cost and timescales
- To sell a property in Scotland, you need to compile a Home Report before putting it up for sale
- Unlike in the rest of the UK, it’s the seller’s responsibility, rather than the buyer’s, to get a survey done on the property
- When the buyer’s and seller’s solicitors ‘conclude the missives’, you’re legally bound to sell your property to the buyer. Pulling out of the sale could leave you liable to pay compensation
Sellers take on more responsibility in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. But the process can be a lot quicker and there’s less chance of a sale falling through at the last minute.
Selling process in Scotland
Scotland has a separate legal system to the rest of the UK and the home-selling process is different and more strictly regulated.
It’s a legal requirement to commission a Home Report, which includes a survey, when you’re selling a home in Scotland. This report gives buyers detailed information on the home, including its condition, a valuation, its council tax band and any issues that have affected the property in the past.
It helps buyers gain a good picture of the property and any issues it may have that need addressing. With this knowledge, they can make a considered offer, and feel confident they’re not going to be hit with any nasty surprises later down the line.
Some homes in Scotland are put on the market at a fixed price but in a lot of cases, they’re advertised as ‘offers over’ or ‘offers around’ and, when there’s a lot of interest in a property, sealed bids are submitted to the seller's solicitors for consideration after a closing date set by the seller.
When you accept an offer on a property, you take it off the market (this is why gazumping is hardly ever seen in Scotland). Your solicitor and the buyer’s solicitor will then exchange a series of formal letters called ‘missives’ to agree terms and finer details, such as entry date. And when these missives are concluded, you’ve entered into a legally binding contract. If anyone pulls out of the sale at this stage, they could face paying out compensation.
What are the steps of selling a house in Scotland?
1. Get your property valued
This will give you a good idea about how much you could achieve for your home.
2. Organise a Home Report
It’s a legal requirement in Scotland that all sellers pay for and provide a Home Report to give buyers as much information about the property as possible.
The Home Report consists of a single survey by a chartered surveyor that reports on the condition of the property and a valuation, as well as a report that gives the property’s energy efficiency rating.
And finally, a property questionnaire filled in by the seller, this will provide valuable information such as the home’s council tax band and whether the property has been affected by issues like flooding, dry rot or damp in the past.
3. Decide on how to sell it
You can appoint an estate agent or a solicitor estate agent to sell and market your property. You can sell at a fixed price or alternatively, it could be ‘offers over’ or ‘offers around’. Once it’s advertised for sale, viewings can begin.
4. Offers and closing date
Prospective buyers will request the property’s Home Report. If you don’t provide it within nine days, you could be fined up to £500 by your local council trading standards service.
Your solicitor will handle ‘notes of interest’ in your property. A note of interest is a letter sent by a prospective buyer’s solicitor letting you know their client may be interested in purchasing your property. If you receive more than one note of interest, you can set a closing date by which all written offers need to be received.
5. Considering offers
When the closing date has arrived, you can examine all the offers made and decide if you want to accept any of them. You’ll need to take into account a few things, such as the price offered (you don’t have to sell to the buyer who’s offered the most money), the financial position of the buyer, when they want to move in and if that fits with your own timescales, as well as any other conditions they may have stipulated.
6. Accepting an offer and missives
If you decide to accept an offer, your solicitor will send out a ‘qualified acceptance’ letter which will detail any conditions you want met before proceeding further. Your solicitor and the buyer’s solicitor will then send each other a series of missives to negotiate terms and conditions.
When both parties are happy with the conditions, a concluding missive will be written. This acts as a legally binding contract, which means that, at this stage, you and the buyer are obligated to go through with the sale and purchase.
Your solicitor will then begin the conveyancing - the legal process that transfers ownership of the property from you to the buyer.
They'll also agree to the disposition, which is the document drafted by the buyer’s solicitor transferring the title of the property from you to them.
You'll then be asked to sign the disposition and arrange to hand over the keys.
Finally, if you’ve got any outstanding loans on the property you’re selling, your solicitor will see these are paid off with the money you receive from the sale.
How does the process differ compared to the rest of the UK?
There are a few ways in which the house-selling process in Scotland differs. For example:
Engaging an estate agent or solicitor
In the rest of the UK, sellers use an estate agent to market their property then later down the line engage a solicitor to do the conveyancing once they’ve accepted an offer.
In Scotland, although there are estate agents, it’s quite common to use the services of a solicitor estate agent. This person is responsible for marketing the property, taking offers on it, negotiating terms and conditions of the offer, as well as conducting the legal process of conveyancing on the property.
Setting a price
When advertising their property, sellers in the rest of the UK set a price which tends to be the maximum they expect to achieve, and offers are made to the seller’s estate agent.
In Scotland, the price is either fixed or is set at a minimum price that invites ‘offers over’. If there’s a lot of interest, then the seller sets a closing date for sealed bids to arrive. These bids are made to the seller’s solicitor and are opened on the closing date. The seller can choose either the highest price or an offer which fits in with their requirements - such as the moving date the buyer has asked for or if they’re in a financial position to proceed quickly.
This is a legal requirement in Scotland and is paid for by the seller. It includes a property survey, valuation and energy efficiency report, plus other relevant information that the prospective buyer can use to determine if they’re interested in making an offer.
In the rest of the UK, sellers don’t have to provide as much detailed information on their property when they put it up for sale and it’s certainly not their responsibility to order a survey. Buyers can choose to pay for their own detailed survey on a property, but only after they’ve made an offer on it. If the survey reveals problems, then buyers may decide to negotiate on price or completely pull out.
Exchanging contracts and missives
A sale is legally binding in the rest of the UK when the exchange of contracts takes place. This happens very close to the sale completion, usually just a week or two before the moving date. Until the exchange of contracts, the seller or buyer can pull out of the sale without penalty, which could be late in the selling process and can cause a whole chain to collapse.
In Scotland, the sale becomes legally binding sooner in the process. This is when an offer has been made and the solicitors have concluded the missives. This can happen quite quickly from the point the offer has been made.
What are the costs of selling a house in Scotland?
The average cost of selling a home in Scotland amounts to £5,938 based on the average house price of £177,166, according to Compare My Move.
This includes estate agent commission at 1.5% of the selling price, conveyancing costs of £1,500, the cost of a Home Report (£600) and removal company fees at £1,181.
Do you need a solicitor to sell a house in Scotland?
Yes, solicitors often take care of the entire selling process in Scotland, from marketing the property to accepting or rejecting offers, writing the missives and the legal process of conveyancing.
Do you need to pay tax?
Normally, you won’t have to pay tax if the property you’re selling is your only or your main home.
Do you need a Home Report to sell in Scotland?
In most cases it’s a legal requirement to commission a Home Report to provide prospective buyers with as much information as possible about the condition and history of your home.
There are a few circumstances when a Home Report isn’t needed though. For instance, when the property is a brand-new home or a recently completed new build.