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How to sell a house in Scotland

Discover the process for selling a home in Scotland, along with the risks and advantages.

Key points

  • Get a Home Report on your property before you put it up for sale
  • Shop around for an estate agent and/or solicitor and ask them to give you an estimated quote upfront for their services
  • Make sure you’re 100% happy with the terms of the sale before instructing your solicitor to ‘conclude the missives’, otherwise you could be liable to pay the prospective buyer compensation

Did you know that Scotland also has its own distinct legal system?  

This means that if you’re planning on selling a property north of the border, there are a few things you need to be aware of. 

Getting a Home Report 

First up, before you put your property on the market, you need to arrange a Home Report. 

This is a legal requirement in Scotland and is basically a thorough survey carried out on your property, looking at things like its structural soundness, energy efficiency rating, council tax band, and providing key details of the property’s history.  

“The cost of a Home Report can range from £400-£600 in most cases, so is relatively expensive,” says Ross Jones, partner at Jones Whyte Law in Glasgow. Shop around for the best deal or ask your solicitor or estate agent to help you. 

Estate agents and solicitors 

In Scotland, unlike the rest of the UK, it’s usual to employ both an estate agent and a solicitor (although many firms of solicitors in Scotland also act as estate agents and can provide the full service).  

The estate agent will handle the valuation and marketing of your property and field any enquiries, while the solicitor will handle the conveyancing – the legal paperwork and the transfer of the property from you to the new buyer. 

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You’ll usually pay the estate agent a small percentage of the selling price of your property – roughly between 0.5% and 1.5%. 

Ask for a written estimate in advance, taking into account the commission, plus advertising costs and VAT.  

Your solicitor will usually charge for their services on a fixed fee basis, with most reserving the right to increase the fee should something unforeseen happen. Again, it’s worth shopping around and asking for any estimated quotes upfront. 

“What you pay will depend on the fee you agree with both parties at the outset of the transaction,” says Jones. “The advent of online agents such as Purple Bricks and the like has meant estate agency fees have come down in recent years.” 

Valuing your property 

There are two ways you can price your property: asking for ‘offers over…’ or for a ‘fixed price’. 

‘Offers over…’ means that you ideally want more than the price you're asking for, whereas fixed price means the first offer of that amount should secure the sale. 

Discuss this with your estate agent as they’ll be able to give you tips and will have an understanding of the property market in your area. 

If two or more buyers are interested in your property, then you would usually set a ‘closing date’ for all offers. You can then choose the offer you want to accept on that date. Note: this doesn’t have to be the highest offer, particularly if the potential buyer’s terms aren’t to your liking. It’s your choice what offer you accept. 

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The missives 

Once you’ve agreed on a buyer, this is where solicitors come in.  

“The conveyancing process in Scotland differs a lot from the process south of the border,” explains Jones. “A buyer in England will often have their offer ‘subject to contract’, meaning the terms of the offer will not be binding on either the buyer or the seller until the contracts are signed by each party and ‘exchanged’.  

“In Scotland, the purchase contract will be constituted by formal letters between the parties’ respective solicitors, these collectively being known as ‘the missives’. In theory, the process of getting to the point of a binding purchase contract in Scotland should be quicker, however with mortgages taking longer to obtain, in reality this often isn’t the case.” 

Unlike in England, where you’re usually part of a property chain, which could collapse at any time – resulting in the buyer pulling out and delaying the whole process – in Scotland, your prospective buyer’s solicitor will be confident that your buyer already has the money in place to go ahead with the deal.  

This means property sales in Scotland rarely fall through. 

Finalising the sale 

Buyer in place and legal negotiations finalised, the final stage of the sale is agreeing the contract (‘concluding the missives’).  

At this stage, the contract between you and the buyer is legally binding. So, should you change your mind, you would be forced to pay the buyer compensation.  

Once the missives are concluded, your solicitor will transfer the title (ownership) of the property from you to the buyer.  

They'll also agree 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 a date 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.  

By Melissa Stewart