Conveyancing is the legal side of a property transaction that officially transfers ownership of a house from one person to another.
The house buying process in Scotland is slightly different to that in England and Wales. One element that differs from the rest of the UK is the conveyancing process in Scotland.
We have put together this helpful guide to conveyancing in Scotland to help you understand these differences. If you’re planning on buying or selling a house in Scotland, it is important that you understand the entire conveyancing process in Scotland.
In this guide to the Scottish house buying process, we’ll outline everything you need to know about conveyancing in Scotland. From how long it takes, solicitors in Scotland, conveyancing fees in Scotland, stamp duty in Scotland and much more.
So, go ahead and start learning about the process of selling and buying a house in Scotland.
There are a number of significant differences between the conveyancing process in Scotland and that in the rest of the UK.
Below, we outline some of the main differences when it comes to conveyancing in Scotland:
Most homes in Scotland are sold through a ‘blind bidding’ system. This means the seller will ask for offers over or around a minimum price.
Interested buyers give sealed bids and suggest an expected time-frame for moving in. The highest bidder will win and will be informed on the same day.
Gazumping is where someone sneaks in with a higher offer for a property when the seller has already accepted yours. While this is not illegal in Scotland, it is very unlikely to happen because as soon as an offer’s accepted on a house, it’s taken off the market.
In Scotland, a formal offer is presented by a solicitor, not an estate agent. The seller’s solicitor will then write a qualified acceptance letter. So, once your offer has been accepted, you can feel much more secure that the home will be yours than in other parts of the UK.
In the rest of the UK, a seller usually commissions a property survey after listing their home and receiving an offer. By contrast, if you’re selling a home in Scotland, you’ll need to get a Home Report done before listing it.
The only upfront information required in England and Wales is an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
Another difference is that the stage of exchanging contracts in England and Wales is known as ‘missives’ in Scotland. Missives are a series of letters between the buyers’ and sellers’ solicitors.
When it comes to selling a house in Scotland, solicitors play a more prominent role than in the rest of the UK. Many solicitors in Scotland are also estate agents and are responsible for:
Solicitors firms which are also estate agents in Scotland are usually members of Solicitors and Property Centres. While estate agents do operate in Scotland, they have a much lesser share of the market.
You’ll also need a solicitor if you’re buying a house in Scotland. It’s worth getting a solicitor as early as possible in Scotland as most work on a fixed-fee basis. This means that the timing won’t affect the conveyancing fees in Scotland.
When buying a house in Scotland, solicitors will help with much of the conveyancing process, including:
We discuss these differences in more detail below.
Solicitors in Scotland play a more significant role in the conveyancing process than in the rest of the UK. Many conveyancing solicitor firms in Scotland are also estate agent firms, allowing them to be responsible for a larger portion of selling or buying a house.
These solicitor estate agents tend to be members of Solicitors and Property Centres, and are bound by the Law Society of Scotland’s guidelines. Although traditional estate agents do operate in Scotland, they have a much lesser share of the market compared with those in England and Wales.
The Law Society of Scotland’s guidelines are designed to minimise the risk of gazumping. This means that, unlike in the rest of the UK, once a conveyancer accepts an offer on behalf of the seller, they’re not allowed to accept a subsequent offer from another buyer.
If another buyer does make an offer and the seller wants to accept it, the seller’s solicitor must withdraw from acting on their behalf. The seller will then need to find a different solicitor to complete the sale. This will likely increase both the time and cost of selling a house in Scotland.
So, how much are conveyancing fees in Scotland?
The cost of conveyancing in Scotland largely depends on the size and value of the property in question. Like in England and Wales, average conveyancing fees for buying a house are £1,040, while those for selling a house are £1,000.
However, not only will you need to pay the solicitor’s legal fee, but you’ll need to pay conveyancing disbursements too. These are fees your conveyancing solicitor will pay on your behalf which you will need to reimburse them for.
The table below shows the average conveyancing fees in Scotland you can expect to pay depending on the price of the property:
Although there is no set time scale when it comes to conveyancing, no matter where you are, on average, the conveyancing process in Scotland is usually quicker than in the rest of the UK.
While it could take between 8-12 weeks in England in Wales, conveyancing in Scotland could take just 4-8 weeks.
This obviously depends on a number of factors, but the fact that sellers typically deliver a Home Report, EPC and property questionnaire before listing their property, tends to speed up the conveyancing process in Scotland.
As in the rest of the UK, you can do the conveyancing process yourself in Scotland. However, it is rarely advised as conveyancing is a complex process that is usually best done by a professional and experienced conveyancing solicitor.
There is a lot more to the conveyancing process in Scotland than just completing and sending forms. There are also searches and other formal enquiries to be carried out before a property transaction can take place safely.
If these aren’t completed properly, or if they’re not done at all, major problems could arise and the entire conveyancing process could be severely delayed.
Scotland have their very own version of stamp duty, and this is called Land Building and Transaction Tax (LBTT). LBTT replaced Stamp Duty Land Tax in April 2015 and is administered by Revenue Scotland.
Like with Stamp Duty and the Land Transaction Tax in Wales, LBTT must be paid on both residential and commercial land and building transactions for properties exceeding a certain price.
The Tax is payable at different rates on each portion of the purchase price within specified tax bands. Any properties in Scotland up to £145,000 will not incur LBTT. There is also special relief for first time buyers, whereby the rate at which they start paying LBTT is increased to £175,000.
The Scottish Budget 2021-22 confirmed the below rates and bands for residential LBTT:
Missives in Scotland are a series of letters exchanged between both parties’ solicitors in order to negotiate and agree on the final terms of the sale. This is the equivalent of the exchange of contracts in England and Wales.
Within these letters, both the buyer and seller agree to various terms and conditions, and the seller will formally accept the buyer’s offer.
These missives will continue to be passed between parties until a qualified acceptance has been reached, referred to as “the conclusion of missives”.
You should note that if you decide to pull out of a sale in Scotland, you must do so before the conclusion of missives. Once missives have been concluded, neither the buyer nor the seller can pull out of the property transaction.
If you’re planning on selling or buying a house in Scotland, it is important that you fully understand the conveyancing process.
While there are some similarities between the conveyancing process in Scotland and that in the rest of the UK, there are also many differences that should be noted.
In this guide to conveyancing in Scotland, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about the Scottish house buying process. From Land Building and Transaction Tax to missives and solicitors.