Country houses for sale

The 10 steps to buying a house in Scotland

English buyers are often full or apprehension when it comes to buying a house in Scotland, but there's really nothing to fear. Holly Kirkwood explains how it works.

Step 1 – Get a local solicitor

Engage a good Scottish solicitor before you do anything else. They will act for you in all matters relating to your sale.

Step 2 – Sell your house

The Scottish market doesn’t like chains. You can try to sell in England and buy in Scotland at the same time, but it’s tricky. If you’re in a chain, you must at least be able to put down a deposit and have a mortgage agreement (if required) before you offer, advises Michael Jones, partner at Knight Frank in Edinburgh.

Alastair Houlden from Rettie & Co agrees it can be tough, but maintains there are options: ‘For instance, some buyers offer a non-refundable deposit to guarantee exclusivity as they wait to exchange.’

Step 3 – Get to know the local agents

It’s worth getting cosy with them because a good relationship can pay off, as Emma Chalmers, partner at Galbraith, explains: ‘A seller may say to an agent “I don’t want this to go out to everybody” and you want them to think of you first.’

Step 4 – Arrange viewings

Most vendors show their own houses in the country, although in the city and for higher-value properties and estates, agents will conduct viewings.

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Step 5 – Read the Home Report

The Home Report contains a single survey (including a price valuation), an energy report and a property questionnaire. The valuation will usually determine the asking price, as the surveys can be basic. When it comes to higher-value properties, both lenders and buyers usually commission a more in-depth survey, points out Mr Jones.

Step 6 – Put in a ‘Note of Interest’

If you like a house, you can file a Note of Interest with the agent. This means they are bound to keep you informed of any developments, from price changes to offers made.

Step 7 – The closing date

If an agent has multiple Notes of Interest or offers on a property, they will move to a closing date. At this point, you need to have your ‘best and final offer’ filed by noon on that day.

Step 8 – Successful offers

It’s a common misconception that an accepted offer is legally-binding in Scotland, according to Malcolm Leslie, director at Strutt & Parker in Edinburgh. But it simply isn’t true. If your offer is successful, the vendor’s solicitor will send your solicitor a ‘qualified acceptance’. This leads to an exchange of formal letters, known as missives, hammering out the final terms.

During this process, either party can still pull out and it’s upon conclusion of these missives that the final contracts are signed.

Step 9 – Settlement

On the date of entry that’s agreed in the contract, you’ll pay the whole of the purchase price in exchange for the keys to the property. This is known as ‘settlement’.

Step 10 – Prepare for a nasty stamp duty bill

The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT, aka Scottish Stamp Duty) bands are different to England; buyers in Scotland pay more. For example, the bill for a £600,000 house comes to £33,350 – it’d be £20,000 in England.

‘The LBTT did not go down well at first [in 2015],’ according to Andrew Perratt, head of residential for Scotland at Savills, ‘but when you take into account the price differential between Scotland and the South-East, buyers are still getting a lot more for their money.

‘Flexible working arrangements allow many more people to live in an idyllic place with a great quality of life and keep the London salary – it’s the best of both worlds.’