Conveyancing for home movers

Moving home is exciting but it can be stressful, too, especially when you’re selling your house and buying a new one at the same time. Our step-by-step guide is here to help.

The conveyancing stage of moving home is complex and, at times, frustrating and confusing. Using an experienced solicitor who communicates clearly with you throughout the process is crucial, and knowing what to expect can help make things less stressful.

With the help of industry experts and experienced home buyers, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about conveyancing in this definitive, practical guide.

Conveyancing explained

The Scottish conveyancing process is different from the system in England and Wales. When you're moving home in Scotland, the key stages of conveyancing are:

  • Finding a solicitor - you’ll need to choose a property solicitor to carry out the legal work on your sale and purchase.
  • Making and accepting an offer - once you've found a property you like, your solicitor will help you to put together your offer, including key terms of the sale such as how much you're prepared to pay and when you want to move in. If you've had more than one offer on your current property, they'll also help you decide which one to accept.
  • Negotiating the contract - your solicitor will work with your buyer and seller's solicitors to agree the conditions of the sale and purchase and carry out the necessary checks before creating a binding contract. 
  • Settlement - all funds and keys change hands and you'll be able to move into your new home.

Keep reading to find out more about what happens at each stage, and the costs involved.

Find a solicitor

Many solicitors in Scotland also act as estate agents, and will be able to market your property as well as carrying out the legal work on your sale.

Whether you use a solicitor to sell your property or not, you'll still need one to help you put together an offer once you've found a property you like, so it's a good idea to appoint someone in plenty of time. 

Before choosing a solicitor, here are some key things to consider:

  1. How much should I pay for a good solicitor?

    When you’re selling one property and buying another, conveyancing typically costs between £800 and £3,000. However, fees can vary depending on a number of factors including the firm you choose, the type and price of property you’re selling and where it’s situated.

    It’s important to remember that cheapest is not always best: more experienced practitioners with good reputations will often cost a bit more. Moving home is likely to be one of the biggest financial transactions you ever make, so paying a little extra for a decent, reputable solicitor is generally money well spent.

    You can find solicitors advertising fees as low as £700 for home moving, but be wary as they will often carry hidden extra charges which mean you could end up paying more in the long run. Look for one who offers a fixed, upfront fee to avoid costs mounting unexpectedly throughout the process.

    For extra security, choose a firm offering a ‘no move no fee’ arrangement, which means you won’t pay your conveyancing fees if the sale falls through. It's important to be aware, though, that any searches that have been carried out or other disbursements may still have to be paid for.

  2. Do I need a local solicitor?

    There is a popular belief that choosing a local solicitor will make it quicker and easier to iron out problems and hand over documents, but it’s much more important to opt for someone who’s efficient, communicative, and has the capacity to deal with your move. If you use a solicitor based in a different area, documents can be posted or, sometimes, scanned and emailed.

  3. Do I want a dedicated case handler?


    Having a consistent point of contact throughout your move can be a godsend when it comes to conveyancing. You won’t have to spend time explaining things multiple times to different people, and if you do have a query, you’ll know exactly who to speak to.

    If this is important to you, look for a firm that promises a dedicated case handler to deal with your case from start to finish.

Making and accepting an offer

Once you've found a property you like, your solicitor will help you to put together an offer. This will include a proposed price, as well as important details such as the proposed date of entry - when you want to move in - and other details such as fixtures and fittings included in the sale.

At the same time, your solicitor will be able to help you review and select from any offers you receive on your own property, advising on which one best meets your needs.

Negotiating the sale

In Scotland the contract is created by the exchange of ‘missives’ – letters between your solicitor and your buyer and seller’s solicitors.

The missives will include all the important details about the sale and the purchase including the price agreed on each property, the dates of entry and other terms and conditions.

If you don't want to consider temporary accommodation, and want to avoid paying two mortgages at once, it's a good idea to try to line up the dates of entry on both your sale and your purchase.

To make your house move formal, your solicitor will:

  • Check the legal ownership of the property you’re buying and carry out various checks to make sure everything is in order.
  • Explain any ‘Title Burdens’. These are conditions in the Title Deed of the property you’re buying that you’ll have to abide by as the new owner.
  • Look for any planned developments that could affect the property you’re buying and make sure that any building work carried out had the right approvals.
  • Draw up a deed to transfer ownership of the property that you are buying.
  • Draw up a standard security.

At the same time, your buyer’s solicitor will be carrying out relevant checks on your property.

A binding contract is created at the ‘conclusion of missives’. In Scotland, unlike in England and Wales, you do not have to personally sign a contract as your solicitor signs it on your behalf.

However, you will have to sign a couple of other important documents including a deed that transfers ownership to the buyer and – if you're taking out a mortgage on your new property – the standard security. This is a legal document that gives your lender the right to repossess your new property if you fail to make your payments. 

Settlement

On the date of entry, your solicitor will exchange the final paperwork with both your buyer and seller’s solicitors.

Once they’ve received funds from your buyer, your solicitor will transfer the funds for your new home as well as any outstanding money owed to people such as your estate agent or mortgage lender.

When all of the final checks and confirmations have been made, you’ll need to hand over your house keys to your estate agent or solicitor to give to your buyer, and will be able to collect the keys to your new home.

Your solicitor will pay any Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) that is due on your new home and will register the change of ownership with the Registers of Scotland. Title deeds to your new home will go to the mortgage lender and the buyer will get a copy.

Conveyancing fees

Below is a rough guide to the conveyancing fees you'll face when moving home. You should take these into account when planning your budget.

Please note that the fees below are a guide only and there may be additional charges depending on your situation. Your solicitor will be able to give you a more comprehensive breakdown of your charges. 

Advance notice

£20

Your solicitor will have to register an advance notice on both your sale and purchase with Registers of Scotland. This protects your rights to the property you're buying, and your buyer's rights to your current property. If you are taking out a mortgage, it also protects your lender's rights.

Conveyancing fees

£500-£2,500

These are the fees you’ll pay your solicitor for carrying out the legal work involved in your property transaction. Charges vary, and cheapest is not always best.

Lands and Buildings Transaction Tax

£0+

Lands and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) is a tiered Scottish government tax payable on properties costing more than £145,000 (or for second properties and buy-to-let properties, £40,000). The rate you pay is different for each portion of the property's sale price – so the amount you pay depends on the price of the property. Please note that a higher LBTT rate applies for some second homes and buy-to-let properties.

Up to £145,000
0%
£145,000 - £250,000
2%
£250,001 - £325,000
5%
£325,001 - £750,000
10%
£750,001 +
12%

For example, if you buy a property that costs £300,000, then you will pay £4,600 in LBTT. That works out as no LBTT on the first £145,000, then 2% or £2100 on the amount between £145,001 and £250,000 and 5% or £2,500 for the portion above £250,000.

Registration fees

£60-£7,500

These are fees paid to Registers of Scotland for registering your deeds in the Land Register. The amount you'll pay depends on the sale price agreed for your existing property. 

Telegraphic-transfer fee

£25-£50

Paid on the date of entry, this is the fee charged to you by your mortgage lender for sending the mortgage funds to your seller. You can either pay it upfront at the time of completion or add it to the mortgage and pay it off month by month. By adding it to the mortgage you’ll end up paying more, as interest will be charged.

Searches

£100-£200

Your solicitor will carry out records searches on the property and local area to find out whether there are any issues, and make checks on the you, your buyer and the seller of the property you're buying.

Dos and don'ts

Do:

  • Be clear about costs from the start - use our conveyancing fees guide to help you.

  • Answer enquiries as promptly as possible - speedy answers make for a speedy sale.

  • Try to line up the date of entry on your sale and purchase - get it wrong and you might need a bridging loan or have to put belongings in storage.

Don't:

  • Think there's no contract because you haven't signed anything - in Scotland, conclusion of missives by your conveyancer and the buyer's conveyancer creates a binding contract.

  • Just choose the cheapest option - paying a little extra for an experienced conveyancer is money well spent.

Related FAQs View all FAQS >

Conveyancing is the legal process you have to go through if you’re buying, selling, remortgaging or extending a lease.

Typically, a sale or purchase in England or Wales will take around 8-12 weeks from the moment an offer is accepted to the point of completion.

However, the conveyancing process varies from case to case and it can take longer depending on the complexity of the transaction, the number of people in the chain (if applicable), and how quickly you can respond to queries from your conveyancer.

Typically, a sale and/or purchase in Scotland will take around 4-8 weeks from the moment an offer is accepted to the point of completion.

However, the conveyancing process varies from case to case and it can take longer depending on the complexity of the transaction, the number of people in the chain (if applicable), and how quickly you can respond to queries from your solicitor.

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  • Missives

    In Scotland, missives are the formal letters exchanged between the conveyancers representing the buyer and the seller dealing with contract details and conditions of sale.

  • Conveyancer

    A conveyancer is a legal professional who specialises in property law and can carry out the legal side of buying or selling a property, remortgaging or extending a lease.

  • Land and buildings transaction tax

    Lands and buildings transaction tax – or LBTT – is a tiered Scottish government tax paid on the purchase of properties in Scotland costing over £145,000. Use our cost calculator to find out exactly how much LBTT you'll have to pay. Please note that a higher rate of tax applies for second homes and buy-to-let properties costing over £40,000.

  • Registers of Scotland

    The Registers of Scotland is the government body responsible for compiling and keeping records relating to land and property in Scotland.

  • Searches

    Searches are formal legal enquiries submitted by a conveyancer to local councils, the Environment Agency, and coal or water authorities. They provide important information that could affect a property's value.

    They will show, for example, whether or not the road serving a property is a publicly adopted highway, whether there are any mineshafts close by, and whether the property is subject to any planning enforcement notices.

  • Title burdens

    In Scotland, title burdens are requirements that must be met by the owner of the property.

    Burdens can include repair and maintenance responsibilities, access rights to and from the property, restrictions on any alterations you can make to the property, and other restrictions such as whether you’re allowed to keep certain pets on the property.

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