Buying a house in Scotland

Scottish & Northern Irish property systems

Buying a house in Scotland

By Joe Elvin

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Buying a house in Scotland

Learn how the home-buying process works in Scotland, including how to make an offer and how much tax you'll pay on a Scottish property purchase.

Before making an offer, ask the selling agent (or, if there's no agent, the seller themselves) for a copy of the home report. This will contain a survey, an energy report and a property questionnaire and must be commissioned by anyone putting their property on the market, with a few exceptions.

Properties that don't require a home report include newly built homes, buildings that have recently been converted into a residential property and Right to Buy homes.

You may also want to consider getting a more detailed building survey done if the property is older or of a non-standard construction. In Scotland, it's usual for the buyer to find out as much as possible about the property beforehand so they're then in a position to be able to make an 'unconditional' offer.

  • Before you make an offer on a property, we'd recommend that you speak to a mortgage adviser to find out how much you're likely to be able to borrow based on your personal circumstances. Call Which? Mortgage Advisers for independent, no-obligation advice on 0808 252 7987.

Making an offer on a Scottish property

You may want to consider offering less than the asking price if the property is advertised at a fixed price and needs a lot of work, or has been on the market for a long time.

If it is advertised as 'offers over' a certain amount (which is common practice in Scotland), a closing date will be set and interested parties will need to submit sealed bids before that date. The seller will then choose the offer they want to accept. You should decide how much to offer based on the condition of the property, the housing market at the time and what you can afford to pay. 

Your solicitor will make an offer on your behalf and, if it's accepted, they will start finalising the sale. 

Gazumping - when another buyer makes a higher offer after yours has been accepted - isn’t illegal in Scotland but it is rare, because properties are generally withdrawn from the market once contract negotiations are underway. 

Also, solicitors in Scotland - unlike estate agents - have strict guidelines restricting them from continuing to represent a seller if they later decide to go with a different buyer, unless the original offer has fallen through. Vendors are unlikely to fork out for the associated legal costs of instructing a new firm.

Once all the terms have been agreed, the purchase becomes a binding contract you can't pull out of. Agreeing the contract is known as 'concluding the missives'. 

No money is paid at this stage unless it’s a new-build property, in which case a deposit may be required. On the date of entry that’s agreed in the contract, you pay the whole of the purchase price in exchange for the keys to the property and the 'disposition' document transferring ownership to you. This is known as 'completion' of the purchase.

  • We know that it can be difficult to know where to start when looking for a solicitor. That's why we've teamed up with a national law firm that we believe offers a conveyancing service that you can trust. Find out about Which? Conveyancing.

Land and Buildings Transaction Tax

Land and Buildings Transaction Tax is the Scottish equivalent of stamp duty.

You'll have to pay this tax when buying a property worth £145,000 or more. Just like stamp duty, this tax is tiered, so you'll pay different rates on different portions of the property value.

The rates are detailed in the table below:

Land and Buildings Transaction Tax rates
Purchase price of property % paid on the part of the property price within each tax band
£0-£145,000 0%
£145,001-£250,000 2%
£250,001-£325,000 5%
£325,001-£750,000 10%
£750,000+ 12%

Find out more: land and buildings transaction tax - check out our full guide

Joint ownership of a Scottish property

If you want to buy a home with someone else, speak to your solicitor about which type of ownership is best for you. There are two types: joint ownership and common property.

Joint ownership

If you've bought a house under joint ownership and one of you dies, your share passes automatically to the other person without any conveyancing expense.

Joint owners can sell or give away their share during their lifetime, but they can’t give it away in a will.

Common property

If a home is owned as 'common property', the owners can sell or give away their share during their lifetime or in a will. 

This can cause problems, especially when couples split up. Your solicitor should explain all the consequences of these clauses before you decide to use one.

  • Last updated: July 2016
  • Updated by: Stephen Maunder