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A Guide to Conveyancing in Scotland

Adele MacGregor

Written by

13th Aug 2021 (Last updated on 24th Sep 2021) 7 minute read

When it comes to buying and selling a property in Scotland, there are some elements that will differ from the process across the rest of the UK. One of those elements is the conveyancing process.

Conveyancing is the legal aspect of a property transaction to officially change ownership from one person to another and is carried out by a conveyancing solicitor or chartered conveyancer.

Compare My Move work with experts in both property and law to bring you the most up to date and accurate information on conveyancing and the property market. From Land Building and Transaction Tax to missives and home reports, we look at the conveyancing process in Scotland and help you navigate the house buying process.

This article will cover the following:
  1. How is Conveyancing Different in Scotland?
  2. What is a Solicitor/Estate Agent?
  3. What is a Note of Interest?
  4. What is a Home Report?
  5. What Are Missives?
  6. How Long Does Conveyancing Take in Scotland?
  7. How Much are Conveyancing Fees in Scotland?
  8. What is Land Buildings and Transaction Tax?
  9. Learn More About Conveyancing

How is Conveyancing Different in Scotland?

In many areas of Scotland, estate agents will handle the conveyancing process. As a result, conveyancers are much more involved in the selling process than in the rest of the UK.

Another difference is unlike England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is the seller’s legal responsibility to provide the Home Report, rather than the buyer organising one.

Additionally, the stage of exchanging contracts in the rest of the UK is known as “missives” in Scotland. Rather than exchanging contracts, missives are a series of letters between the relevant parties’ solicitors.

Other differences include needing to provide a “Note of Interest ''. This is where a buyer must inform their solicitor to note their interest in the property with the selling agent. Also, Stamp Duty Land Tax, payable in England and Northern Ireland, has been replaced with Land Buildings and Transaction Tax in Scotland.

Below we look into these various aspects in more detail and what they mean for your property purchase and conveyancing process in Scotland.

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What is a Solicitor/Estate Agent?

In Scotland, many conveyancing solicitor firms are also estate agent firms. They will be responsible for marketing your home, managing initial transactions and negotiating with potential buyers, as well as managing the legal aspect of the sale and arranging searches.

These solicitor estate agents are usually members of Solicitors and Property Centres and are bound by the Law Society of Scotland’s guidelines. More traditional estate agents do operate across Scotland but, unlike in the rest of the UK, they have a lesser share of the market.

The Law Society of Scotland’s guidelines is designed to reduce the risk of gazumping. Once a conveyancer has accepted an offer on the property on behalf of the seller, they are not allowed to accept a subsequent offer from someone else.

If another offer does come in 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 another conveyancing solicitor to complete the sale. This adds to the time it takes to buy or sell a house and can potentially add to the cost of selling the home.

What is a Note of Interest?

Once you have found a property to purchase in Scotland, you will need to enlist a solicitor who can formally note your interest with the selling agent. This does not commit you to the purchase but it will mean you will be updated on developments such as when an offer needs to be made.

You will also be made aware of the closing date, which is when the seller stops accepting offers on the home. The seller will then decide which offer to accept.

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What is a Home Report?

When you find a property you are looking for in Scotland, the seller of the property is required to produce a home report. A Home Report is a legal requirement and anyone who is marketing a property in Scotland will need to provide a Home Report to any potential buyers.

This document informs buyers about crucial aspects of the house and includes a property questionnaire and an energy report. The Property Questionnaire covers 16 different categories, designed to give the buyer more information about the home such as the council tax band for the home.

The Energy Report provides information on the home's energy efficiency in the form of an Energy Performance Certificate. This tells the buyer about energy use and an estimated average cost for heating, lighting and hot water in the home.

The Energy Report also rates the house's environmental impact in terms of carbon dioxide emissions and provides contact details for advice on how to make your home more energy-efficient and save on your fuel costs.

Despite the fact that the Home Report is available to potential buyers, you can also arrange your own individual survey if you wish. Keep in mind that this will add to the cost of buying a house.

What Are Missives?

Missives are a series of letters exchanged between the buyer’s and seller’s 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, the parties involved agree to various terms and conditions, and the seller will formally accept the buyer’s offer.

These letters will go between parties until a qualified acceptance has been reached, known as “the conclusion of missives”. Be aware that if you are pulling 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 transaction.

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How Long Does Conveyancing Take in Scotland?

Although there is no exact time scale when it comes to conveyancing, on average, the conveyancing process in Scotland is considered to be quicker than in the rest of the UK.

According to Huuti Money, it may take between four and eight weeks to buy a house in Scotland, in contrast to the eight to twelve weeks it takes on average in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Be aware that some transactions can take longer than others depending on the circumstances.

How Much are Conveyancing Fees in Scotland?

The cost of conveyancing in Scotland will largely depend on the size and value of the property in question. On average, conveyancing fees for buying a house in the UK are £1,040 and £1,000 for selling. This is calculated from our own data based on buying or selling a house at the UK average price of £267,000.

Not only will you pay the solicitor’s legal fee, you will also need to pay conveyancing disbursements. These are fees your solicitor will pay for on your behalf which you will then reimburse them for. This includes essential conveyancing searches (also known as property searches) which are estimated between £100 and £200. Keep in mind that each individual transaction is different and your solicitor will be able to provide you with an exact cost.

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What is Land Buildings and Transaction Tax?

Land Building and Transaction Tax (LBTT) is essentially Stamp Duty in Scotland. LBTT replaced Stamp Duty Land Tax in April 2015 and is administered by Revenue Scotland, with support from Registers of Scotland (RoS). LBTT will usually be paid by your solicitor on your behalf.

As 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 worth over a certain amount of money. Tax is payable at different rates on each portion of the purchase price within specified tax bands.

Properties up to £145,000 in Scotland will not incur LBTT. There is also a relief available for first-time buyers, which increased the residential nil rate band of LBTT to £175,000. Meaning properties at this amount of below will not incur LBTT if you are a first-time buyer.

The Scottish Budget 2021-22 confirmed the current rates and bands for residential LBTT which we have listed below:

Purchase PriceLBTT Rate

Up to £145,000

0%

£145,001 to £250,000

2%

£250,001 to £325,000

5%

£325,001 to £750,000

10%

Over £750,000

12%

Additional Dwelling Supplement

When buying a property in Scotland, the Additional Dwelling Supplement may apply. On 1 April 2016, the LBTT Additional Dwelling Supplement (ADS) came into force, payable on the total purchase price of an additional dwelling (such as a second home or buy-to-let) of £40,000 or more. This is charged at 4% of the total purchase price of the dwelling.

Learn More About Conveyancing

This article is part of our conveyancing guide. Next, we take a look at how to show proof of funds when buying a house. To learn more read what are proof of funds when buying a house.

Adele MacGregor

Having written for PerformanceIN, WalesOnline, Grazia Magazine and The Olive Press, Adele now writes advice articles for home movers, first-time buyers and house sellers alike.

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