Scottish Conveyancing Process Briefly Discussed

The conveyancing process when buying a home in Scotland is quite different from conveyancing in England and Wales because property solicitors in Scotland also act as estate agents and will handle the marketing of a property for the seller.

Estate agents do exist in Scotland, but most property transactions are made via a property solicitor, who will usually be the first point of contact for anyone buying or selling a home.

Property solicitors in Scotland often advertise properties for sale and may even publish their own sales brochures listing available properties, or have an office displaying properties for sale, just as estate agents do.

As a purchaser you will need the help of your own property solicitor at an early stage and if you are not familiar with the process of conveyancing in Scotland it is a good idea to find one before you embark on your property search, as once you have found a home you are interested in buying, some early advice from your conveyancing solicitor will be needed.

In Scotland, the "vendor" is always referred to as the "seller" and the "buyer" as the "purchaser", which again is different from property law in England and Wales.

As soon as you are interested in buying a property, your solicitor will declare an interest on your behalf to the seller's solicitor.

In Scotland there is a system of sealed bids so that potential purchasers compete blind with each other and the winning bid is revealed to a set deadline.

Sometimes purchasers do withdraw and this may happen if the accepted bid is conditional; so if your bid is not chosen and you are still interested in the property, it is as well to keep an eye on the transaction in case it falls through.

In England and Wales, conveyancing usually takes around eight weeks. In Scotland, the conveyancing process begins as soon as a property solicitor is instructed to sell a property and places it on the market, after which the first stage is to obtain the local authority searches.

A date is set for the process of sealed bids and by the deadline, much of the conveyancing has been completed or is underway. Purchasers who submit bids also submit the date on which they wish to move into the property as part of the bid, so a deadline has been set for moving in before negotiations over the contract have even started and all parties work to that deadline if possible.

Because property solicitors in Scotland also act as the estate agent for a property, there is less delay as it is in the interests of the solicitor to complete the deal quickly and efficiently.

The different stages of the conveyancing process in Scotland are:

  • Purchasers should obtain a conveyancing quote from a property solicitor in Scotland
  • For the seller, once the property is advertised and a guide price has been set, a deadline is set for sealed bids
  • The seller's conveyancing solicitor then begins the local authority searches while bidding takes place
  • The purchaser makes a conditional offer on a property with a proposed "date of entry" (moving in date): the date of entry is the completion deadline both the seller and purchaser's solicitors will agree to work towards
  • Once a bid has been accepted the purchaser's solicitor will negotiate a contract with the seller's solicitor: the contracts of sale and purchase are known as "missives" in Scotland
  • Purchasers have the property surveyed. Some purchasers may obtain a survey before they make a sealed bid so they are certain about its condition if they win the bidding process. It is possible to make a conditional bid subject to survey but this may mean your bid is not accepted if there is competition among purchasers for the property
  • The usual searches are carried out and the Title Deeds are requested from the Land Registry
  • The seller's solicitor prepares a Land Transaction Return for the purchaser to sign
  • The seller's solicitor also requests the monies from the purchaser's lender and monies for any other costs relating to the entry date from the purchaser's solicitor
  • The transaction is completed with a transfer of the paperwork, and Stamp Duty and tax are paid
  • The property is registered in the new owner's name at the Land Registry/Sasine and the keys are handed over
  • Any defects the new owner finds in the property must be reported to the seller's solicitor immediately or as soon as possible.

Scottish conveyancing works to the advantage of both seller and purchaser because even though the date of entry may not be immediate, both the seller and purchaser have agreed the sale once a bid is accepted.

The Scottish system also means there are no chains in buying and selling properties, which are the downfall of many homebuyers and vendors in England and Wales.

A drawback to conveyancing in Scotland is the fee, although many property solicitors in Scotland will charge set fees; however, because they act as estate agents and handle all aspects of a property transaction, the fee structure can be higher. Purchasers may be saving on estate agents' fees, but the option of a £99-plus VAT conveyancing offer in Scotland may be harder to track down than the Holy Grail.

It is therefore a good idea to look for property solicitors in Scotland who will offer a set fee for conveyancing and also a set fee for any extra work which may be needed.

Property solicitors in Scotland are regulated by the Law Society of Scotland, whose website allows homebuyers to search online for a property solicitor in Scotland.

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