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Buying A Residential Property In Scotland

Marion Currie from our Castle Douglas office, gives us the latest advice for buying properties in Scotland.

To the uninitiated, the process of making an offer on a property in Scotland can seem mystifying. We have a completely separate legal system here from the rest of the UK, as distinct and unique as our lochs and glens.  Navigating it successfully requires the services of Scottish solicitors, who are qualified in our laws and procedures. English solicitors cannot practise here unless they are dual qualified, which is rare.

With many of our buyers hailing from south of the border, we are well versed in explaining the differences as far as property goes.  It is not as complicated as it first appears, and in each of our offices you will find expert agents ready to advise you and steer you safely through the process of making an offer.

Solicitors

When you set off on your property buying journey, it is wise to get yourself registered with a Scottish solicitor. Ideally they will be based in the part of the country you are looking to settle in, familiar with the local titles and the inherent peculiarities therein, and have good working relationships with the other law firms in the area.  However, this is not essential, and you may engage a solicitor from any part of Scotland. You will need to furnish your chosen solicitor with identification, and they will usually want to meet you face to face, so it is a good idea to make finding a solicitor a part of your first trip to your desired area.

Noting Interest

Once you have viewed a few properties you will probably have a shortlist of those you are seriously interested in, or indeed you may have found your dream home.  If you are not quite ready to make an offer due to your own sale or financial situation, you can ‘Note Interest’ on a property with the selling agent, or have your solicitor note interest with them on your behalf.  This means that you will not miss any Closing Date which may be set for offers. It does not mean that the selling agent will inform you of all and any interest in the property – agents are only obliged to inform you of a Closing Date and give you the chance to offer at that date. However, in certain circumstances, depending on the wishes of the vendor, you may be approached to gauge your position if another interested party makes an offer.

Making a Verbal Offer

If you are in a position to proceed, it is best to contact the selling agent and discuss the offer you wish to make. They can advise you as to whether this is likely to be acceptable, and negotiate with you on behalf of the vendor.  This way, all parties come to an agreed figure, and you can then instruct your solicitor to submit your offer safe in the knowledge that it is already agreed. At this point you should also make clear to the agent any conditions that would apply, in terms of timing or specifics of the sale.  This saves you the time and expense of having your solicitor submit a written offer that may be rejected.

Making a Written Offer

Once you have a verbally agreed price, you then instruct your solicitor to submit a written offer in Scottish legal form to the selling agent. This will include any conditions which will apply, such as sale of your own property, survey, finance and Date of Entry (the date you pay the purchase price and get the keys). 

An important procedural point to note is that under the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations 2017, the selling agent is required to carry out identity checks against all purchasers. You will be required to provide identification to them directly or have it sent by your solicitor with the formal offer.

The selling agent will then pass your offer to the vendor’s solicitor, and the two solicitors then proceed through the legal process of ‘missives’,  with the aim of concluding the contract (similar to exchanging contracts in England) as soon as practicable.  This process can take anything from a matter of days to a number of weeks depending on the various offer conditions and legal hurdles.   

Meanwhile, the selling agent will mark the property either ‘Offer Under Consideration’, if there are certain conditions to be met, such as the sale of your property,  or ‘Under Offer’  where your offer  is straightforward.

Our agents will be delighted to discuss any of the process with you in more depth, advising you specifically with regards to your own circumstances, and negotiating your purchase of one of our properties.