Overview of the buying process in Scotland

If you watch a lot of home buying and selling programmes on TV, you'll probably be familiar with the buying process. In Scotland, however, the process is slightly different from the process in England. This page explains it step by step.

Working out your finances

Before you start house hunting you will have to work out what you will be able to afford. Most people cannot afford to buy a home outright, and must apply to a bank, building society or other financial institution for a mortgage. The first thing you'll need to do, therefore, is find out how much you'll be able to borrow. You'll also need to decide what kind of mortgage you want and which lender offers you the best deal. Once you have chosen, you should get a mortgage agreed in principle (aip). This is not a formal offer, but does include a credit check with a credit reference agency.

Finding a solicitor

Your next step is to find a solicitor to carry out the legal work involved in buying a home.

Finding a property

By this point you'll probably already have started thinking about the kind of property you want and looking at a few places. The page on finding a property has advice on how to go about looking and things to think about when viewing properties.

Once you've found a place you like you'll need to:

  • request a home report from the seller
  • if necessary, arrange for a valuation or survey of the property. Alternatively, you may wish to put in an offer 'subject to survey', or the seller may have arranged a survey, which is available to prospective purchasers.
  • get your solicitor to note your interest in the property. Once this has been done, it will not be sold without you having the chance to put in an offer.

Making an offer

Properties in Scotland are advertised as 'fixed price', 'offers over' or 'offers around'.

Fixed price

The property will be sold to the first person that offers the price advertised. If the property has been on the market for a while, the seller may accept a lower offer.

Offers over

The seller is inviting offers higher than the price advertised. The property will usually be sold to the highest bidder, but sometimes the seller will sell to the person willing to buy on the most convenient date, or whose offer they prefer. Your solicitor should be able to advise you how much over the asking price people have paid in the area you are interested in.

Your solicitor will make the offer on your behalf.


Offers around

Offers around (sometimes called offers in the region of) means the seller might have a price in mind they would be happy with but could be open to negotiating. Your solicitor will make the offer on your behalf.

Having an offer accepted

If your offer is accepted you will have to proceed with your mortgage application. Your mortgage lender will require a valuation of the property but they may accept the valuation or survey already carried out.

Finalising the sale

If the seller accepts your offer, a contract will be formed. Your solicitor will exchange letters (called missives) with the seller's solicitor until all the conditions of the sale are sorted out and the sale is finalised. This is called concluding the missives. Once the missives have been concluded, you are legally bound to buy the property and will incur financial penalties if you do not go ahead with the purchase.

Your solicitor will then:

  • receive the title deeds (documents that prove ownership of the property) from the seller's solicitor and check they are in order
  • draw up a disposition transferring ownership to you
  • prepare a standard security, the legal agreement between you and your mortgage lender
  • receive the money from your mortgage lender and pay the seller
  • give you the keys!

Read the pages on getting your offer accepted, finalising the sale and moving in to find out more about this process.

Right to buy

If you are buying your home from the council or a housing association, the buying process is slightly different. The section on right to buy explains this in more detail.

The important points

  • Your first step is working out how much you can and want to borrow.
  • Once you've found a solicitor you will want to ask for the home report for any properties you like.
  • It's a good idea to get your solicitor to note your interest in the property, which means it won't be sold without you having the chance to put in an offer.
  • If you want to buy your home from the council or housing association you'll need to look at the right to buy rules as the buying process is different.

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

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