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Looking to relocate from England? Questions you may have about buying a property in Scotland

Scottish Scene

We’ve seen increasing numbers of clients looking to move from England to Scotland over the last few years and because Scotland has a different system for selling property (and a different legal system) English buyers usually have a list of questions before they start the search for something new. Here are the most common queries we get.

Do I need a survey?

No. In Scotland we still have home report surveys that are commissioned by the seller. Any property listed on the open market must have a home report and if that reports is more than 3 months old the seller will generally cover the cost of updating that as part of any purchase contract. A copy of the home report can be used by any mortgage lender and there is no advantage to a purchaser in instructing their own independent survey.

Does Scotland have leasehold properties?

No. Leasehold was abolished in Scotland many years ago and every property is now the equivalent in English freehold. Any title purporting to be a long lease was automatically converted to freehold years ago and there are no ground rents in Scotland.

Are contracts immediately binding in Scotland?

No. While we look to tie up contracts in Scotland as quickly as possible (and there is often a gap between exchange of contracts and the actual completion date) most offers submitted are conditional on finance and the purchasing solicitor will not formally commit to the deal until a mortgage offer has been issued. We are increasingly seeing contracts being exchanged very close to the completion date and even in cases where there is no chain it normally takes several weeks to tie up a contract.

What does 'offers over' mean?

The pricing system in Scotland changed with the introduction of home reports. Standard practice used to be to list at “offers over” and buyers were expected to know that the valuation and ultimate sale price could be tens of thousands in excess of the list price. Following the introduction of home reports list prices are usually now at or very close to the surveyor’s home report valuation.

Can I offer less than the 'offers over' price?

Yes you can. When the market is quiet plenty of properties will sell for less than the list price. “Offers over”, “offers in the region of”, and “offers around” all mean much the same thing. Your solicitor will offer some advice on what the property is likely to sell for, but lots of properties will sell for less than the list price.

Do you still have closing dates?

Yes. When there are multiple parties interested in purchasing a property the selling solicitor will often fix a closing time for bids. This involves giving all parties some notice of a fixed date and time for submission of offers. The closing works like a blind auction where all parties will only get one chance to offer without any knowledge of what other parties are bidding. The seller then decides which, if any, offer they wish to accept. It is open to the seller to make a counter offer to any of the bidders if they don’t receive an acceptable offer but it is not open to the bidders to resubmit an offer post closing.

What does 'under offer' mean?

Under offer essentially means sold subject to contract. The contract will not be binding but the selling agents will deter any 3rd parties from viewing the property while the contract is being tied up. Properties are listed under offer to deter gazumping.

I thought there was no gazumping in Scotland?

There are rules in Scotland to try to deter gazumping and gazundering. If a price has been agreed and parties are tying up the contract it is not open to the purchasing or selling solicitors to attempt to renegotiate the price. In terms of Law Society rules, in the event a client asks their solicitor to renegotiate in this manner the solicitor should stop acting. Gazumping itself is not illegal but if buyer or seller seek to renegotiate after the basic terms of the contract have been agreed their solicitor would resign from acting leaving the client to find another lawyer to take over.

Is it possible to sell in Englad and buy in Scotland on the same day?

Yes. There are plenty of clients who have done this and there is no legal reason why it should be any more difficult than selling and buying in Scotland or England on the same day. There can be logistical challenges, particularly if the sale in England is part of a chain, and clients should prepare themselves for a long day. But provided the English sale completes early enough in the day for the selling lawyer to transfer funds to the Scottish solicitor, it is possible. In circumstances where clients don’t “need” to complete sale and purchase on the same day for mortgage purposes, the general advice would be to complete here the day after the sale to avoid the risk of any damages claim should the purchase in Scotland not complete on time.

Can I carry a mortgage from England to Scotland?

Yes. There is no reason you can’t port a particular mortgage product from one property to another despite the change in legal systems.

I have a Will in England. Do I need a Scottish Will too?

The English will remain perfectly valid but as we have a different legal system with different rules the advice is always to check with a Scottish solicitor whether that is necessary in your circumstances.