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Guide to conveyancing in Scotland

Moving home in Scotland is a slightly different process to England and Wales. Have a look at our breakdown of the Scottish conveyancing process.

Guide to conveyancing in Scotland

Selling properties in Scotland

Solicitors play a more prominent role in selling homes in Scotland than they do in the rest of the UK. Many Scottish solicitors are also estate agents and will be involved in the marketing process as well as in the legal work.

Solicitors firms which are also estate agents are usually members of Solicitors and Property Centres. Property centres have showrooms which advertise available properties from members.

Estate agents also operate in Scotland but they have a lesser share of the market.

A solicitor will be the first point of contact for someone planning to sell. The Scottish contracts system is different from that in England and the contract is usually completed quickly.

The solicitor will take the following necessary preparatory steps when selling a property:

  • Property marketing: Checking the title when the property put on the market

  • Transactions: managing initial transactions

  • Documentation: sourcing all documentation relating to the home

  • Negotiation: negotiating the contract on your behalf with the buyer’s solicitor


Finalising your contracts

Your conveyancing solicitor will assist with every aspect of finalising your contracts:

  • Title deeds: your solicitor needs to get hold of your title deeds and check them

  • Land register: the solicitor will search the Land Register confirm the sale can go ahead.

  • Missives: your solicitor will draw up contract letters of negotiation, referred to as 'missives'.

  • Date of entry: you will agree a fixed date for the transaction to complete.

  • Paperwork: after the 'missives' are agreed, they will manage the paperwork involved in the legal transfer of the property

Buying homes in Scotland

You would still use a solicitor when buying a property, as they also negotiate deals. It's worth getting a solicitor early on in the process. As many work on a fixed fee basis, the timing rarely affects the cost.

There are a couple of steps to purchasing a property:

  • Setting up a mortgage: this gives buyers a budget to work towards for the purchase. Solicitors, brokers or lenders are usually involved in this process

  • Noting your interest: when you have found a property you want to make an offer on, your solicitor will ‘note interest’ on your behalf.

Making an offer

These are the steps you can take when placing an offer on a new house:

  • Conditional offer: you may make a conditional offer with a proposed date of entry. Your seller may return with a counter offer.

  • Surveying: some buyers consider having a property surveyed. However, due to the use of Home Reports in Scotland, you can see these details before making your offer. Many choose not to get a survey.

Formalising the agreement

When the seller receives a full conditional offer, they will send back the title deeds and search report, along with any other documents. The seller signs the transfer of the title deed. This is called the 'disposition'.

  • Mortgage: as the buyer you will need to arrange your mortgage. The seller’s solicitor will prepare the Land Transaction Return for you to sign.

  • Request of funds: the seller’s solicitor will request the funds from your lender and any other associated fees.

  • Your solicitor will arrange the payment for your Land and Building Transaction Tax.


Land and Building Transaction Tax

The LBTT is a charge on land transactions in Scotland. It is the equivalent of Stamp Duty in England, or Land Transaction Tax in Wales. LBTT falls into bands, depending on the value of your property. The differences between Scotland and the UK include:

  • LBTT Rates - the amount of tax you pay will depend on the price of your new property. If you are paying below £250,000 for your property, there is no tax.

  • Paying LBTT - LBTT is managed by Revenue Scotland with the help of Registers of Scotland (RoS). Any payments would go through them and not the HMRC.

​In the same way that there are First Time Buyer exemptions for Stamp Duty, there are also exemptions for LBTT - from June 2018 First Time Buyers purchasing a property under the value of £175,000 will not pay LBTT. However this is currently irrelevant as the threshold has been lowered for everyone from 7th July 2020-31st March 2021, in order to help the housing market recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

You can find out how much LBTT you'll have to pay by using an LBTT calculator online. 

Land and Buildings Transaction Tax bands

The LBTT bands (7th July 2020-31st March 2021) are as follows. These rates are paid only on the part of the property price within each tax band.

Purchase price LBTT
Up to £250,000 0%
£250,001 to £325,000 5%
£325,001 to £750,000 10%
Over £750,000 12%


Buy-To-Let for Land and Buildings Transaction Tax

You may need to pay more LBTT if you already own a residential property. You can read more about that on the Scottish Government website.

Paying your LBTT

You can pay LBTT either by online or paper return. In most cases your solicitor will process this payment for you.

The home buying process in Scotland

Many find the process in Scotland to be a lot quicker than in the rest of the UK. This is partly down to Home Reports being available to the buyer before making an offer. This means buyers don't have to wait to arrange a survey, and sales aren't derailed by nasty surprises.

The other reason is that a conditional offer is a contract. This means there is no chance to of being gazumped or gazundered right at the end. Whilst the missives are being arranged you can back out. After that, often the injured party is awarded a payment by the person who broke the contract. This could be a significant amount so it is always worth being sure before entering into an agreement.

Updated July 2020


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