If you’re thinking of moving to Scotland, you’re not alone. According to the National Records of Scotland, nearly 90,000 people moved to Scotland from mid-2018 to mid-2019. It’s not difficult to see why – stunning natural and city landscapes, a rich culture and a relatively low cost of living are just some of the things that make Scotland so appealing.
But buying a property in Scotland from England is not quite as straightforward as buying a property in the rest of the UK, owing to the slightly different process. However, the process is generally considered safer in Scotland, with a number of measures in place to help prevent property transactions from falling through. The process also tends to be quicker, taking 4-8 weeks in Scotland compared to 8-12 weeks in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Here is a summary of the differences, so you know exactly what to expect.
Buying property in Scotland vs England
One of the first differences you might come across is the Home Report. A Home Report is essentially a complete pack of information about a property, put together by the seller. It has three parts:
Single Survey: This is an assessment of the property’s condition and accessibility, carried out by a RICS surveyor. It can also contain a mortgage valuation. Read more about the Single Survey.
Energy Report: This is the Scottish equivalent of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). It gives information about the energy efficiency of a property, and makes recommendations on how it can be improved to make the property more environmentally friendly. It is valid for ten years. Read more about Energy Reports.
Property Questionnaire: This is a summary of other useful information about the property, such as flood risk, parking arrangements and council tax banding. Read more about Property Questionnaires.
If you find a property you like, you can request the Home Report from the seller to learn more about it before you decide whether to put in an offer. Here’s what to look out for in a Home Report.
Read more about Home Reports or check out our Home Reports FAQs.
Making an offer
Making an offer is also slightly different in Scotland to the rest of the UK. You’ll find that properties in Scotland are often marketed and sold by solicitors on behalf of their clients. This differs to the rest of the UK, where they are usually marketed and sold by estate agents.
If you’re interested in making an offer, you should tell your solicitor. They will formally note your interest with the seller’s solicitor. If you’re the only person to note your interest for that property, you might be able to just negotiate a price with the seller instead of formally putting in an offer. If the seller receives notes of interest from several people, they will set a deadline by which you must submit your sealed bid. As well as the price you want to pay for it, your offer should include a brief description of the property, the date you’d like to move in, any items you want from the seller, and any other conditions you’d like to be included in the deal. If your offer is accepted your solicitor will receive a letter of ‘qualified acceptance’ from the seller’s solicitor, which essentially means they’ve accepted your offer pending certain conditions being met.
Another important difference to note is that, if you’re buying a new build property, you might need to pay a small deposit at the point at which your offer is accepted.
As you’ve probably worked out by now, the moving process in Scotland uses different terminology to the rest of the UK. Instead of ‘exchange’ you might hear ‘conclusion of missives’, and you might hear ‘settlement’ instead of ‘completion’. Luckily we’ve got a complete glossary of Scottish moving home terms. View the Scottish moving glossary.
In Scotland you’ll probably employ a solicitor much earlier in the process than you might be used to. Whilst in England, Wales and Northern Ireland you don’t generally employ a solicitor until after your offer has been accepted, if you’re buying a property in Scotland then you’ll need them to explain the Home Report to you, and to come up with and submit your offer, so you’ll need to employ one at around the same time you start seriously looking for properties.
It’s particularly important to be aware of the differences in the conveyancing process if you’re selling a property in England at the same time as buying your new one in Scotland. If you’re unsure at any point, you should ask your conveyancing solicitor.
Read more about conveyancing in Scotland or get quotes from local conveyancing solicitors with reallymoving.
This technically could come under terminology or conveyancing, but it’s quite a big difference so you should make sure you’re aware of it. In England and Northern Ireland, property tax is called Stamp Duty. You pay it on properties over £125,000 (although there are some exemptions), with the percentage rate dependent on which band the property falls into. The Scottish version is called Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, and the banding is slightly different. You’ll also only pay it on properties worth more than £145,000. Our Land and Buildings Transaction Tax calculator can give you more information and tell you how much you’ll need to pay.
Wales also have their own version, called Land Transaction Tax.
Government housing schemes
If you’re looking to make use of any government housing schemes, the ones on offer in Scotland are a bit different to those on offer in England.
The Scottish Help to Buy scheme closed in February 2021, so the main scheme available now is the First Home Fund. It launched in December 2019, and requires you to save up a 5% deposit. The Scottish Government will then lend you an interest-free loan of up to £25,000 to cover the rest of a deposit, meaning you won’t need to borrow as much from a mortgage lender. The scheme is similar to the Help to Buy Equity Loan available in England.
You might also want to look into the Low-cost Initiative for First Time Buyers (known as LIFT). There are two different schemes – the Open Market Shared Equity (OMSE) scheme, which enables First Time Buyers to buy 60-90% of a home on the open market meaning they need a smaller deposit, and the New Supply Shared Equity (NSSE) scheme, which is similar but for new builds only.
If you want to move to Scotland, don’t let the differences in the property buying process put you off – in many ways the process is easier in Scotland, and it’s certainly safer for both the buyer and the seller because there’s less opportunity – and need – for gazumping. If you have any questions during the process, your solicitor will be able to help you out. Get quotes from local conveyancing solicitors with reallymoving.