When it comes to buying and selling property in the UK, there are a number of differences when comparing Scotland to England and Wales. If you are in the process of moving from England or Wales and are looking to purchase your first Scottish property, these differences can come as quite a surprise, which is why we wanted to share this handy guide on what to expect when buying in Scotland.


 The Role of Estate Agent & Solicitor

We start off our guide by taking a look at how the role of Estate Agent & Solicitor can differ in Scotland compared to England and Wales. In Scotland, the two roles are frequently combined and the service is available under one roof, whereas in England and Wales, the legal conveyancing process is managed separately by a solicitor or legal conveyancer.

Another difference relates to when a solicitor would become involved in the process. In Scotland, a would-be buyer would need to instruct a solicitor to make an offer on their behalf. In England and Wales, it is common to only instruct a solicitor when you have had an offer accepted on a property.

 No 'Gazumping'

Now, whilst there is no legal grounding in this area, 'gazumping' (where a seller who has already accepted an offer on their property, receives and accepts another, higher offer) seldom occurs in Scotland. This is because a property is almost always removed from the market as soon as an offer has been accepted. It is also strengthened by the fact that Scottish solicitors have to decline to act on behalf of a seller who decides to accept another offer after already agreeing to accept an offer (this is not applicable if the first offer fell through at no fault of the seller).

Unfortunately, 'gazumping' is still a common issue in England and Wales and causes many buyers to miss out on their dream property. According to research, of those surveyed who had bought a house in the past 10 years, 31% had been gazumped and lost out on a home!

 Stamp Duty vs LBTT

Another difference is the property taxation system.

Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) replaced UK Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) in Scotland from 1st April 2015, with the tax being applied to residential and commercial land and buildings transactions. LBTT is a tax that is payable at different rates on each portion of the purchase price within specified tax bands.

More information on how these changes will impact how much LBTT you pay on your property purchase can be found here.

 Home Reports and Information Upfront

One big plus point of buying property in Scotland is that sellers are required to have a home report. This applies to all properties excluding new builds and several other exceptions.

A home report will contain things such as a survey, a detailed property questionnaire and an energy performance certificate (EPC), which gives you as a buyer great insight into the condition of the property. When buying a property using a mortgage, the mortgage provider will typically rely on the value stated in the Home Report to lend to the buyer.

This process is very different to England and Wales where property sellers only need an energy performance certificate before putting the property on the market. It is then down to the buyer to instruct a survey, which is usually done when an offer has been submitted (subject to survey).

 Freehold vs Leasehold

In England and Wales, the vast majority of flats and a very small number of houses are leaseholds, which means you do not own the land the property is built on. A leaseholder essentially rents the property from the freeholder for a number of years.

However, in Scotland, all properties are sold as freehold where you own both the property and the land it is built on.

 Offers Over

Whilst it is not exclusive, the majority of properties in Scotland come to market with an 'offers over' price. If there is significant interest, a closing date may be set where buyers will submit their best offers on a nominated day.


The last difference on our list relates to the contracts when buying and selling property in Scotland.

Missives is the term that is given to the series of letters that are exchanged between solicitors on behalf of clients that make up the contract for the sale of property from the seller to the buyer. They will include conditions such as the price of the purchase and the completion date.

On average, missives take around 6-8 weeks to conclude, quicker if it's a cash purchase. Once they are concluded, the deal becomes legally binding and the seller must agree to transfer over the legal title of the property to the buyer. If a seller fails to do this, the buyer is within their right to claim damages against the seller. 

In England and Wales, no legally binding agreement exists until contracts are signed and exchanged, which gives both the buyer and seller the opportunity to pull out of the purchase at a much later stage in the process.

These differences in the buying process are due to the different legal systems that exist within Scotland and England & Wales. It is important to understand these before you commence buying a property in Scotland.

If you have any further queries or require any more information, we'd love to hear from you. DM Property is here to help you at every step of the way.