How long does it take to buy a house in Scotland? From the moment you have an offer accepted, it can take as little as six to eight weeks to complete the transaction – sometimes, even faster than that.
Of course, you also need to factor in the time spent househunting and the various prep work required before you make your opening bid.
To help you get your timing right, we’ve broken down the entire homebuying process north of the border into ten simple steps. (Note: if you’re buying in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the process looks a bit different.)
How long does it take to buy a house in Scotland (from start to finish)?
Step 1: Get a Mortgage in Principle
Time it takes: 5 minutes (from Habito)
Before you start searching for your new Scottish home, there are a couple of steps you should take. The first is to sort out a Mortgage in Principle (MIP).
An MIP is a handy certificate that shows what you can potentially afford to borrow from a mortgage lender.
While it’s not legally required to make an offer on a house in Scotland, if you don’t have a Mortgage in Principle in your back pocket, the seller may not take your bid seriously.
The good news is, you can get a Mortgage in Principle from Habito for free in as little as 5 minutes. No credit check required.
Step 2: Find a conveyancing solicitor
Time it takes: A few days to a few weeks
In other parts of the UK, you’ll typically appoint a conveyancing solicitor (a legal professional specialising in property) later on in the homebuying journey. But in Scotland, you’ll need one pretty early on.
This is because, in Scotland, solicitors are responsible for submitting the offer when you’ve found a property you’d like to buy. So, you’ll need to hire one before you start viewing properties.
They’ll be with you throughout the process, conducting property searches once you’ve had an offer accepted, and concluding the deal by exchanging contracts (more on this later).
Step 3: The property search
Time it takes: Extremely variable
Now that you’ve sorted your MIP and conveyancing solicitor, it’s time to start hunting for your new property.
It can be tough to put a timeframe on the property search. It could take you a few days, or you could be at it for months on end. It’ll largely depend on the following:
- Availability of properties in the area you like
- Finding a home that fits your budget
- Whether you’re happy to do work on the property
- How urgently you need to move
Once you’ve found a property you like, it’s onto step 4.
Step 4: Request and read the Home Report
Time it takes: A few hours to a few days
Another key difference in the Scottish homebuying journey, before a property can be advertised for sale, the seller must have a Home Report done. It should contain:
- A single property survey (based on a visual inspection by a chartered surveyor), which tells you about the home, its condition, and any repairs you may need to carry out;
- An energy report, which tells you how efficient the property is and how much on average it’ll cost you for heating, lighting and hot water;
- And a property questionnaire (completed by the seller), which answers several FAQs, such as who currently provides the broadband service or if there are shared/common areas and the cost of their upkeep.
You’ll usually get the Home Report from the estate agent listing the property or the seller directly. But sellers can refuse to give you the Home Report if they don’t believe you’re a serious buyer (this is why an MIP helps!).
Note: Scottish new-builds don’t need a Home Report, but you should still receive an energy performance certificate as a prospective buyer.
Step 5: Make an offer.
Time it takes: A few hours to a few days
If you’re happy with your viewing(s) and the contents of the Home Report, the next step is to tell your solicitor, who’ll then formally “note” your interest in the property with the seller.
If you’re ready to push ahead, your solicitor will submit the offer in writing on your behalf. You may need to wait while the seller considers your offer, and there may be some back and forth until you both arrive at a figure you like.
If there's a lot of interest in the property, you may be asked to submit your written offer (via your solicitor) by a closing date, which means the best offer will win once that deadline has passed. Note: That doesn’t always mean the highest. For example, you could win with a lower offer if you’re able to move faster than the other bidders.
If the seller accepts your offer, their solicitor will send you something called a “qualified acceptance” letter. This means they’ll accept your offer once you’ve met certain conditions.
Your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor will then send each other letters (called “missives”) negotiating these conditions (for example, you may wish to include the seller’s white goods, fixtures and fittings in the offer).
Once you’ve reached an agreement and had your offer accepted, it’s time to move swiftly onto step 6.
Step 6: The mortgage.
Time it takes: 3 to 6 weeks+
Unless you’re buying in cash, you’ll need to apply for a mortgage to fund your purchase.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the mortgage application process:
- Filling in the application. It might take you a day or two to gather your essential documents and fill out the paperwork. If you’re using a mortgage broker, they can help make sure your information and documents are all present and correct.
- Submission and review. Once you’ve hit send on your application, your lender could take up to 6 weeks to review it. During this time, they’ll check your credit history, do an affordability assessment to make sure you’ll be able to repay the mortgage, and carry out a valuation to make sure the property is worth what you’ve offered for it.
- Request for more information. After the lender reviews your application, they might decide they need more information from you, causing a delay of a few days. Again, having a mortgage broker on hand can help you respond quickly and avoid any additional stress.
- Approval. If all goes to plan, you’ll get your official mortgage offer!
The good news is, while you’re waiting to hear back about your mortgage application, you can crack on with the next couple of steps in the Scottish homebuying process.
Step 7: The property survey
Time it takes: 2 to 3 weeks
Yes, the Home Report does contain a property survey already, but this tends to be relatively basic. Often it’s a drive-by effort, where the surveyor eyeballs the property's condition without setting foot inside.
Given that buying a house is such a huge deal, you may want to consider arranging a more detailed property survey. This could save you from some unpleasant (and expensive) surprises further down the line – or give you leverage to renegotiate your offer with the seller.
You can read more about the different types of property surveys here, but the key ones are:
- Home Survey Level 2: This usually takes 2 to 4 hours and costs £300 and upwards. It will identify any issues in the property on a surface level (in other words, anything the surveyor can see without ripping up floorboards or looking behind walls).
- Home Survey Level 3: This is a more thorough investigation of the building and could take up to a day. It costs around £400 and upwards, but is worth it if the surveyor uncovers serious concerns with the structure of the building. You may want to book this type of survey if you’re buying an older or unusual property.
Step 8: Conveyancing
Time it takes: 8 weeks+
Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring a property to a new owner.
With your mortgage application in full swing, your solicitor will carry out what are known as property searches. This involves contacting different authorities for information about the property, the land it’s built on, and the local area. Essentially, they’re checking for anything that could affect its value.
The searches usually include:
- Local authority searches covering planning, roads and pollution
- Drainage searches covering water supply and sewage
- Environmental searches covering flooding, landslides and contamination
You can read more about property searches here.
Step 9: Conclude the missives (and sort out home insurance)
Time it takes: 2 to 4 weeks before completion
At this point, your solicitor will sign a document to state that the conditions of the offer have been met by both parties and that you’ve concluded missives. You’ll then confirm the date of entry, which is when you’ll pay the seller and get the keys to your new property.
Once the missives are accepted, you’re now legally bound to buy the property. If you back out after the conclusion of the missives, you may need to pay the seller a penalty.
Note: It’s a good idea to insure the property from the date the missives are concluded. After that date, the property is your responsibility, so you’ll want to be covered against any risks.
Step 10: Completion, payment, and entry
Time it takes: 2 weeks+
Into the home stretch!
- First, you’ll receive a completion statement from your solicitor, outlining what you owe. This will include your deposit, Land & Buildings Transaction Tax (the Scottish equivalent of Stamp Duty), and any other fees.
- Around ten days before your date of entry, you’ll be asked to transfer your deposit to your solicitor’s bank account so that they have it in place to complete the transaction. They’ll then draw down the funds from your mortgage lender, combine it with your deposit, and send full payment to the seller’s solicitor (who’ll then pay off the balance of the seller’s mortgage).
- In return, the seller’s solicitor will send proof that the mortgage has been cleared, giving you peace of mind that their bank no longer has a claim to the house. You’ll also receive the title deeds (legal documents showing ownership) to the property.
- Finally, all that’s left now is to pick up the keys and move in.
Congratulations! You’ve just bought a house in Scotland.