Buying a house

There are many things to consider when buying a home. How much can you afford to pay for a mortgage? What area would you like to live in? What do you do when you find a property you are interested in? This guide will focus on the process in Scotland and what you need to think about when buying a new home.

Step 1: Working out a budget and finding a mortgage

Before looking for your new home, work out what you can afford to spend.  How much money can you borrow from a mortgage lender and afford the repayments?  If you are selling a property before you buy your new home,  what is it worth and how much equity do you have in it?  Your solicitor can put you in touch with a financial advisor to give you the mortgage advice that you need.  Your solicitor can also arrange a free assessment of the likely value of your current property for you.

Step 2: Finding a property

Over 90% of buyers now search for their new property online.  A good place to start is your local solicitors property centre (ESPC for Edinburgh and the Lothians, GSPC for Glasgow, TSPC for Tayside and so on) or property websites such as Rightmove, Prime Location, S1 Homes or Zoopla.

Once you have found some properties with potential, there is no substitute for viewing them.  Even if a place proves to be unsuitable, it can give you a feel for what is available within budget and what qualities you can compromise on.  Don't be put off by a property which seems poorly marketed - if it differs from what has been advertised, it may be the hidden gem that you are looking for. Ideal for buyers, although unfortunate for sellers!

Request the property's Home Report, which contains a survey report, an energy performance certificate and a questionnaire completed by the seller.  It also includes a surveyor's valuation and information about the condition of the property, any repairs needed or upgrades to systems such as heating or insulation. The Home Report should help you to build a picture of the property's condition and decide whether it is the one for you. 

Step 3: Choosing a solicitor

It is a good idea to talk to your solicitor early in the process.  They will have extensive knowledge of properties, areas, prices and the purchasing process that can benefit you.  Good advice at an early stage can be invaluable and save you a lot of time. Your solicitor will also be able to estimate the likely fees involved such as land registration dues and stamp duty. 
Your solicitor will handle negotiations for you, note interest on your behalf and, when the time is right, submit an offer for you on what could be your new home. Asking your solicitor to offically note interest in a property means that you will be notified if a closing date is set on the property, enabling you to put in an offer.

Step 4: Making an offer

If you decide to put in an offer, your solicitor's advice at this point will be crucial.

Your solicitor will provide guidance on what to offer and when your offer should be made.  You should think about the price you are willing to pay, the date of entry, any moveable items you would like to be included (such as carpets, curtains and white goods) and whether your offer should be subject to survey. If further negotiations are required your solicitor will conduct these on your behalf. Effective negotiations may save you a significant sum of money.

If the seller accepts your offer (either initially or following negotiation) then you have reached agreement in principle, sometimes referred to as the property being “Under Offer”.  This does not constitute a legally binding contract until the missives have been concluded.

Step 5: The conveyancing work

Once your offer is accepted in principle your solicitor will adjust the terms of the missives (the contract for the property purchase) on your behalf with the seller's solicitor. When the missives are concluded the contract is legally binding.

Your solicitor will check the terms of the seller’s title and ensure that all related matters are in order, such as local authority consents having been obtained for alterations. The solicitor will ensure that, in exchange for paying the purchase price, you will receive a good title to the property.  Your solicitor will discuss matters with you and bring any issues to your attention during the conveyancing process.

Your solicitor will draw up a conveyance of the property and the security documentation for your mortgage lender (which you will sign) after your Offer of Loan is issued.  Your solicitor will arrange for the loan funds to be released directly to them in time for the date of entry, along with any additional funds from you that are needed.

Step 6: Settlement and the date of entry

Settlement of your purchase will take place on the date of entry.  The financial transactions will be completed and your solicitor will receive all of the relevant paperwork on your behalf such as the title deeds. The keys to your new home will be ready for you to pick up!
You should inspect the property as soon as possible and notify your solicitor of any defects or issues.

For further information see The Scottish Government website for a guide to buying, or Citizens Advice for information about buying a home in Scotland.