Buying an existing property
Scotland has its own legal system and the law governing the ownership of land and property is different from the law that applies to the rest of the United Kingdom. The concepts of leasehold and freehold do not generally apply in Scotland.
Most existing or second-hand properties are sold on an offers over basis. This is a blind bidding system where the seller asks purchasers to bid in excess of a specified amount. The state of the market and the amount of competition will decide how far above the offers over price you may have to bid.
If there is a lot of interest in a property, the seller’s agent will usually set a closing date and time by which all offers must be received. If you are seriously thinking of making an offer, you should note your interest through your solicitor. This means that you will be told of the closing date in plenty of time.
Before making an offer, you should make sure you have arranged a mortgage or other means of funding the purchase. You need to also think about having a survey done before making an offer or making an offer subject to survey. Your solicitor can help you with this.
When the closing date has passed, the seller will look at the offers. The seller does not have to accept the highest offer and may take account of conditions attached to the offer such as the entry date.
Accepting your offer
If your offer is accepted, there will usually be an exchange of letters, or missives, between yours and the seller’s solicitors about the specific details and conditions of the offer. When the conditions have been agreed, a formal letter of acceptance will be sent by the seller’s solicitor and the missives are concluded. At this point, you have a legally binding contract.
The Scottish Government's leaflet Buying a Home in Scotland has more information about the basic things you need to ask, from buying a home to keeping it in good repair. Copies are also available from your local Housing office.
When you buy a property you become responsible for doing any repairs and maintenance. Some repairs can mean large extra costs that you may not have accounted for. For example, if you buy a flat in a property you may be responsible for the maintenance of the roof. You should always take future repairs and maintenance costs into account before buying property.
The scheme of assistance replaces the repair and improvement grants system. Instead of offering only grants, the scheme includes a range of information, advice and practical assistance to help owner / occupiers with repairs, improvements and maintenance to their homes.
Each local authority must produce a statement detailing the types of assistance available to customers through the scheme of assistance. This will be available in April 2010. Grants will no longer be available to homeowners to carry out repairs.
From 1st December 2008, houses for sale have to be marketed with a home report. This is a pack of three documents:
The home report is available on request to prospective buyers of the home.
The single survey contains an assessment by a surveyor of the condition of the home, a valuation and an accessibility audit for people with particular needs.
The energy report contains an assessment by a surveyor of the energy efficiency of the home and its environmental impact in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. It also recommends ways to improve its energy efficiency.
The property questionnaire is completed by the seller of the home. It contains additional information about the home, such as council tax banding, costs for repairs and maintenance to common parts in flats and any service costs that will be useful to buyers.
More information about the home report is available on the Scottish Government's website.