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Buying a house can feel overwhelming, especially if you are doing so for the first time. As a starting point, our conveyancing solicitors have put together this simple guide offering a practical overview of the entire conveyancing process. If you have any questions or would like further information on how we can help, don’t hesitate to contact us.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring ownership of a property from the existing owner to the new owner and is typically carried out by a solicitor or licensed conveyancer. Contracts must be drawn up to complete the conveyancing process which, in Scotland, is done through the exchange of letters between the buyer and seller’s solicitors, known as ‘missives’.

The conveyancing procedure also involves carrying out investigations into the property and the parties involved in the sale. Your conveyancing lawyer will perform various checks to ensure there are no issues that could cause potential problems further down the line. By doing so, you will know exactly what you are getting into from the outset and won't get any nasty surprises once the purchase is complete.

I want to buy a house – what should I do first?

The first thing you’ll need to do is think about what you can afford. This will give you a better understanding of the types of property to look at and in which locations.

Most buyers will have to apply for a mortgage to fund their purchase. You should speak to a mortgage broker at the earliest opportunity for advice on the current mortgage market and your specific financial circumstances. We work with a number of trusted advisers and would be happy to put you in touch with them.

In preparation for meeting the mortgage broker you should add up your monthly and annual outgoings to give yourself a clearer idea of how much you can afford in mortgage repayments. It’s important to be aware that interest rates can go up, which can impact the amount you will have to repay depending on the type of mortgage you have.

It should be noted that there are additional costs beyond the mortgage repayments when it comes to buying a house. As well as your deposit, you'll need to cover legal fees and survey fees. Once you've purchased the property, you may have to pay building and contents insurance, Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) and removal company fees. Depending on the condition of the property, you may also need to carry out work on your new home or redecorate.

How do I find the house that’s right for me?

Once you’ve got a sense of what you can afford, you can start checking estate agency websites and property portals to see what’s on the market. Registering for daily email updates can be helpful, allowing you to view suitable homes that have just come on the market. If you know what area you’d like to buy in, speaking with local estate agents face-to-face can be useful. They can offer tips on up and coming areas and provide recommendations that you might not have thought about. We also have extensive local and national knowledge and will be happy to assist and guide you where necessary

To help in your search, you might consider writing a list of some of the features you would like your new home to have. When you start going to viewings, you should also think about the surrounding area, such as whether there are good transport links and what the local amenities are like.

What should I look out for when viewing a property?

Before you view a property you should have a good read through of the Home Report (see below for more details), which will be available from the estate agent. This will give you an idea of what to look for when you are viewing the property.

Leave time to drive or walk around the local area to get a feel for the neighbourhood. Refer to your list of features and prepare any questions if there are gaps in the information provided about the property. Having a second opinion on a house is always useful, so consider going to viewings with someone whose opinion you value and trust. Buying a home is the biggest financial purchase many of us will make in our lifetime, which is why you want to be sure the property is right for you before agreeing to buy it.

During the viewing itself, make sure you are thorough. Sellers won’t think you’re rude for asking several questions. It’s vital you look over the whole property, including the loft, basement and garage if they exist. Ask what fixtures and fittings are included. Lastly, try to create a good impression – being friendly and building a good rapport with the seller could be useful later on when it comes to having an offer accepted.

When should I get a solicitor?

You'll need a conveyancing solicitor to deal with the legal aspects of the purchase and to carry out checks on the property. It is advisable to instruct a legal advisor at an early stage – leaving it until you've found a property you want to buy can cause extra stress, and you could potentially be too late in notifying the seller of your interest. We will be happy to take instruction from the outset, offering you clear and practical advice.

What is a Home Report?

Anyone selling a house in Scotland has to provide potential buyers with a Home Report. However, there are some exceptions that apply, for example for brand new properties sold off-plan. The Home Report provides information that you need to know before deciding to make an offer. It is made up of three parts:

A single survey

This contains a valuation and information on the condition of the property. This will cover things like the roof, plumbing and external walls. For older properties, you might want to consider having a more detailed building survey carried out if you are planning to put in an offer.

An energy report

This provides an energy-efficiency rating for the property and assesses the environmental impact of carbon dioxide emissions.

A property questionnaire

The seller completes this. It provides a wide range of useful information about the property, such as any repairs carried out in the past, and details about parking and factoring arrangements.

I’ve found a house I want to buy – what do I do?

The first step is to note your interest. Your solicitor will contact the seller’s estate agent and advise them of the closing date. Once you have noted your interest, this makes it known that you would like the chance to make an offer on the property before it is sold.

When it comes to making an offer, properties in Scotland are usually advertised for 'offers around', 'offers over' or at a ‘fixed price’. The first two options will require you to submit a sealed bid before the closing date. In the case of a fixed price, if you offer the fixed amount you are in with a good chance of having it accepted. However, in most cases a fixed price seller is usually looking for a quick sale. This can mean that even if you offer the fixed amount, if you’re waiting for your current property to sell, the seller may still reject your offer.

Your solicitor can provide advice on the offer amount, prepare the details of your offer and pass it to the seller’s lawyer. Your offer should also include a proposed date of entry and other terms and conditions to do with the purchase. Once all offers are in, the seller will choose which one they want to accept.

What happens if my offer is accepted?

When your offer is accepted, your solicitor will confirm this to you and you should then make your full mortgage application to your mortgage lender. Your solicitor will receive a range of searches on the property. They will carry out checks to ensure there are no issues that could cause problems for you in the future. This can include checking that the seller has the legal right to sell the property and that all information in the title documents, such as the property description and title plans, are correct. They will also check if there are any plans for local developments and that any extensions or renovations were carried out with the proper permissions.

Your solicitor will begin the paperwork needed to transfer ownership to you and agree the contract of sale with the seller. This is called ‘concluding the missives’. A period of negotiation will take place, with written offers going back and forth between both solicitors until all issues have been ironed out and both you and the seller are happy.

A date of entry will be agreed, and arrangements will be made for you to pay the purchase price and receive the keys. This is known as 'settlement'.

How long does the conveyancing process take?

There is no set timescale for completing the conveyancing process – this will depend on whether there are any complicating factors. Factors that could cause delays include:

  • Disagreements between you and the seller over the contact
  • Delays in receiving your mortgage paperwork
  • Delays at any part of the property chain
  • Unexpected issues with the property arising from the searches
  • Your solicitor needs additional paperwork covering repairs or alterations that have been carried out in the past

Contact our Conveyancing Lawyers Ayr, Troon, Kilmarnock, Irvine and Glasgow

This guide offers a brief overview of the conveyancing process. If you would like to discuss this in more detail, our conveyancing team will be happy to arrange an initial appointment. Call us today on 01292 289 584 or fill out our online enquiry form.

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