17 August 2022
In this article we will discuss ‘conveyancing’ and what it means for the buying or selling process in Scotland.
What is conveyancing?
The legal element of purchasing a property is known as conveyancing. Basically, it is how the contract is created which transfers the ownership of a property from one person to another. This is done by a series of letters being exchanged, known as missives. As soon as the missives are concluded, the transaction becomes legally binding on both the seller and the purchaser. After the missives are concluded, the seller is legally bound to transfer the ownership to the buyer – if they pull out, the buyer can claim damages. Likewise, if the purchaser cannot complete the transaction for any reason, they are liable for damages to the seller. However, a transaction falling apart following the conclusion of missives is very rare.
How long does the conveyancing process take?
The process of buying or selling a property can normally be completed within four to nine weeks from the moment of offer being made to completion. Although, it can take longer in some cases – for example, due to the number of parties involved in the chain or if the purchaser is taking a mortgage over the property. Your solicitor will give you a general estimate of how long the process will take after your initial meeting, however, you should prepare for the possibility of delays.
Note of interest
When buying a property in Scotland, you may be asked if you want to ‘note interest’ in the home. This is a way of telling the seller’s estate agent that you might be interested in placing an offer on the property. Please note that a note of interest isn’t legally binding, rather it is indicating to the seller that a purchaser is interested. After submitting a note of interest, you are kept up to date on any closing date or progress with the property.
In Scotland, a closing date is the set time and date given for all interested parties to submit their best and final offer on a property they’d like to purchase. All bids are ‘sealed’ – which means if you are bidding at a closing date, you will not know how many other bidders there are or what their offers look like. The selling agent will unseal the bids after the set time has passed on the closing date, and share these with the seller, who will then choose their preferred offer. A seller will generally choose the highest offer, but this is not always the case – so it’s always worth making your bid as attractive as possible, by highlighting your status as a buyer and being prepared to be flexible or to move quickly.
When you have had an offer accepted on a property, the seller’s solicitor will discuss the terms of your offer with the seller, and take instructions to issue a formal acceptance letter, which confirms the agreed price, date of entry and any requested amendments to the written offer. This is called ‘qualified acceptance’, and your solicitor will explain it to you.
Conclusion of missives
After you’ve had an offer accepted, the conveyancing process will begin. If your offer is verbally accepted, your solicitor will discuss the acceptance with you and negotiate on your behalf with the seller’s solicitor.
The offer, acceptance, and any subsequent letters, which are intended to be part of a legal contract, are known as the ‘missives’.
Before concluding missives, the purchasing solicitor will check the title deeds and searches to ensure that the property has a good and marketable title. Both the purchaser and seller’s solicitors will work to resolve any title issues and any points of concern in the transaction. Your solicitor should explain these points in full as the transaction progresses to ensure you are both happy and have a good understanding of the process.
Missives are said to be ‘concluded’ when the final acceptance letter is issued. As previously stated, this means that the purchaser and seller have entered into a legally binding contract and cannot withdraw without penalty.
Your solicitor will advise you when the missives are concluded and send you a copy of the full contract.
Prior to completion, you will provide your solicitor with the balance of the purchase price and the legal costs. Your solicitor will also request loan funds from your lender.