Whilst the legal systems of Scotland and England vary and there are some specific differences with respect to the purchase and sale of property, both systems have advantages and disadvantages.

In Scotland, solicitors have a much more significant hold on the housing market and it is not unusual for solicitors to also sell the property, effectively taking on the role of estate agent. In the past, unlike in England where a contract for the sale is negotiated and then signed and exchanged, the buyer and seller of Scottish property exchange several documents relating to the transaction. These documents are known as missives.

In England and Wales, the terms of an offer are made subject to contract. This means that no-one is legally obliged to continue with the transaction until the formal contract has been signed and the parties have exchanged the contracts. In Scotland, an exchange of letters (missives) may make a transaction binding early in the process. However, nowadays, it is not unusual for offers to be made with dozens of conditions, thus making the process longer and more drawn out in Scotland also.

In England the survey is commissioned by the prospective purchaser. In Scotland this may be undertaken by the seller’s surveyor and then relied upon by the buyer and the mortgage provider, as long as the surveyor is on the mortgage provider’s approved ‘panel’. This latter option can reduce the potential for several abortive surveys being undertaken by unsuccessful buyers, but it does mean that the buyer can make sure the survey is done by an approved surveyor.

In the past, much of the work was undertaken by the seller’s solicitor prior to marketing the property. This meant that a sale might take less time to conclude. However, in recent years the time frame for Scottish conveyancing has stretched and the two systems are now likely to take a similar time period.

There are other differences to be aware of, including the different laws relating to tax and Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) in particular. In Scotland there is no SDLT but they do charge a Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT).

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