The buyer’s guide


In this page
                     Where to begin
                     Property hunt

                     The survey

                     Find a conveyancer
                     Making an offer

                     Exchange and Complete
                     Freehold, Leasehold, and Commonhold
                     Buying in Scotland


Where to begin

  • Before you look at location, or think about what type of property you want, decide how much you can afford, i.e. Monthly budget.  By submitting your details on our homepage, a mortgage adviser will contact you and advise what level of loan you can get based on your financial circumstances.
  • Write a list of all your particular requirements from the number of bedrooms you require to local amenities.
  • You might wish to look at property hotspots or up-and-coming areas, but check these match your list of requirements.
  • Research the area’s property prices by using the internet, looking in local press and visiting estate agents.

Property hunt

  • When you start viewing property keep your list of requirements in mind and rate everything you see against it.
  • View the property as part of the local area.  For example, you can get to and from work easily, what are the local schools like and is there somewhere safe for the children to play?
  • If you’re investing in property, remember you are not looking for somewhere you’d like to live, but that will fit the rental market.
  • Ask the seller how long they have been there and why they are moving.  What’s the area like and do they get on with the neighbours?
  • Check regularly with you estate agent(s) whether any new properties that match your requirements have just come on to the market.



When viewing a property, don’t be afraid to look everywhere – from the cellar to the attic, if applicable – and look more than once.

Check outside for:

  • Cracks in the walls
  • Missing roof tiles
  • Damp and mould around drains and gutters
  • Signs of dry rot in window frames
  • General condition of neighbouring properties
  • Condition of path and drive

Check inside for:

  • Signs of damp
  • Cracks around window frames
  • Cracks in the plasterwork
  • What fixtures and fittings are included
  • How old the central heating is

The survey

  • Get a surveyor to look at the property.  You could use the same one as the mortgage lender, or ask your    estate agent for a recommendation
  • To get a mortgage you need a basic valuation.  But take advice as to the type of survey you need.  
  • If the property was built in the last 30 years, is conventional in type and in good repair, a Homebuyer’s report  will be suitable.
  • If it’s old, unusually constructed, or if you wish to renovate or convert it, commission a building survey / full   structural survey.
  • Ask your surveyor for a rough estimate of costs if particular problems have been identified.


Find a conveyancer


You need to have instructed a solicitor or specialist conveyancer by the time you put in an offer to keep things moving.

  • Recommendation is a good way to find one.  You could ask your estate agent, colleagues or friends which   firms they have used.
  • Ask several solicitors for quotes and check what is included in the fee
  • Choose the firm you feel happiest dealing with and appears to be the most efficient from your initial contact   with them.

Making an offer

  • By the time you put in an offer you should have a mortgage, at least, agreed in principle.  This will show you   are a serious buyer.
  • Find out if any offers have been made and ensure yours is competitive – but still start lower than the asking   price
  • Make it clear to the estate agent and seller that your offer is subject to contract and a satisfactory survey
  • If you are not in a chain, make sure the seller knows this, as it could work in your favour if they are looking to  sell quickly
  • Make sure the estate agent – or agents- take the property off the market once the offer has been accepted.


Exchange and complete


Before you exchange contracts, make sure:

  • You are happy with the draft contract and that it answers all questions about the state of the property and   what’s included in the sale
  • Your mortgage lender is satisfied with the survey
  • Your solicitor has received responses to all Land Registry and local authority searches
  • Details in the draft contract correspond to all answers given in the pre-contract enquiries
  • Your buildings insurance is arranged to start on the date of exchange as you will be liable from that point
  • You agree a completion date with the seller, via your solicitor.  You can then organise your move


Freehold, leasehold and commonhold

Most houses are owned on a freehold basis, which means you own the property and the land it stands on.  Flats are usually owned leasehold where you own the right to occupy the property for a period of time, after which it reverts to the freeholder.  With leasehold, the freeholder is responsible for maintaining the common parts of the building, for which the leaseholders pay a service charge and ground rent.  The leaseholders are obliged to keep the property in good condition, however…
Commonhold is a very new form of ownership.  The individual flats will be held on a freehold basis by their owners, while the common parts – such as staircases, hallways and gardens – will be owned and managed by the flat owners in the form of a limited company called a commonhold association.  It involves a complicated legal process to switch from leasehold to commonhold, however, so apply to new developments, rather than existing ones.


Buying in Scotland

Buying a home in Scotland involves a completely different system.  The seller will invite ‘offers over’ a certain price, and if you want to buy the house you must instruct your solicitor to make a sealed bid.  You must have a mortgage before you start home hunting because if your bid is successful, you are legally obliged to buy.  Similarly, you must get a survey before putting in an offer.  And if your bid is not successful, you will have to pay for a survey for every house you are interested in.  In Scotland, the solicitor plays a much bigger role and often acts as the selling agent, rather than the estate agent.



Information source:  'Mortgage Advisor & home buyer' publication July 2006