Exchanging contacts with a handshake

Understanding the Timeline for Exchanging Contracts on Buying a New Home in Scotland

Purchasing a new home is an exciting but sometimes complex process, punctuated by legal and procedural steps that culminate in the exchange of contracts. The property conveyancing system in Scotland differs significantly from other parts of the UK, most notably England and Wales. We want to assist  prospective homebuyers to understand these differences, especially the timeline involved in reaching what is known in Scotland as the “conclusion of missives.” Here is a guide to help you navigate your way through the timeline and key considerations when exchanging contracts for a new home in Scotland.

The Scottish Property Buying Process at a Glance

The process of buying a new home in Scotland is distinct and is characterised by a series of formal offers and acceptances known as “missives.” Unlike the system in England and Wales, where the exchange of contracts happens closer to the completion of the sale, in Scotland, the binding agreement to purchase (conclusion of missives) occurs much earlier in the process.

Step by Step:

  1. Note of Interest: After identifying the property you want to buy, your solicitor will express a formal note of interest to the seller. 
  2. Survey and Valuation: This is usually completed by a property surveyor and is specifically designed for newly built homes. It involves a detailed inspection of the home, reviewing its condition, building materials, and quality of building work.
  3. The Formal Offer: Your solicitor will send a formal offer to the seller. 
  4. The Missives: Your solicitor will send a series of letters between you, the buyer, and the seller’s solicitors outlining the terms of the sale, including the price, date of entry, and any conditions.
  5. Conclusion of Missives: This crucial step is when all terms are agreed upon, and the contract becomes legally binding for both parties.
  6. Completion: This is also known as the “date of entry.” It is when the remaining funds are transferred and you receive the keys to your new home.

Timeline for Exchanging Contracts

The timeline for reaching the conclusion of missives in Scotland can vary based on several factors, such as the complexity of the sale, any existing property you need to sell, and how quickly both parties’ solicitors operate. The process from offer to the conclusion of missives on a new build property can be quick and depending on the build process, you could be in your new home quicker than you think. However, if you have a property to sell which is relevant to you buying your new home, you need to discuss timeframes with the developer, as there will be a specific time set from the reservation of the property to the conclusion of missives. You may be able to discuss a further extension of this time, depending on your circumstances.

Factors Influencing the Timeline

  • Demand and Market Conditions: In a seller’s market, where demand outstrips supply, the process may move faster as sellers are eager to conclude sales.
  • Survey and Valuation Reports: Delays in obtaining these reports can slow the process.
  • Mortgage Approval: The time it takes to secure mortgage approval can also impact the timeline.
  • Property Chain: If you are waiting on the sale of your incumbent property, this can introduce delays.
  • Negotiation of Missives: The negotiation period can be lengthy if there are conditions and/or terms to agree upon.

Average Timeline

On average, concluding missives can take about 4-8 weeks after an offer is made, assuming no unusual delays exist. However, depending on the build process, the completion date may be set a few weeks to a few months after the missives are concluded.

Tips for a Smooth Process

  • Engage a Solicitor Early: Having a solicitor experienced in Scottish property law from the outset can assist in the process.
  • Arrange Your Mortgage in Principle: A mortgage in principle before making an offer can speed up the formal mortgage application process.
  • Be Prepared: Have your finances in order, including the deposit, and respond promptly to requests for information or decisions.
  • Communicate: Regular communication with your solicitor can help keep the process on track and clarify any uncertainties.


Buying a new home can be challenging but comes with many rewards. The system of missives provides a secure pathway to homeownership once the contract is concluded. Understanding the process, timeline, preparation, and effective communication can help ensure a smoother journey to acquiring your new home. While some factors can influence how long it takes to exchange contracts, with the right help and guidance, you can navigate this process confidently, moving closer to the day you step into your new home.

Our Sales Managers/Advisors are always on hand to offer help and advice on the buying process, and we can also direct you to our Independent Financial Advisors for any mortgage or financial advice you may require.