How long does it take to conclude missives for a property in Scotland? 

The Offer is just the first step in the process

People frequently believe that in Scotland, once your offer is accepted, you, the buyer, and the sellers are parties to a legally binding contract. It is a little more complicated than that; that is not the case. Not because we, as solicitors, desire things to be more complicated; rather, everything in today’s world tends to be more complex. Although making a winning offer is a crucial step in purchasing a home, it is just the first in a process that takes weeks to complete and is only finished if other procedures, including acquiring your mortgage, have been accomplished. What are Missives in Scotland and how do they affect the purchase of your house, then?

What are the Missives?

In the context of property transactions in Scotland, “missives” refer to a series of formal letters exchanged between the buyer’s and seller’s solicitors. These letters contain crucial information and terms that outline the agreement and conditions of the sale. Missives serve as a means of negotiation and communication between the parties involved in the transaction. The content of the missives typically covers various aspects, such as the purchase price, completion date, fixtures and fittings, and any additional conditions or contingencies. The process of exchanging missives involves making offers, counteroffers, and accepting or rejecting terms until a mutual agreement is reached. Once the final missive is agreed upon and accepted not just by either parties but by both parties, it becomes a contract. The conclusion of missives signifies that the transaction is progressing, and it sets the foundation for the subsequent steps in the conveyancing process.

What role do the Missives play in the process of buying your property?

The Missives cover a wide range of topics relating to the property, the seller’s title to the property, and your respective rights and obligations in relation to the sale and purchase. They are an integral and essential part of the process, and rightfully so given that they are the contract entered into between you and the sellers outlining the conditions on which you and the seller agree to the purchase and sale.

How long does it take to complete the purchase once the Offer has been verbally accepted?

The typical time to finish a purchase is 8 weeks, with Fridays being the most common day.

Who signs the Missives?

Again, customers may find this puzzling. Although in some other systems the buyer and seller sign the contract personally, in Scotland it is the solicitors that sign the different contract letters, acting as the buyer’s and seller’s agents, to create the Missives.

How long does it take to agree on the Missives?

Although the Law Society of Scotland still requires solicitors to conclude Missives as soon as possible, in reality, and usually for very good reasons, the process of agreeing and concluding the Missives (i.e., the point where there is a contract between buyer and seller) takes a number of weeks to complete and is frequently only completed just before you are actually due to complete the purchase of your property.

What are the reasons for it taking time to agree and conclude?

The most likely things that will hold up the conclusion of the Missives are the following:  The time it takes for the mortgage offer to be issued We always recommend buyers contact their mortgage adviser as quickly as possible once their offer on a property has been verbally accepted. This is because the actual process of applying for a mortgage and the lender processing that application can take several weeks. Also, in a number of cases, there is something incorrect in the first offer, usually the stated purchase price, which means the lender has to make that correction and issue a fresh offer. The following are the most likely factors that will prevent the Missives’ conclusion: the length of time it takes to issue the offer Once an offer has been orally accepted, we always advise buyers to speak with their mortgage advisor as soon as possible. 

This is due to the fact that applying for a mortgage and having the application processed by the provider can both take several weeks. Additionally, the reported purchase price is frequently erroneous in the first mortgage offer, which forces the lender to make the alterations and issue a new mortgage offer. Additionally, we have a lot of obligations to the lender, which occasionally requires us to write to them in order to report on specific events before we can really request the loan monies. Gifted Deposits are a prime illustration of this. The seller waits to list their next home until they have a signed contract and mortgage on it. The sellers will not want to commit to the sale until they, too, have a legally binding contract for the purchase of their new home (and that their offer is issued), which is another cause for delays because they are eager to acquire the next new home. 

You will not be allowed to view the property again until the Missives are concluded

In Scotland, it is customary to forbid buyers from visiting the home again until the Missives are finished, and even then, just to measure it or to have contractors come out and make estimates for the work. Again, for this reason, some consumers will become impatient with the Missives’ delays in completion. Possibly because you have furnishings to order. It might be possible to persuade the sellers to grant access in some situations, especially if they are to blame for the delay.

Delays do cause stress

Everyone in the profession or industry understands that delays in concluding the Missives result in stress for both the seller and the buyer, but frequently, as is perhaps evident from the above list of potential delays, it is not because solicitors have purposefully made the system complicated; rather, it is because there are so many factors involved in buying and selling properties that must all come together or be resolved in order for the system to work and for you. While we can say that almost all purchases do finish on the day they are supposed to finish (the “Date of Entry” or “Completion Date”), there are times when completion must be delayed, and perhaps more frequently, there are cases where, even though it’s likely that everything will fall into place in time for the Missives to finish on the intended date, they won’t be finished until very close to that day.

The Offer to Purchase

Just to clarify, the Offer will include the following details and conditions:

  • Your information as the buyer or purchaser will be included.
  • The address of the property you want to purchase will be mentioned.
  • It will include the price you wish to offer for the property and, in certain situations, the date you wish to finalize the acquisition (the “Date of Entry”). However, the Date of Entry is sometimes negotiated at a later time.
  • It will include a clause in it that states that your offer is contingent upon receiving your mortgage.
  • It will state that your offer is contingent upon the sale of your current house if you still need to sell it.
  • If necessary, it will make your offer contingent upon receiving a positive damp specialist report.

The Offer is brief in and of itself. The reason for this is that Scotland now has a set of Standard Clauses that include all the other common terms that apply to the purchase of residential property.

The Qualified Acceptance

The second Contract Letter, which we refer to as the Qualified Acceptance, is sent to us by the sellers’ solicitor after they have verbally accepted your offer. This solicitor takes explicit instructions from the sellers.

Why is it called Qualified Acceptance?

Simply because this upcoming Contract Letter qualifies or modifies some of the conditions of the Offer and Standard Clauses rather than merely accepting the Offer as-is, which is quite uncommon.

Further Contract Letters

We provide you a thorough Report outlining the provisions of the Offer and Standard Clauses as they have been modified by the Qualified Acceptance after we receive the Qualified Acceptance. The Report will provide advice on which revisions are good and acceptable and which cannot be accepted or can only be accepted when the Seller’s attorney has provided more details. Once all issues have been resolved, there will be a binding contract between you and the sellers, and the Final Acceptance Letter will be produced. There will then be additional Contract Letter exchanges between our lawyers and the sellers’ lawyers.

Looking for solicitors in Edinburgh? Get in touch with us at 0808 169 7318 – our solicitors are available around Scotland! 

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