Bruce de Wert
Let us start with Brexit. I am very happy to report that, despite the doomsayers, the public shrugged it off!
We were delighted to find that nobody in the buying and selling market saw it as an issue. And this despite the politicians getting into (and continuing in) a lather.
Indeed, following upon the usual summer holiday lull, the market took off again and we have seen no diminution in interest in buying and selling, since.
Our own statistics indicate that sales remained steady despite the fact that Buy to Let sales dropped off a cliff following the Scottish Government imposing a 3% tax on top of the normal Stamp Duty for anyone buying a second home.
The objective was to discourage landlords from buying property and to encourage first-time buyers. It has certainly succeeded in discouraging landlords but it has failed, in this area anyway, in encouraging first-time buyers. Prices in Caithness and Sutherland are low and first-time buyers ignore the typical letting property and buy something bigger!
Having said that, generally, the lower price brackets have done well. In the early part of 2016, there was not much selling over £150,000 but, more recently, a good number of the higher priced properties have sold, as have some properties which had been “stuck” since the crash. Very welcome news!
Whilst the North ploughs its own housing furrow and national statistics should be treated with caution, RICS, the Surveyors body, in their latest report issued this month, indicate that there have been “small increases in new buyer enquiries” and that they anticipate “a gradual rise in activity over the months to come”.
Gail Hunter, director of RICS in Scotland said: – “In Scotland, prices looks set to remain firm in part caused by the lack of stock across the country”.
There is some opinion to the contrary. Talking about the whole UK market, the Halifax in October indicated that “Optimism in the housing market has taken a fall in recent months, with many people now expecting a general slowdown in the market and no, or little, change in house prices over the coming year. This sentiment is consistent with recent findings from the Halifax House Price Index which show that prices are still growing, but to a lesser extent.”
All I can say is that there is no sign of a slowdown here with continued activity right up to Xmas.
In Highland, the Registers of Scotland report that values started this year with an average price of £148,265 which, by October, had risen to £155,163.
Registers of Scotland’s director of commercial services, Kenny Crawford said: “The average price of a residential property in Scotland continues to show steady growth, with month-on-month increases in every month this year apart from February and August. This is a significant change from last year when there were decreases month-on-month in six out of the 12 months. Average prices have been steadily increasing on a year-on-year basis, too, with only one drop in average price being recorded in the past three years.”
It is always worthwhile to look at long-term trends. Sheenagh Adams, Keeper of the Registers of Scotland recently said: – “It’s been a mixed decade in the Scottish property market. Over the 10 years between 2006 and 2016, prices rose by nearly 20 per cent, whilst the volume of sales fell by a third, dominated by the dramatic fall in 2008.”
I remember, in late 2011, reporting to you that prices in Scotland since the crash had fallen by 16% and, in the North, rather more. As a result, my advice to potential sellers was stark – do not sell!
Happily, the picture has changed entirely.
We, in the North, tend not to be affected by the peaks and troughs that occur further South. We are not immune (as was seen in 2008) but, generally, the market here has its own pace and is, currently, on an upward trend.
If there is going to be the much heralded but yet unseen negative effect of Brexit (of which I have considerable doubts), I suspect that it will be some time away.
Certainly, for the past three years, we have had nothing but good news and, for 2017, my advice to potential sellers and buyers in Caithness and Sutherland is – go for it!
Anyone who would like to comment on this article or for this column to touch on any particular matter, please email me on [email protected].
Bruce de Wert has over 25 years of experience of Law and Estate Agency and is the Principal Solicitor at Georgesons and a Director at Georgesons Estate Agents