Tag Archives: Mortgages

Caithness and Sutherland Property – what happened in 2016 and the prospects for 2017.

Bruce de Wert

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


Housing market confidence!

The Headlines


•           Confidence in the property market is much higher than it has been of late.


•           Sales picked up in December and have kept up momentum.


•           Mortgages are becoming easier and cheaper to obtain.


•           There is a great deal of borrowing activity by first-time buyers.


•           Prices are still reducing. This is expected to continue but the rate is expected to lessen. This is not a serious problem unless you bought at the top of the market.


•           There are more buyers than there were but still nothing like 2007. This explains why some properties have not sold.


•           Repossessions have stabilised.


To sum up, things are much better than they were. It is not all wonderful but a very considerable improvement.


The Detail


Confidence is what drives the housing market and there is presently bags of it!

This explains why homes, in Caithness and Sutherland, are selling much more quickly and in greater numbers than we have seen since 2008.

This is reflected by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland who report that “For the first time since mid-2011, the new buyer enquiries and newly agreed sales series remained positive for the third consecutive month.”

Statistics are, as usual, the basis of all good reporting and, of course, they tend to lag well behind the actuality. Nevertheless it is useful to report on them.

For instance, Iain Malloch, chair of the Council of Mortgage Lenders Scotland, talking about 2012, commented:

“The Scottish housing market showed positive signs of recovery in 2012, broadly following the pattern seen in the rest of the UK. The availability of mortgages at more than 90% loan-to-value has more than doubled in the last two years and lenders expect to offer more high loan-to-value mortgages this year. This, and the fact that the number of first-time buyers is at a post-crunch high, suggests that lenders really are open for business.”

My experience is that the current situation has improved beyond that. I noticed a significant uplift just before Christmas last year and this is reflected in the April Bank of England inflation report which stated: —

“Over 2012, mortgage approvals by all UK-resident mortgage lenders for house purchase were broadly flat, though had picked up in the second half of the year.”

Not that it is all good news. Prices are on the slide in Caithness and Sutherland and that is reflected by RICS Scotland who say that a slight balance of surveyors expect price reductions this year but if you are a seller, unless you boughyout at the top of the market, that will not be of much concern to you, since the house you buy will also be cheaper.

Let us start at the bottom – the first-time buyer. In 2012, the number of first-time buyers in Scotland rose to the largest annual total in four years, according to new data released by the Council of Mortgage Lenders in Scotland. A total of 19,000 first-time buyers became homeowners – a 13% increase compared to 2011.

And I repeat that this is historic data and my experience is that the market since just before Christmas has changed. There is a great deal more cheer and happiness amongst our clients and customers than there has been for some time.

This is not to say that everything that we have put on the market has sold. There are still some properties which have been on the market for a long time. The market is by no means what it was in 2007 but it is a great deal better than it has been for a long, long time.

So why is this?

Low interest rates are a big boost and, as a result of that, the Bank of England April report indicated that that: —

“The total flow of net lending ….was positive in the three months to February.” Net lending is the total lent by lenders less the amount repaid by borrowers. Confidence is high if people are borrowing at a higher rate than they are we paying their mortgages. Since the crunch, people have been cautiously paying off their mortgages. This trend seems to be have been reversed.

The Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) has undoubtedly had a part in reducing the rate of interest charged by lenders. FLS is a scheme whereby the Bank of England lends money to mortgage suppliers at cheap rates. The fall has not been as much as some expected, however, as the Bank’s inflation report indicated that mortgage rates “have not fallen as much as anticipated” but that “further falls are possible”.

Aaron Strutt of Trinity Financial mortgage brokers was reported in the Sunday Times on 19 May as saying: — “These figures suggest the banks have been failing to pass on the full benefits of the FLS to borrowers”.

Nevertheless, mortgages are cheaper than they have been for a very considerable time and so the uptake, particular by first-time buyers, is higher. Since first-time buyers were absent for a long time, this is a matter of great cheer.

The Government has a New Buy scheme which improves affordability as the government will give a deferred loan of 20% of the price, the lender will give 75% and use the borrower, 5%. This only applies if you are a first-time buyer buying a new property but I am unaware of any builder here, in Caithness, who is taking part in the scheme. Lenders are also not very keen.

One indicator of the affordability of mortgages is the level of repossessions and the Council of Mortgage Lenders report that: —

“Mortgage arrears and repossessions have stabilised at levels lower than many anticipated when the economic downturn started. Low interest rates, continuing employment, lender forbearance and tactical public policy support have combined to ensure that repossession really is a last resort.

Altogether, then, there is good cheer around and, assuming there are no more Euro shocks, it looks like it is full steam ahead for the property market in Caithness and Sutherland.

Bruce G. de Wert, Solicitor


Solicitors and Estate Agents

Wick and Thurso

+44 (0)1955 606060 (option 2)



Property 2013 – the prospects for Caithness and Sutherland

property jigsawImagine the scene – a darkened room, an old crone with a shawl over her head and the crystal ball centred on the table.

Draw up a chair whilst I (the old crone) gaze into the future….

First to say is that the omens are better than for a long time.

The UK property market is picking up, according to figures from the Bank of England.

In November the number of new mortgages approved for home buyers, but not yet lent, rose to 54,036 – the highest November figure for three years.

This suggest the Bank’s Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) is encouraging more lending to home buyers.

The number of approvals is regarded as a good indicator of forthcoming trends and suggests that sales will keep on rising in the coming months.

Both the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors have predicted that FLS will help to revive lending and sales this year.

This pickup in business accords with my own experience. Since the crash in 2008, business has tailed off as Christmas approached – but not this year. Both sellers and purchasers were still active and this is bodes well.

Housing is all about confidence and this last year has been remarkable for the sustained level that I have seen.

One reason for this may have been the decrease in EU scares. The spectre of Euro collapse is still there. It is, however, in the shadows and the markets seem to have renewed confidence that the EU will become more and more a centralised economy where the periphery cannot spend, spend, spend as they used to.

Whether this European “vision” is something that we want to be a part of is a question for politicians and not for this column but the absence of crisis is producing something of a feelgood factor in the property market at the moment.

Surveyors play a key role in the property market and their latest report from December predicted that:-

• Housing transactions to climb to the best level since the onset of the credit crunch.
• Prices to post modest gains helped by an increase in mortgage finance.
• Housing starts to remain well short of projections of household formation

These are UK wide predictions and I cannot say that I agree with all of them but, in general, they reflect the confidence in the market that I’m talking about

My particular caveat is about prices. I think they will continue to fall. The UK wide picture is very much skewed by London. There are large inflows of cash from outside the UK and these tend to drive up prices in London. Since the figures concerned are very big, they mask the picture for mere mortals such as us, way up in the North.

I saw a headline in the Press and Journal saying that prices had gone up. This was information from the Highland Solicitors Property Centre. Unfortunately, for us, most of HSPC properties are in Inverness. Inverness always does well as there is very much, these days, a centralising tendency and this sucks in jobs from the fringes. I am afraid that what happens in Inverness is completely irrelevant to what is happening here.

So what does the crystal ball tell me? It is smoky and unclear but I think I see that: –

• It will become easier to sell your home in 2013
• Prices will continue to fall but perhaps not at the rate we have seen recently.
• Prospects for buyers will continue to be good. The supply of mortgages will continue to increase.

Happy New Year!

A good time to buy in Caithness and Sutherland!


Georgesons Estate Agency Wick CaithnessIn Caithness and Sutherland, specifically, there is no question about it. Prices are dropping – and quite steeply. The statistics for the Highland region, as a whole, are a drop of 4.4% but that, of course, includes Inverness which always seems to do rather better than the rest of the Highlands.

There was a logjam over the last 3 to 4 years whilst people waited to see what was happening but now they realise that times are not going to get better quickly, they are biting the bullet and selling.

Of course, whilst you may have to accept a lower price for your own property, there are also plenty of bargains out there for when you go on and buy. For most people, the absolute price is not a major issue although this is not, sadly, true if you bought at the top of the market.

What is important is that the market is starting to move. I have certainly had more sales this year than last. Interestingly, that is contrary to the national picture exhibited by the Registers of Scotland, who indicated that the numbers of houses being sold dropped by 2.1% although, in the last quarter in the Highlands, there was a rise of 10.8% in sales. My experience may be an issue of market share within Caithness and Sutherland.

As regards mortgages, the Building Societies Association reports that lending was up 10% compared to the same month last year and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, who represent Banks indicated that house purchase lending was up 9.1% although there was a considerable decline in the remortgage lending.

Dry statistics? I do not think so! They tell you the truth about what is really going on and it is all pretty positive stuff. I told you the bad news during the bad times and it has been a pleasure to report positive developments during this year.

Who is looking? At the moment, it seems to be virtually all internal to Caithness and Sutherland although there are some bargain hunters from outwith. We have buy to let purchasers but also, happily, we continue, this year, to have the person who has managed to sell and is looking to upgrade! One exciting development was a holiday home buyer. They have been absent for 3 or 4 years and I hope that this is a “green shoot” which will lead to growth in that market which was, previously, an important one.

It is certainly a very good time to be a buyer and, particularly in this area where prices are so low, a first-time buyer.

Bruce de WertBruce de Wert

Solicitor www.Georgesons.co.uk

[email protected]

My property website can be seen at www.Georgesonsproperty.co.uk


Property sales up but prices down in Caithness and Sutherland

RecVictorian propertyent national headlines, to this effect, mirror my own experience, here in the Far North.

HM Revenue and Customs reported that there has been an 11% rise in house sales this year and I would certainly confirm that house sales are definitely up.

There is speculation, with which I tend to agree, that people have lost faith in the possibility of a return to the “good old days” and so have bitten the bullet and moved.

Big rise in number of homes sold in Scotland

property marketThe recent uplift in sales experienced by me and reported in my last blog has now been confirmed in a report on the BBC.

The statistics also tend to confir the feelings expressed in m last blog , which was that sellers had come to the view that the market was not going to get an better and had decided to get on with their move.

I continue to experience good sales-long may it continue.

You can see the houses we have for sale on our Caithness and Sutherland property website.

Upsurge in house sales for Caithness property market

property marketHaving had a strong start to the year, particularly a very buoyant March, this flattened somewhat only to revive again about a month ago.

In the last two weeks we have had acceptable offers for approximately 15 properties. This is a significant uplift in the market. Long may it continue! Last year was fairly appalling and so it is an improvement from a very low base but, as you can see, there is hope.

Caithness and Sutherland property market bucks the national trend

property marketSpring has brought increased growth to the property market in  Caithness and Sutherland.

The growth in sales that I reported last month continues. Yes, this is from a very low base and does not remotely compare with what was happening in 2008. Nevertheless, the change is very significant and growth and not something I have seem for a long while.

First-time buyers – don’t miss out on the stamp duty holiday – it could cost you money

Did you know that if you don’t complete on your house purchase by 25 March 2012 it could cost you more money?

This is an urgent alert for all UK first-time buyers. If you don’t get the keys by 25 March 2012, you will miss out on the stamp duty holiday.

If you are buying a house worth £125,000 or more you will save £1,250 if you complete the transaction within the next two months.

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