Investors Interest in Scotland

01.07.15

The international sporting calendar is boosting investor interest in Scotland’s key note golf regions with St Andrews leading the way. Laura Henderson reports

‘Celtic Tiger’ Rory Mcllroy knows how to give the golfing aristocracy a run for its money. The feisty young Irish player will be defending the Claret Jug at this year’s 144th Open after his victory at Royal Liverpool last year, competing against a pantheon of greats including three-time Champions Gary Player, Sir Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods not to mention firebrand peer Jordan Spieth. Mcllroy attributes his top tier success to sheer dogged determination and an aspirational spirit; attributes that Scotland’s golf real estate sector is harnessing to good effect at present in what is becoming an increasingly competitive investment niche in the global property market.

A quarter of a century ago, Scotland had just a handful of courses. Today, more than 500 populate the landscape, and government officials say they want to expand that core to 700 by 2020, with provision for new housing playing a pivotal role in the tees and greens build-out.

Figures released by the Registers of Scotland which keeps a record of all house prices in Scotland, reveal that properties located close to championship golf courses have made significant gains in price over the past five years, with the average price of a home situated within a 10-mile radius of Scotland’s five main golf courses £8-10,000 higher than the average price for a property in the country as a whole. The data also shows that during years when major championships are played – such as when Muirfield in East Lothian hosted the Open in 2013 – property prices rise even more quickly.

 “Detached house prices at Muirfield currently stand at £630,765 - significantly higher than the national average Scottish home of £285,355,” confirms Alexandra Wingate of ROS. “Next to Muirfield, St Andrews is the priciest of the group, boasting an average house price of £358,934. Even in comparison to other coastal towns, which are popular places to live, the figures show that golf course locations can command a property premium.”

Competition from emerging (more affordably priced) golf destinations such as Turkey, Dubai and South Africa is however making it much harder to secure buyers. Graeme Hartley from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Scotland comments. “Sunnier clime locations can be desirable for overseas buyers looking for a holiday home or buy-to-let investment,” he said. “That said, if a quality property is within playing distance of a major championship course, rental returns will be above par whatever the weather.”

On home turf, St Andrews with its global golf pedigree has performed well in recent years, buttressed by The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and a blue-blooded university. Yet despite its prestigious stock of period homes, it is the newer renovation projects currently attracting the most interest from foreign buyers in search of a turnkey pied a terre. A prime example is Abbey Park. Located just a short walk from the Royal and Ancient Club House and New and Jubilee Courses, this 14.5-acre brown field site has undergone a $110m refurbishment by Scottish house builder Robertson Homes. Properties have large, bright and spacious rooms in cleverly designed layouts. Externally, the building’s elegant frontage has crow-stepped gables, traditional dormers and stone-and-render feature turrets to reflect its historic setting, with stunning views over the Kinness Valley. Prices are attractive too, starting from £375,000 for a two-bed apartment.

American hospitality and real estate group Kohler, owners of St Andrews Old Course Hotel, has its own ‘makeover’ offering in the guise of Hamilton Grand, one of the town’s most iconic buildings. Overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course, this pink sandstone six-storey residence designed by Glasgow architect James Milne Munro is the fourth historic UK property to be taken on by the company, who purchased the building in 2009.

Comprising 26 private residences including two, three and four-bedroom apartments, ownership comes with membership of the 18-hole championship Duke’s Course on the outskirts of town designed by Open Master Peter Thomson. “High-net worth international buyers are a perfect fit for a project of this calibre,” adds Director of Marketing and Real Estate Helen Parker. “From their viewpoint, it offers the perfect summer or autumn golf fixture, with the potential to use their home as an incentive for corporate hospitality purposes.” Property prices (on application) are based on unit size and specifications.

Teeing up real estate interest in Perthshire meanwhile, a consortium of local developers are marketing Queens Crescent a private gated community overlooking the famed fairways of Gleneagles Resort Hotel. Priced at £1.3m, ‘Queens View’ is one of several bespoke-design residences in this prestigious 14-home estate. Properties come with a welcome sweetener of family membership to the Gleneagles Golf and Leisure Club.

Says spokesperson Chris Hall of national sales agents Rettie who handle enquiries: “The Gleneagles factor has obvious appeal to golfers around the world, spurred on by last year’s Ryder Cup, but non-inflated price levels are the real draw - £400 per square foot is appreciably below rival luxury offerings worldwide. In Hong Kong prices average £7,500 per square foot and in Mayfair in London sales are achieving £5,000 per square foot. With Edinburgh and Glasgow just an hour’s drive away, demand for holiday lets is also in plentiful supply.”

Head to Scotland’s north-east corner and the scenic Moray region and Maverston Highland Estate occupies a tranquil countryside setting, close to the village of Urquhart. Set within 126 hectares of lush countryside and boasting two golf courses, planning permission has been granted for a phased build-out of 40 luxury homes - phase one comprising 12 plots priced from £95,000 to £130,000. Design plans are also available for a range of 16 different house styles by the renowned architect, Ian Duncan, all with an emphasis on light, space and luxury.

“Aberdeen has strong inward migration feeding demand for quality homes and an enviable golf pedigree,” explains Harry Fordyce of local agents Miller Stewart. “For the UK and wider Europe, value for money is increasingly a factor, with property buyers and end-users more likely to be receptive to investments opportunities that package a quality course with less expensive golf. Maverston Estate is capitalising on this dynamic. No doubt others will follow suit.”

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