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Living the Highland Life

13.11.19

While it’s not all plain sailing for the housing market in Brexit era Britain, Scotland is leading the way for the rest of the UK, and it may be time to invest north of the border. Luke Thomas investigates

A country brimming with natural asset treasures – captivating landscapes, stunning vistas and ancient architecture, Scotland has a formidable reputation as a place to set up a grand second home. With the likes of celebrated author and playwright JK Rowling, Hollywood heart throb Gerard Butler and HRH Queen Elizabeth, owning properties in Caledonia, those looking to escape to the Scottish countryside will be in esteemed company.

In contrast to a Brexit muted housing market down south, Scotland is bucking the trend with dignity, delivering steady growth, notably across the country house sector. According to the latest Knight Frank Index, the value of prime country homes and estates has risen 2.1% in the third quarter of 2018 compared to the same time last year - a modest increase, but still good news for those looking to invest.

“This is the strongest rate of annual growth recorded by our index since the end of 2014,” said Oliver Knight, research associate at the firm. “On a longer-term basis, prime country house prices in Scotland are up by 3.6% over the last five years.”

“The consequence of this relatively subdued growth, during a period when prices in some urban markets have risen by as much as 26%, is that many country locations currently appear comparatively good value, especially when compared with prime markets elsewhere in the UK,” he explained.

“Country estates and castles are still significantly cheaper than in England, although a property overlooking the 1st or 18th holes at St Andrews golf course will compare in value per square foot to some of the most expensive properties in the rest of the UK, and currently holds a lot of appeal with international buyers from Scandinavia and North America.’ said Chris Hall, Director - Rural & Professional Services, at Rettie & Co.

So where are the top spots to buy in Scotland?

“Perthshire remains highly sought-after. Scenic and well connected, there was a time where Aberdeenshire was further ahead than Perthshire and Fife, but now all three regions are pretty much level pegging. What was previously a £2 million property in Aberdeenshire is now more likely to be valued around £1.5 million.” says Chris.

“Price points vary depending on location,” adds local agent James Wetherby. “St Andrews located in the east is known for its vintage charm and golfing prowess with a premium price tag to match. Across the River Tay a huge addition to Fife’s cultural scene is the new V&A Museum in Dundee, Scotland’s first design museum. A prime location for a buy-to-let investment, Dundee is to benefit from a £1 billion investment to redevelop its historic waterfront. This will be transformational for the city and the surrounding area.”

Perthshire

The ‘gateway to the Highlands’ and home of the former capital, Perth, this expansive region known as “big county” to the locals, is the fourth largest county in Scotland.

An excellent hub for those living in the surrounding area, banking on the River Tay, this charming city has been a settlement since prehistoric times and is home to one of the oldest museums in Scotland, yet it’s also within easy reach of the Cairngorms National Park for hill walking, mountain climbing, skiing and camping.

“Perthshire has excellent agricultural land and an estate there is more likely to be able to offer buyers traditional field sports – it’s recognised as one of the homes for highland sport.” said Evelyn Channing, Director of the Rural Agency team for Savills.

“It’s one of the most desirable places to live in Scotland for this reason, as well as it’s accessibility to the rest of the country.” she added.

In terms of property styles, Perth is a good stomping ground for traditional property, period houses, beautifully built, especially from the 19th century. In the grid-plan old town and fringes you’ll find stately Georgian town houses and early Victorians, especially around The North and South Inch. Across the Tay spacious villas in Bridgend and Gannochy are highly sought-after.

On the market for £679,000 with Aberdein Considine is a beautiful six-bedroom Edwardian villa with panoramic city views of Perth towards the mountains. Set in mature landscaped gardens, the property dates from the early 1900s and retains many traditional period features including cornicing, stone fireplaces and dramatic bay windows.

Aberdeenshire

Home to one of the finest coastlines in the world, the region’s 165-mile coastal trail includes stunning clifftop walks, nature reserves, expansive beaches, quaint towns and villages, golf courses and much more besides.

Straddled by the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland’s wild north east is also ideal for escaping the hustle and bustle of city life.

“Compared to Fife and Perthshire the market isn’t as buoyant here. That said, there are still many desirable estates, but various regional elements mean that for sporting and farming property other more central locations are generally more popular.” Said Evelyn.

Causing a flurry of tees and greens buyer interest at present and part of the Trump International Golf Links’ second phase of development, 500 luxury residential homes are planned beside the golf course set in the Great Dunes of Scotland in Balmedie. The £150 million investment will also include 50 hotel cottages, a sports centre, equestrian facilities and commercial properties. This activity forms part of a £750 million multi-phased development, building on the current £100 million golf course, clubhouse and hotel.

The Trump Organisation is hoping to begin construction next year, with the new estate additions expected to boost Aberdeen’s economy by more than £250 million.

To be known as the Trump Estate, housing will comprise different sized family-focused cottages, mansions and townhouses. Properties will fall into one of seven different house designs, ranging from two to five bedrooms. The homes will follow traditional Scottish architectural design, set in matured landscaped grounds. Five-bed, three-storey Balmoral homes spanning 4,000 feet with panoramic views of the North Sea coastline will be selling from £1.3m. www.thetrumpestate.com

Fife

Bounded on three sides by the North Sea and the Firth of Forth, and home to the characterful towns of St. Andrews and Dunfermline, the historical capital of Scotland; the Kingdom of Fife is known for its natural beauty, and country estates for sale within the county are likely to sit on some of the most beautiful land in Scotland. The region also boasts the charming East Neuk stretch of coastline with its workaday harbours – a popular location for second-home buyers.

Many of the town centre properties in St Andrews are full of historic character and charm, as well as being close to amenities. The holiday rental market within the centre is also incredibly popular, so investing in the right property here can see some strong returns.

“Properties near St Andrews are popular, especially among international golfers, because of the location of the course, and the area’s rich golfing history.” Chris added. Favourable exchange rates are adding to the appeal, adds local agent James Wetherby. “Seven of the 12 million-pound transactions over the last year sold to international buyers.”

Adjacent to the world-famous Old Course, Savills is marketing a stunning five-bedroom Arts and Crafts manor house sporting tall brick chimneys and a pantile roof with overhanging eaves. The property retains numerous period features including a library with wood panelling, a working Adam style fireplace, bay windows and a Minstrels Gallery. The property has an asking price of £1.5m.

Break-out box

Buying in Scotland

  • Sell first: It’s possible to try to sell and buy in Scotland at the same time, but it’s tricky. A chain is possible, but buyers must at least be able to put down a deposit and have a mortgage agreement (if required) before placing an offer.
  • Keep it local: Use local solicitors and agents when working through the buying process as a knowledge of the local areas is vital to getting the best property and deal for your money.
  • Successful offers: Don’t be fooled into thinking the work is done and dusted once an offer has been accepted. The vendor’s solicitor will send the buyer’s solicitor a ‘qualified acceptance’. During this process, either party can still pull out and the final contracts are only signed once the missives are concluded.
  • Brace for stamp duty: The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax bands, or stamp duty, are expensive. The bill for a £600,000 property in England would be £20,000, but in Scotland it comes out to £33,350. This sounds negative but when the price differential between Scotland and other areas of the UK is taken into account, buyers are still getting a lot for their money.

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