By Mark Atkinson BA MRICS
In the early hours of September 19th, 2014, a leading Edinburgh estate agent slept fitfully - £150,000 of fees depended on there not being a ‘Yes’ vote. As the night wore on, he found himself relaxing – no car horns, fireworks or chants of “Scots Wha Hae” disturbed his beauty sleep – he knew that the Better Together campaign had won.
A ‘Yes’ vote would have led to a period of great uncertainty. Not just possible fluctuations in the stock market and the pound, but almost certain depression in the Scottish property market. A significant proportion of the owners of expensive houses were talking of “getting out.” The market would have been flooded and there would have been fewer purchasers. £1,000,000 houses would have quickly become worth £600,000, with mediocre properties near impossible to sell.
The uncertainty could have continued for many years – as the legal framework of a new nation was laboriously constructed, with much trial and error before a new equilibrium was reached. Exciting times, but not for property owners.
Now that September 18th is past, those involved in the Scottish residential market are giving a huge ‘phew’ of relief…if only 6% of the electorate had voted the other way! But for now, the Referendum is over and there are signs of optimism around. More properties are being brought onto the market and good sales are being achieved – to expatriates and to purchasers moving from London and the South East, attracted by the hugely greater value for money north of the border.
The news that Stamp Duty will be replaced in Scotland by the more punitive ‘Land and Business Tax’ will be a restraining factor and there will certainly not be a dramatic surge in the Scottish rural property market. But in relation to their counterparts in southern England, Scottish country houses and castles are ridiculously cheap, fun and romantic. Innovations in technology make them far more affordable to heat and run. For adventurous purchasers, from Europe as well as England and expatriate centres, a Scottish home is a realistic and worthwhile buy.
If one looks at what is happening in the Scottish countryside, the news is surprisingly positive. All kinds of food and drink enterprises are prospering, benefiting from Scotland’s richly varied countryside and coastline. The ‘Big Houses’ of the country are adapting and are no longer the exclusive retreat of the rich and privileged. All over the country, houses are available for rent, for weddings, for parties, for concerts, for almost anything.
A dynamically run country house or castle provides tremendous benefits for the local economy. Imagine Ayrshire without Culzean, Angus without Glamis or Argyll without Inveraray? The restoration of historic houses also gives a terrific stimulus to a locality. Prince Charles’ purchase of Dumfries House has been a godsend to the nearby town of Cumnock and all over Scotland, renovations and refurbishments are keeping skilled tradesmen in business.
Scottish politicians, whether on the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ side, are aware and appreciative of the benefits which rural enterprises bring. Much discussion and negotiation will be needed in the years ahead, but ultimately, this is a good time to be a purchaser in Scotland.
Mark Atkinson BA MRICS
Mark Atkinson is a chartered surveyor with thirty five years experience in the residential property market, both in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland. Mark provides independent but highly professional advice, which is also friendly, personal and informal.
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