Home   News   Article

NICKY MARR: Selling up – for the right reasons

By Nicky Marr

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Nicky loading up the van for moving away
Nicky loading up the van for moving away

The housing crisis here – as in other parts of Scotland – is well documented. At almost every business event I’ve attended since Brexit and Covid, the twin challenges of staff and housing shortages have been discussed.

Lack of affordable accommodation for staff means employers can find it impossible to recruit, and rising prices, often exacerbated by city families snapping up rural properties as second homes, means young people who grew up in an area often can’t afford to stay.

The rise in short-term holiday lets can bring community benefits, like increased footfall to local shops, cafés and visitor attractions. But without year-long residents, those businesses can struggle in winter, and communities really suffer.

Unsurprisingly, there is a seemingly insatiable demand for holiday lets in our beautiful part of the world, and, assuming the property owner has been able to jump through the rigorous new licensing hoops set in place by the Scottish Government, and can hire local housekeepers to clean on changeover day, the return on investment can be worthwhile.

But in rural areas in particular, a lack of permanent residents removes the heart and soul of a community. School rolls fall, and there’s less need for a medical practice, assuming, of course, a rural GP could be recruited in the first place.

It’s a complex situation, and I wish I knew the solutions.

Click here to read more from Nicky Marr

Six years ago, Mr Marr and I embarked upon a new chapter in our lives, which meant we effectively needed a home each. He was approached to take over as chief executive of The Edinburgh Playhouse, and it was too good an opportunity to pass up, but I didn’t want to leave the Highlands.

The timing couldn’t have been better for us – the girls had left home, and after 25 years our mortgage was just about to be paid off. So we borrowed again and bought a wee one-bedroomed flat in the capital.

In many ways, our new ‘twin city living’ lifestyle was ideal. I love Edinburgh and especially our corner of the city, with its quirky cafés and bars, amazing charity shops, and cheese lounge. (Yes, cheese lounge – you did read that correctly.)

Being freelance, I can generally work wherever my laptop is, so often spent long weekends in the city, catching up with friends, culture, and capital life over several days, before heading home for my fix of the Highlands. ScotRail did well out of us, as did the campsites on the A9 corridor, after we invested in our camper.

Eventually, being together part-time stopped being good for us, and Mr Marr got a job back in Inverness. The big question was, what to do with the flat?

Selfishly, I’d have loved to have kept it, but while two properties were justifiable when Mr Marr worked in Edinburgh full-time, it was neither affordable nor justifiable after he moved home. Letting it out seemed a financially sound decision; it would be ideal to have someone else’s rent pay our mortgage. But just because something makes financial sense for one family, doesn’t make it the right thing for society.

Living where we do, it’s impossible to ignore the impact of second home ownership. It doesn’t just impact rural communities, but urban areas too, where key-safes are drilled into tenement doorways daily. So we decided to sell, and to give someone else the opportunity to get on the property ladder.

Zoe and Adam move in in a couple of weeks. Their enthusiasm reminded us of ourselves when we bought our first flat, over 30 years ago. I hope they’ll have the happiness there that we did.

It was sad to decant all our furniture, mop the floors, and close the front door for the last time last weekend. But selling was the right thing to do.

And I really hope Adam and Zoe didn’t just buy it to let out, or all our sanctimonious ‘doing-the-right-thing’ will have been for nothing.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More