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Boom time for north house sales

By Calum MacLeod

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Tony Lister of Remax estate agents
Tony Lister of Remax estate agents

Property prices in Inverness and the Highlands are booming.

Home buyers are being warned to expect to pay well over the asking price as a post-lockdown surge fuels demand.

Last month the UK property market saw the fastest monthly growth in property values for August since 2004.

In the Highlands and other largely rural areas of Scotland, this has coincided with a rise in demand from home buyers from the more crowded south.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a huge rise in interest in properties away from large conurbations with north estate agents reporting “the more rural the better” when it comes to interest in new homes.

Gillian Stephenson of Monster Moves, which sells property across the north, said house prices are on a 10-year high – and increasing.

She said while the region had not yet experienced the huge jump in asking prices seen elsewhere, she expected this to follow.

And the increase in demand has led to house-sellers being offered well over the asking price or valuation for their properties.

“Homes are going for far more than the home report value and that’s because of interest from folk from down south, and abroad as well,” she said.

As a result, buyers were being advised there was no point in attempting to haggle.

“Start at least at the asking price,” she added.

“If you want this house, you are going to have to be willing to pay another £5000-£10,000. That, unfortunately, is where we have an issue with local buyers, because they are unable to compete. Finding another £5000 is not always easy for them.”

Bernadette Walker, manager at Highland Solicitors Property Centre (HSPC), said the upward trend in prices was reflected in the demand local estate agency teams had been seeing.

“People are trying to get in quite quickly with offers,” she said.

This demand was also seeing properties which had previously been slow to sell, perhaps because they needed renovation or were quite remote, also moving quickly.

“Some of our teams are reporting that properties which have been on the market for a length of time are now getting snapped up,” she added.

Tony Lister of the Inverness office of national agency Re/Max believes the end of lockdown has unleashed pent up demand for homes in the Highlands.

“People have been holding off moving house because of Brexit,” Mr Lister said.

“Now Brexit has happened, sales were ready to take off, but then we had lockdown. If you put people in the house they were thinking of moving out of anyway, they come out even more determined to move.”

The post-Covid surge of interest in Highland properties builds on what had already been a growing demand for north houses.

In April the average price of a detached home in Inverness was £326,581, almost £27,500 higher than in the same month last year.

“We are seeing properties going for quite considerably over the home report estimate in all areas,” Mr Lister said.

He also believes it is not just the perception that the area is at less risk of Covid-19 transmission that is leading buyers to look to the north.

“It’s a safer environment in general,” Mr Lister added.

“If you look at crime rates in the London area alone, they have been soaring. People want to come to an area where it is quieter.”

The upsurge in interest has raised concerns that locals, and especially first time buyers, will be priced out of the market.

Community groups in the Western Isles recently signed an open letter warning the islands were facing an economic clearance and called for a trial which would ensure homes were advertised to the local market before details were released nationally.

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