HOUSE sales in Scotland have reached their highest level in five years, new figures have shown, with experts also welcoming stable growth in prices.
Total volumes for the past three months were 22.5 per cent up on the same period last year – the highest since 2008.
Some 24,274 residential properties changed hands in July-September, which Registers of Scotland said marked a “significant departure” from recent trends.
Estate agents said the ability of first-time buyers to get on the property ladder – now possible after several years of saving, in addition to banks easing their stance on deposits – was partly responsible for the increase.
West Dunbartonshire saw the largest percentage rise in the number of sales, with an increase of 41 per cent compared with the same period in 2012.
Edinburgh had the highest number of residential house sales at 2,901, up by a third on the previous year.
Argyll and Bute, however, recorded the largest percentage fall in sales volume, dipping by almost 6 per cent on the previous year to 370 sales.
Kenny Crawford, Registers of Scotland’s commercial services director, said: “This quarter’s figures are one of the strongest indicators yet of a revitalised Scottish property market. This is the fourth consecutive quarter that volumes have increased, maintaining the upward trend.”
When it came to prices, overall growth was more modest, which market commentators said was an encouraging sign for both buyers and sellers.
The average price of a home in Scotland increased by 1.5 per cent during the last quarter when set against last year’s figure, with the average price standing at £161,748 in July to September. The highest percentage rise on the mainland was recorded in Aberdeen, with an average price of £210,010, up almost 10 per cent compared with last year.
Shetland recorded a huge increase of 25 per cent, but from a low average base of £109,945, rising to £137,655.
Dr John Boyle, director of research at agents Rettie, said stable price levels – unlike the double figure percentage rises seen in 2005 and 2006 – were helping the market to recover.
He said: “These latest statistics show that the housing market in Scotland is turning the corner.
“First-time buyers are now returning to the market in larger numbers, which is a major factor behind getting the market moving. The government’s stimulus of Help to Buy should see the figures improving again over next year and beyond.”
Blair Stewart, a partner at Strutt & Parker, said new developments in Edinburgh exemplified the recent trend. “A development in Polwarth Terrace had seven out of 11 flats sold before the foundations were laid, and another development of flats in Rutland Square all sold within a few weeks of going on the market,” he said.
“The increased activity is slowly spreading to higher-value family houses.”
David Marshall, business analyst at ESPC – which represents estate agents in the east of Scotland – said first-time buyers who had been saving since the recession began were now entering the market.
He said: “This has driven great growth in sales for one- or two-bed properties, and in turn has had a knock-on effect, as those trying to sell have been able to move into bigger homes.”
Mr Marshall said in terms of purchase prices, buyers had gone from in some cases paying 10 to 15 per cent higher than valuations in 2005-6, to about 2 to 3 per cent below.
He added: “There are still good bargains to be had out there, and it’s always worth negotiating on price.”