Property postcode lottery is not so cut and dried - David Alexander

Most of us will be aware of the phrase “postcode lottery”, which is often used to describe how life chances are dependent on where one was brought up as a child and now lives as an adult. Among the subjects to which it applies are earnings, education, transport… and housing.

Regent Terrace is number one again
Regent Terrace is number one again

Frequently it’s used in a catch-all situation, i.e. residents of one postcode enjoy the good things in life – especially in terms of health – while those in another are what might be called the “left behind”.

But it’s not quite as simple as that, as the latest survey from Bank of Scotland focusing on the country’s most expensive residential addresses, with house prices of over £1 million, makes clear. While most of the publicity relating to the survey has – understandably – focused on the house-price factor, a little digging into the postcodes of the streets, roads and avenues that qualify shows just how much of a patchwork quilt the market in Scotland – and especially the cities – is.

Take Regent Terrace, Edinburgh, which for the second year running comes in as the most expensive address in Scotland with an average house price of £1.679 million. Regent Terrace does comprise an impressive row of Regency houses in a fairly secluded location with breath taking views to Arthur’s Seat yet it is not in either of the core central Edinburgh postcodes, EH1, EH2 and EH3. Rather it comes within the EH7, which radiates east to include solid working-class districts such as Restalrig and Craigentinny. Therefore Regent Terrace is very untypical of EH7.

In fact there are only two postcodes in Edinburgh that might be described as “cohesive” in residential property terms – EH1, which mostly covers the Old Town and EH2, a combination of the “retail” side of Princes Street and the residential core of the New Town to its north. Yet no street in EH2 made it to the survey’s 25 most expensive addresses, perhaps being a reflection that most of the residential properties within its tight boundary are flats with little in the way of more-spacious houses.

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EH3, by contrast, boasted no less than seven of the 25 most expensive addresses. This postcode comes in two distinct parts, split at the West End, which seems to form an unofficial residential “boundary”. All seven locations mentioned above (for example, Northumberland Street, Manor Place) were situated north of here, unlike the area to the south which includes Lothian Road and Tollcross, where some of the least expensive housing in the city centre is to be found.

Two East Lothian addresses – Hill Road, Gullane and King’s Cairn, North Berwick (£1.075m and £1.066m respectively) – also made it to the top 25. These are part of what might be called a “string of property pearls” along a 13-mile stretch of coast where top-end homes tend to be placed on the market at a premium. Proximity to Edinburgh, a stunning location, great golf and walking facilities and adequate local shops and services make this one of the top locations in Scotland for high-earning buyers. That it does not feature more prominently in the top 25 is probably due to the fact that properties in the area really do live up to the mantra, “rarely available”.

The list is very much orientated towards the east coast but there are three entrants from the West of Scotland – Earls Gate in Bothwell (10th at £1.171m), Peel Road, Thorntonhall (17th at £1.167m) and Woodland Drive, also Bothwell (24th at £1.067m). All three are listed as “Glasgow” although none are actually in Glasgow but rather in neighbouring South Lanarkshire. All have celebrity connections; Thorntonhall was, until recently, home to Baroness Mone (sometimes dubbed “Baroness Bra” for her role as a lingerie entrepreneur) while Bothwell is a particular favourite of Scotland’s wealthier footballers although the survey does not go far as to suggest this might be relative to addresses in the area making the top 25.

Ironically, the most exclusive postcode within Glasgow proper, G12 (Kelvinside, Kirklee, etc) is not included within the top 25, nor was it last year. When “Glasgow” addresses do make it to a poll of expensive properties they tend to be in separate suburbs just beyond the city boundary, for example Bearsden.

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In Glasgow, as in Edinburgh, the postcode does not always reflect the local housing market. Does this matter? Perhaps not if you are native and familiar with local demographics. But for a stranger seeking to move to, or to invest in, either city, putting faith in postcodes for market intelligence is simply not enough.

David Alexander is managing director of DJ Alexander​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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