Stewart Saunders in liquidation

ONE of Scotland's largest independent estate agencies has gone into liquidation, becoming a victim of the global credit crunch and the slowdown in the housing market.

Edinburgh-based Stewart Saunders has been forced to axe all ten staff after being taken into the hands of liquidator Tenon Recovery, blaming poor consumer confidence in house prices and a slowdown in sales caused by the tightening up of banks' mortgage criteria in the wake of the subprime crisis in the US.

The agency, which was based in offices on the Scottish capital's Frederick Street, has shut its doors with immediate effect. Properties that are up for sale with Stewart Saunders are being placed with other agencies by the liquidator.

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Liquidator Tom MacLennon warned last night that other estate agents could also take a hit from the worldwide credit crisis.

He said: "The closure of such a respected brand as Stewart Saunders is a clear indication that the housing market is in some difficulty. The much documented credit crunch and rapid tightening of lending criteria by mortgage companies has clearly affected consumer confidence and sales. Estate agents across Scotland will be concerned by this closure."

A spokesman for the 32-year-old firm, which is the selling agent behind developments including the luxury West Links suites scheme in North Berwick and the Opus One apartments at Pilrig in Edinburgh, said sales and income had been "down significantly during the last year, and increasingly so in the last several months".

The closure comes just a year after the company heralded record sales in 2006 of about 65 million – 25 per cent up on the previous year.

Managing director David Alves said at the time that demand was outstripping supply in Edinburgh. The firm cheered house sales worth 1.5m in the first three working days of 2007 and predicted it was on track for another bumper year.