HOUSE sales across Scotland have increased by 8.1 per cent in the past year, according to new statistics, with first time buyers and buy-to-let properties credited for fuelling the rise.
All property types showed an increase in sales, with flats and apartments recording the biggest jump at 16.5 per cent.
Residential property prices also remained steady during the first financial quarter, April to June, compared to 2012, decreasing marginally by 0.3 per cent.
Midlothian - popular with commuters to the Scottish capital - saw a rise in sales of 25.2 per cent on last year, one of the biggest increases.
East Renfrewshire - which boasts some of Scotland’s top schools - saw sales volumes up 23.5 per cent, while Aberdeen rose by 23.3 per cent.
The figures from Registers of Scotland cover all residential sales including those that did not involve a mortgage.
Kenny Crawford, director of commercial services, said it was “extremely positive” to see an upturn in the market.
“There have been some areas that have experienced a decrease, but with the total value of sales increasing by 7.7 per cent compared to the previous year, it’s an encouraging indicator of improvements in the residential property market”, he said.
In terms of prices, the most significant rise was in Aberdeenshire, with the average sale at £215,589, up 5.6 per cent.
East Renfrewshire recorded the highest percentage price rise of 6.2 per cent. In contrast, Argyll and Bute experienced a drop of 11.9 per cent.
Mr Crawford added: “Detached, semi-detached and terraced properties all showed a decrease in average price this quarter, with terraced properties showing the biggest decrease at 2.9 per cent.
“The average price of flatted properties has remained the same as last year’s quarter. Nevertheless, the average price of a residential property this quarter was £153,102 which is a decrease when compared with last year’s figures.”
Aberdeenshire is now the most expensive place to buy in Scotland, with an average price of £215,000, marginally ahead of East Dunbartonshire at £215,142.
Edinburgh - which has held the top spot in previous reports - is now third at £212,895 having seen prices fall by 3.5 per cent. East Renfrewshire was fourth, standing at £211,899 between April and June.
Eilean Siar is the most affordable with the average house costing £98,140, closely followed by East Ayrshire at £100,028.
Edinburgh Solicitors’ Property Centre, which represents 140 estate agent solicitors across the Lothians, Fife and the Borders, said that the rise in sales was partly down to the in the number of first time buyers.
As The Scotsman reported on Monday, first time buyer numbers have soared to 120,000 in the first half of this year, the equivalent of nearly 660 a day and an increase of almost one-fifth year-on-year.
David Marshall, business analyst at ESPC, said: “These figures from Registers of Scotland are in line with what we’ve seen over the past 12 to 18 months.
“Certainly in the first half of this year sales have been at the highest level since 2008, although we are seeing that improvement from a lower base in terms of sales numbers.
“If you look at properties coming to the market this year, a far higher percentage are selling within the target two-to-three months.”
He added: “For a long time after the downturn the properties selling the best were mid-market family homes, for example with two or three bedrooms and in the region of £200,000-£350,000.
“Now we’re seeing a big rise in the sale of smaller properties fuelled partly by first time buyers who started saving for a deposit in about 2008, and partly by buy-to-let investments.
“Quite often this category may well see properties sold for five or six per cent below the home report valuation.
“However, still mid-market family homes are still buoyant and we’re still seeing properties sold for a few per cent below the home report estimate.”
Rettie, based in Glasgow and Edinburgh, said that the market in Scotland in now in “recovery mode”.
Dr John Boyle, head of research at the firm, said: “These latest statistics show that the housing market in Scotland is now in recovery mode after a significant fall in activity over 2007-09 and a flat period since.
“Improving economic activity levels, consumer sentiment, bank lending and new build activity is helping to raise the market. The sharp rise in the volume of flatted property bought is probably testament to the rising number of first time buyers returning to the market, also evidenced by new lending figures.”