Landowners pay the price as value of country estates is halved in a year

THE value of Scotland's country estates has halved within a year, according to a leading analyst.

A survey of sales showed the average purchase price had dropped from 5.2 million in 2008 to 2.6m in 2009 .

The difference between the asking price and sale price also fell, from 15 per cent to 2 per cent in two years, while seven estates sold for below the asking price.

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Robert McCulloch, an associate with estate agency Strutt and Parker, researched the 28 estates put up for sale last year. Thirteen were sold and 15 are still on the market or were withdrawn.

Total sales amounted to 34m, and the estates averaged 3,700 acres, compared with 62.4m in both 2008 (average size 2,300 acres) and 2007 (4,307 acres).

Those sold ranged from the 147-acre Cantyhall in Fife to the 17,000-acre Langwell in Wester Ross.

Of the 15 estates unsold or withdrawn during 2009, the average size was 4,831 acres and the average asking price offers over 6m.

Mr McCulloch said the number of private sales had also dropped. In 2007, half of the estates for sale were marketed privately. By 2009, the figure was only 8 per cent.

He said: "As far as Scottish estates go, there is evidence to suggest 2009 was the year of the trough.

"While is would be unfair to comment on the circumstances of individual vendors, there is no doubt the effect of the credit crunch was the reason why the majority of the estates that did find buyers during the year were made available for sale."

He predicted that, due to economic factors such as rising average earnings and falling unemployment, the number of estates sold in 2010 would remain at similar levels to last year but that the total sum of money invested would increase.

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McCulloch also forecast that the percentage of marketed estates that actually sold would increase and that the private market would strengthen as a result of competition.

He went on: "There are plenty of buyers around at the moment and, while they have been circumspect hitherto in their decision to invest, they will not have the luxury once the perception of economic recovery is confirmed and they are joined by others with an appetite to invest. An estate with a well-judged asking price will always attract interest, and as long as this is the case, the opportunity for a vendor to achieve a premium sale price remains."

He said some potential buyers might await the outcome of the general election before reaching for the cheque book.

But he added: "My message is not to wait too long to find the perfect estate at a bargain-basement price, because the competition may just catch up and you will find yourselves having to outbid three or four others to be successful."

William Jackson, of agent CKD Galbraith, said there was still high demand for Scottish estates, and that they were attractive to overseas buyers. He said: "The strength of the euro is such that it has held up the demand.

"What we have found is that there has been a dearth of properties offered for sale and in a thin market its only one or two properties that come up for sale for different reasons."

He added: "I'm pretty confident at the moment that there is not going to be a flood of estates coming to the market, which means the price will hold up."

On market a year before going for 10% below 'offers over' price

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THE 17,000-acre Langwell Estate in Ross-shire was on the market for more than a year before selling last year.

The property includes a five-bedroom lodge and a cottage and the spectacular area is home to eagles and other wildlife.

Sporting facilities include deer stalking, grouse shooting, salmon fishing on the River Canaird and trout fishing on more than 40 hill lochs.

The estate went on the market in September 2008 at offers over 4 million and attracted more than 15 potential buyers before being sold to an English buyer for more than 10 per cent below the asking price.

The estate is a 15-minute drive from Ullapool and looks out over the Assynt mountains to the west.

By contrast the 858-acre Ardargie Estate in Perthshire was on the market for just three months before selling for 10 per cent above the 2m asking price. The property included a five-bedroom house, two cottages, stock farm and sporting facilities. It attracted more than ten potential buyers before being sold to a Scottish purchaser.