First went the world-renowned weaving industry on which local prosperity was built. Then came a drop in population which saw Paisley lose the unofficial title of “Scotland’s largest town” - a position it had held since the industrial revolution – to that upstart along the road, East Kilbride. The once-bustling central retail core has been badly hit by the proximity of Braehead – the largest regional purpose-built shopping centre in Scotland – and, to a lesser extent, Silverburn across the boundary in Glasgow. Even St Mirren FC, although doing relatively-well just now, have only lately emerged from several years spent in the football wilderness.
And, most recent of all, the commercial effects of covid has raised fears for jobs at Glasgow Airport, the largest local private sector employer.
Hardly, therefore, the sort of place that one might describe as Britain’s - never mind Scotland’s - “property hotspot”. But that is exactly the title given to Paisley by the online portal, Rightmove, following statistics showing that local house prices had risen by 15 per cent in the past year. At the time the company’s survey was published, the average asking price of a home in the town stood at £126,903, which was £16,183 more expensive than the year before. Despite this asking prices in the town were £191,677 cheaper than the average figure for Britain at £318,580. Prices were £34,619 cheaper than the average across Scotland of £161,522.
In comparison to other “hotspots”, Paisley was far ahead in terms of a balance between rising prices and affordable prices; joint second in the table were Lancaster and Wigan, where prices had increased by 12 per cent in the past year. Yet the average price for Lancaster was £197,790 and for Wigan, £175,202 – in both cases much higher than Paisley.
So, in effect, Paisley experienced all the benefits of a price boom without the less-attractive downside of prices soaring out of control; you could call that a property agent’s and a buyers’ and sellers’ dream!
When you look at the bigger picture, however, these statistics are not too surprising. Balancing out the negatives are the following positives applying to Paisley: a short rail commute to Glasgow Central, an international airport on its doorstep, easy access to the M8 and the wider motorway network, several country parks within a few miles drive, while the coast not too far away either.
Indeed this could prove to be a template for future trends, accelerated by the longer-term professional and social changes likely to be brought about by covid.
Paisley – and similar towns in the central belt of Scotland – may not be a fashionable “brand” in property terms but people are less likely to care if the trade-off is a relatively-spacious home with garden at a price some way below an equivalent home in a more-sought area of Glasgow or Edinburgh, particularly if the daily commute is reduced to two or three times a week.
For the same reason, more remote rural locations without good road connections and access to public transport may also experience an upturn in demand. Conversely, however, it could be that that less time spent commuting to the office could see already sought-after locations that require, say, an hour’s drive to and from the cities, become even more expensive. For example, Helensburgh or Wemyss Bay in relation to Glasgow and North Berwick or Gullane to Edinburgh.
Once we are in the post-covid era, the property market will remain something of a patchwork quilt but for the moment, at least, it’s nice to see the Morningsides and Kelvinsides take a back seat to Paisley and other “provincial” locations.
David Alexander is managing director of DJ Alexander