Scottish housing market showing strong price growth

SCOTLAND’S property market experienced some of the fastest rates of growth in house prices across the whole of the UK last year, according to a report which labelled 2013 “a year of recovery” for the sector.

Scotland's house prices are rising. Picture: PA

Average prices rose more than £5,000 over the year to hit £146,696 in December, the latest LSL/Acadata Scotland house price index found.

The increase, equivalent to an annual rise of 3.6%, was the third highest in Britain. Only the south east of England and Greater London saw prices increase at a faster rate over the year, up 3.8% and more than 10% respectively.

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In other findings, the number of homes changing hands in December reached a monthly level last seen more than five years ago.

There were 9,050 property transactions in Scotland in the final month of the year - a 27% increase on the December 2012 total and the highest number of properties sold in a single month since July 2008.

Experts said the return of the first-time buyer to the market - enticed by “an inviting cocktail” of low interest rates, easier lending conditions and competitively-priced mortgages - was the main force behind the relatively high level of sales.

Gordon Fowlis, regional managing director of Your Move, an estate agency chain that is part of LSL Property Services, said: “The recovery of the Scottish housing market is bouncing ahead, with price rises moving past those seen in every other region in Great Britain aside from London and the south east. Average prices are now £5,131 higher than the same time last year, propelled forward by a significant number of sales.

“The main force behind such considerable sales activity has been the return of the first-time buyer.

“The Help to Buy scheme in Scotland jump-started first-time buyers into action by enabling more aspiring homeowners to enter the market.

“An inviting cocktail of record low interest rates, easier lending conditions and a feast of competitively priced products with lower deposit requirements has attracted new buyers en masse.”

Rising prices

Acadata chairman Dr Peter Williams said: “2013 has been a year of recovery in Scotland’s housing market. Not only have sales volumes expanded by a significant amount, but we have also seen an increase in the average house price of £5,131, or 3.6%, over the year.

“This is the highest annual rate of price increase since October 2010, when house prices were on the rebound from the 2008/2009 credit squeeze. The average cost of a home now stands at £146,696 which is £6,300, or 4.5%, above the low point of £140,396 experienced in April 2009 during the credit crisis.”

On a regional basis, the highest movement in house prices over the year was in East Lothian, up more than 13%. It was followed by South Ayrshire, where average prices have increased by 8.7%.

Experts have cautioned that one of the key challenges for the market in Scotland this year will be satisfying the demand for housing.

Mr Fowlis said: “House building must be placed at the heart of the Scottish Government’s plans and will prove critical in driving the recovery forward at a viable rate.

“Similarly, there are also concerns over the impact that Scottish independence could have on house prices, especially when faced with the potential implications for Scotland’s economy if the UK pound is relinquished.”

Dr Williams added: “One of the main challenges for the housing market in 2014 is how to satisfy the demand for housing which is now evident.

“Most estate agents are reporting a lack of new sellers coming to the market, which will have the effect of pushing up prices as buyers compete for the reducing number of properties available.”