The Scottish prospect

When it comes to investing in property, the boom years saw some interesting patterns. While London and the south-east experienced much greater house price growth than the rest of England and Wales, talk of a simple north-south divide was inaccurate.

Instead, Northern Ireland and Scotland both saw high rates of house price growth themselves. In the case of Ulster, this was affected by two peculiar factors not present elsewhere - the peace dividend and second home buyers from the Republic looking north.

For Scotland, however, there was a clear case of a boom being linked to better economic times, not least in the north, where Aberdeen capitalised on the oil price boom and saw higher price growth than the other main Scottish cities.

The question subsequently for Scotland has been that of how the market might fare in a downturn and in turn how soon it would pick up again.

According to Property Partner at legal firm Russel and Aitken, Diane Paterson, the answer is that the market is starting to show some significant signs of recovering.

She stated: "There is no doubt that the Scottish property market is now showing gradual signs of recovery. Property prices have risen and the volume of sales have increased over the last few months in many areas."

There are good reasons for this being so, she added, stating: "Confidence - which is one of the principal driving factors in the market place - is coming back slowly, the media is not so doom-laden and funding is beginning to come through again.

"Suppressed activity on the part of buyers and sellers is being triggered by lower interest rates, availability of finance and concern that prices will start to increase once more."

Ms Paterson concluded that the reappearance of 85 per cent loan-to-value mortgages will also help.

Recent data from Nationwide does provide some reasons to be positive about Scotland's market. Firstly, prices fell less than elsewhere in the 12 months up to the end of the first quarter of 2009. The Scottish drop in this time was 12.6 per cent, compared with the UK level of 16.5 per cent.

While the UK's largest acceleration in decline was north of Hadrian's Wall in the last three months at 5.1 per cent, this may be set against a 0.1 per cent rise in the last quarter of 2008, indicating a more balanced longer-term picture of a much slower downturn.

Moreover, there is also optimism for the future. The Nationwide research showed 33 per cent of Scots expect prices to go on falling in the next six months, less than any other British region.

By definition, this last finding is an indication of confidence and if that is what is required to help the Scottish property market get back on its feet and stride ahead, then the near future may be a good time to invest.

Written by Rachel Crook

Published on: April 9, 2009

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