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Rural homes demand across Highlands sparks fears for local residents


By Calum MacLeod

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Homebuyers from elsewhere in the UK are looking to the Highlands for a better work life balance, with rural locations in high demand.
Homebuyers from elsewhere in the UK are looking to the Highlands for a better work life balance, with rural locations in high demand.

A surge in demand for rural homes across the Highlands has led to fears over affordability for local people.

Homebuyers are being warned to expect to pay well over the asking price as a post-lockdown boom fuels demand.

Last month the UK property market saw the fastest monthly growth in property values for August since 2004 and 76 per cent their five year average for the usually quiet summer period.

In the Highlands and other largely rural areas of Scotland, this has coincided with a surge in demand from homebuyers from the more crowded south, including homeworkers who realised they no longer had to be tied to a particular location to do their job, with some north estate agents reporting that "the more rural the better" when it comes to interest in new homes.

Gillian Stephenson of Monster Moves, which is based in Golspie but sells property across the north, said that while house prices were on a 10-year high and were increasing, the region had not experienced the jump in asking prices seen elsewhere, though she expected this to follow.

However, the increase in demand has led to house-sellers being offered well over the asking price or valuation for their properties.

"Homes are going for far more than the home report value and that's because of the interest from folk from down south, and abroad as well," she said.

"There is definitely a reduction of the period of time a property is being listed for sale.

"We are also seeing more cash buyers."

As a result, buyers were being advised there was no point in attempting to haggle.

"Start at least at the asking price," she added.

"If you want this house, you are going to have to be willing to pay another £5000 to £10,000. That, unfortunately, is where we have an issue with local buyers, because they are unable to compete with that and finding another £5000 is not always easy for them."

Bernadette Walker, manager at Highland Solicitors Property Centre (HSPC), said that although HSPC did not have up-to-date price figures, the upward trend of house prices in Scotland and the wider UK was reflected in the demand local estate agency teams had been seeing.

"People are trying to get in quite quickly with offers," she said.

HSPC in Inverness is seeing a surge in demand for homes across the Highlands. Picture: Alasdair Allen. Image No. 036631
HSPC in Inverness is seeing a surge in demand for homes across the Highlands. Picture: Alasdair Allen. Image No. 036631

This demand was also seeing properties which had previously been slow to sell, perhaps because they needed some renovation or were quite remote, also moving quickly.

"Some of our teams are reporting that properties which have been on the market for a length of time are now getting snapped up," she added.

According to online property site Zoopla, the average price property in Inverness this month is £199,184. This is a two per cent rise in the three months since June, but 2.20 per cent down on the same period in 2019.

The upsurge in interest in homes in the Highlands and Islands has raised serious concerns that locals, and especially first time buyers, will be priced out of the housing market.

Residents and community groups in the Western Isles have recently signed an open letter warning that the islands were facing an economic clearance which threatened their future sustainability, and called for a trial which would ensure homes were advertised to the local market before their details were released nationally.



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