Tepid in the south, warm in the north, positively sizzling beyond the Border: these days, the further north you go, the hotter the property market. Despite the seasonal slump, the property frenzy that gripped Scotland a few years ago shows no signs of abating.
The market reached crazy peaks in the Borders, where prices grew by about 35% in 2003 in “the largest rise in the UK”, according to Joyce Tokely of John Sale in Galashiels.
Buyers fled the prohibitive price hikes in Edinburgh and Glasgow and flocked south to places like Galashiels or Selkirk, where transport links to central Scotland are excellent, and houses cost a fraction of what they would command in the Edinburgh belt.
Beyond the obvious attraction of miles of unspoilt bridleways, the Borders have many good riding clubs and Pony Club branches, Kelso racecourse, Thirlestane horse trials and the annual common ridings.
“Borders towns hold festivals during which they organise a different town boundaries, says Gillian Laing, who is selling her house in Lindean, between Selkirk and Galashiels. A new job requires the family to move, and their “dream home” is on the market for £300,000 with Rettie & Co (tel: 01896824070)
Langsyne is situated in two acres of gardens and paddocks amid scenic countryside. There is a spacious living area on the first floor, where a large balcony affords panoramic views “for 10 or 20 miles” to the hills.
They built an extension and increased the bedrooms to four plus a study. The timber-built stables have five loose boxes and border a parking area suitable for a horsebox and two one-acre paddocks. The Laings also rent another 10 acres from a nearby farmer.
“Prospective buyers could easily negotiate the rent of some land with the two neighbouring farmers, who have both got horses and run a livery yard”, says John Laing.
Hunting still goes on within the constraints of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill and the pack draws of packs such as the Buccleuch continues to attract many followers.
“The ban hasn’t made much difference to the market,” according to Adele Ellis of McCrae & McCrae in Dunfermline (tel: 01383 722454)
But the persistent shortage of properties with land is proving difficult. Availability isn’t enough o meet demand, and people are queuing up to join agents’ mailing lists.
“We have many people looking for houses with five to 10 acres, but there aren’t enough on the market,” explains Tokely.
The shortage is also affecting northern Scotland, and fuelling price growth. Jamie Watson of Smiths Gore in Fochabers (tel: 01343 823000) reports price rises of up to 40% in three years and “as much as 100% in five years.”
However, the north remains significantly cheaper than the Glasgow-Edinburgh corridor or even the Borders. Some of the northern reaches can be fairly isolated, but the price differential entices private equestrian buyers from as far south as England.
The English account for a good proportion of equestrian demand, but they often struggle with the Scottish legal system.
“English buyers don’t understand that you are tied into purchase much more quickly here”, warns Tokely. “A lot haven’t put their property on the market when they come, but a solicitor won’t put an offer in until contracts for their English property have been exchanged.”
Many English buyers tend to rent for six months before purchasing, “but this isn’t practical for people with horses,” says Tokely.
Instead, she advises: “They should put their property on the market in England and have at least on serious interest before they start looking in Scotland.