By Marianna Hunt – The Telegraph
10 January 2020

 

Until recently, Scotland wouldn’t have really registered on the ­radar of most cash-rich second-home hunters. But now the country’s prime market is in “full throttle”, says Cameron Ewer of Savills.

Homes in many parts of England have been languishing on the market, at an average of 69 days, according to Zoopla, forcing owners to offer hefty price cuts. But in Scotland, the average time taken for a property to sell from when it is first listed is 32 days.

It also found that Edinburgh recorded house price growth of 5.4 per cent last year, the highest of any UK city.

This is boosting the top end of the market: the number of homes sold for more than £1 million rose by 21 per cent in Scotland from the first half of 2018 to the first half of 2019, says Lloyds. Compare that to Britain as a whole, where it rose by 5 per cent.

So what’s drawing these buyers, and which “golden postcodes” are they buying in?

 

The old favourites that have held their charm

Research by Knight Frank showed that, over the past three years, the list of top 10 postcodes for million-pound home sales has been dominated by ­Edinburgh and Glasgow. Old favourites including Edinburgh’s New Town and Morningside and the G12 postcode, the area around Glasgow’s botanic ­gardens, topped the list.

Yet new hotspots are emerging, too. In Edinburgh’s Murrayfield, with its prestigious tennis and golf clubs, as well as the Scotland rugby team’s home ground, £1 million-plus transactions have risen by 50 per cent since 2017, Knight Frank found.

 

A haven for golf-lovers

Sought-after locations further afield include St Andrews, which also sneaked into the top 10 for the number of £1 million sales. The seaside town, with its elegant slate-grey villas, has long been a point of pilgrimage for wealthy Americans and Europeans – a virtue of being home to the Old Course, an immaculate stretch of green where golf has been played since the 15th century.

“We often see the same people coming back every year for the golf season,” says Mike Thom, butler of the Hamilton Grand, a red sandstone colossus of a building, housing 26 apartments with views directly on to the Old Course. “Previously they’d have rented a house in town, but now many are choosing to buy here.”

These are the priciest properties in Scotland, says Ben Fox of Savills. Residences in the Grand are available through the agent, and start from £1.05 million for an apartment with two bedrooms, rising to £6.1 million for a four-bedroom suite with views over both the North Sea and the 18th hole. Owners also get membership at the Kohler Waters Spa down the road.

 

The most in-demand homes

The appeal for many home hunters, especially international buyers, remains the classic dream of owning a traditional Scottish shooting lodge, ­estate or castle, says Ewer. “The increase in millionaire buyers comes down to value. You can acquire a 350-acre estate with four cottages and a period house for £2.5 million, and even downscaling from this, a great house with 100 acres for £1.5 million.”

But it’s not just the old-fashioned dream of a Scottish estate: there’s recently been an uptick in interest in luxury conversions, such as the Hamilton Grand, and new-build developments, says Fox. “Penthouses at schemes like the Quartermile and The Crescent at Donaldson’s, both in Edinburgh, have boosted £1 million sales over the past few years.”

 

International links

“One thing that’s really changed the playing field in Scotland’s property market is the improvement to the country’s transport links,” he adds. “Places like Edinburgh and Glasgow have gone from ­regional to global cities where you can live while travelling the world with your job.”

Both airports now have direct links to the US and the Middle East. For those with the means to do it, it is also easy to charter your own flight, and the number of private jet departures from Edinburgh and Glasgow’s airports have been rising since 2014.

“These new links have brought in a lot more overseas buyers, attracted by the fact they can live among beautiful architecture and scenery while still being able to travel internationally,” says Fox. “US buyers have also been helped by the increase in value of the dollar compared to the pound.”

The appeal of being able to jet in from anywhere in the world and quickly be within swathes of Highland lochs, ridges and cattle hasn’t gone unnoticed by celebrities either. Bob Dylan, Tilda Swinton and Billy Connolly are among a handful of famous names who have bought homes in the Scottish Highlands.

There’s been an uplift in cash-rich buyers from south of the border too, says Knight Frank’s Tom Stewart-Moore. “English buyers tend to be professional couples with young families,” he says, won over by the great schools and quality of life.

Aside from excellent state and private schools, the country is home to a number of world-class universities, including those in Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews.

They’re also drawn by the new £150 million fleet of Caledonian Sleeper trains, described as “hotels on wheels”, which were launched last year. The lines connect up far-flung corners of the country – from St Andrews to Aviemore and Inverness – to London, though Stewart-Moore describes the sleeper as “more of a romantic excursion than a genuine transport option”.

Still, you can leave your house in Scotland after dinner and be in London for breakfast.

 

House prices are riding high

Scotland has also been tipped as a great investment for those after capital appreciation. Average house prices are predicted to rise by 14 per cent over the next two years, according to economic forecasts by PwC – so long as a no-deal Brexit is avoided.

Whatever happens politically, Knight Frank’s Oliver Knight believes the Scottish market will be resilient. “The average house price in Scotland is still more than 30 per cent below the average across the rest of the UK,” he says. “This relative affordability will help ­underpin price growth in the years to come.”