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Surveyors expect government measures to boost housing market

Expectations for activity in the Scottish housing market are improving as more new buyer enquiries are reported by surveyors following lockdown closures.

According to the June 2020 RICS Residential Market Survey, a net balance of +17% of survey respondents in Scotland saw a rise in new buyer enquiries in the month, which is in stark contrast to the readings of -82% and –81% posted in April and May respectively.

Most other indicators also headed in the right direction in the latest survey, with net balances for newly agreed sales and new instructions to sell moving less negative than they were in the May and April reports.

There were also notable improvements in near-term expectations. A net balance of +23% of Scottish respondents said that they expect sales activity to increase in the three months ahead. Meanwhile, the net balance for three-month price expectations moved from -58% in May to -7% in June.

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Despite the notable improvements though, the Scottish housing market appears to be lagging the UK as a whole, given the earlier easing of restrictions in England. At a UK-level, the number of people looking to purchase a home rebounded in June, with a net balance of +61% of UK survey respondents seeing a rise in new buyer enquiries over the month.

The number of new properties being listed for sale in the UK also rose in June, with a net balance of +42% of survey participants noting an increase rather than decrease.

As agents continue to deal with a backlog of sales held up by lockdown, the number of newly agreed sales in the UK moved into positive territory for the first time since February, with a net balance of +43% citing an increase in completed transactions.

Thomas Baird, MRICS of Select Surveyors in Glasgow, said: “Since return, like most other surveyors, we have a significant backlog of instructions to work through. This of course may lead to an artificially high expectation of the current market conditions.”

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “Key activity indicators in the RICS survey suggest that the market is enjoying a short term bounce following ending of the lockdown, with sharp spikes in the metrics tracking both buyer enquiries and new instructions.

“However, there are worrying signs that this rebound may quickly run out of steam against the backdrop of a tightening in lending criteria by mortgage providers, and the uncertain macro environment particularly with regard to the employment picture. Respondents to the survey highlight both of these issues in explaining the broadly flat picture regarding sales expectation beyond the immediate uplift.

“Meanwhile, the issues around the sales market appear to be shifting sentiment in the lettings market with, somewhat ominously given the prevailing economic climate, rent expectations beginning to edge upwards once again.”

Tamara Hooper, RICS Policy Manager, added: “Government must ensure they keep the public at the heart of their interventions when rebuilding post-COVID. An ask RICS has called for since March is the temporary removal of stamp duty for all home movers, not just first time buyers, and this specific change will demonstrate government’s confidence in the residential sector as well as encouraging the economy and the country to start moving again.

“In keeping with this, all tenures must be addressed, and we look forward to more detail on the retrofitting announcements from government with regards to the PRS. Tenants’ needs are just as important as home owners, including their financial needs for decreased bills from more energy efficient housing if rents are set to rise. The need to feel safe, warm and secure is more important than ever.”

Source: Scottish Construction Now

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Affordable housing progress made but statistics hit by coronavirus

The number of affordable housing approvals and starts in Scotland has increased compared to a year ago while affordable home completions have fallen, new figures have shown.

The housing statistics quarterly update for June 2020 found that in the year to end March 2020, there were a total of 12,886 homes approved through the Scottish Government affordable housing supply programme, which includes off-the-shelf purchases and rehabilitations as well as new builds. This is an increase of 1,756 homes (16%) on the previous year, and an increase of 62% compared with the year to end March 2016.

In the same period, 12,045 affordable homes were started, an increase of 1,173 homes (11%) on the previous year, and an increase of 57% compared with the year to end March 2016.

There were 9,286 homes delivered in the year to end March 2020, a decrease of 282 homes (3%) on the previous year, but an increase of 42% compared with the year to end March 2016.

It should be noted that the amount of affordable housing supply activity recorded in the most recent quarter January to March 2020 will have been impacted on by the introduction of government advice and measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) from mid-March onwards, in which non-essential construction activity stopped, and home buyers were advised to delay moving to a new home where possible.

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This has lowered the total amount of activity recorded for this quarter compared to what would otherwise have been the case. Year to date totals to end March 2020 will also have been affected.

Figures for the next quarter April to June 2020, which are due to be reported on in the quarterly housing statistics update in September 2020, are likely to see an even greater impact due to COVID measures continuing throughout April and May, and into June 2020.

The statistics were due to include an update on all-sector new house building starts and completions to end December 2019, with more recent figures on social sector new builds to end March 2020.

However, due to the impacts of COVID-19, some local authorities have been unable to provide new build data to the usual timescales. The government said it is working with local authorities to agree reasonable extensions to submission deadlines, and is aiming to publish this new build housing data as soon as possible.

Commenting on the statistics, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) repeated its call for housing to be at heart of Scotland’s economic recovery.

Head of policy and innovation, Lorna Wilson, said: “The Scottish Government has made progress into tackling housing need in Scotland since 2016, and it looks likely that it was on track to meet its 50,000 affordable homes target, before the programme was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government must be given credit for this, and it’s vital this progress – and the ambition behind it – is maintained and not lost.

“SFHA recently released research with CIH Scotland and Shelter Scotland which found that we need 53,000 affordable homes to be delivered between 2021–2026. By committing to this new target, the government can reduce housing need, tackle child poverty and kick-start Scotland’s economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.”

The SFHA also welcomed this week’s report by the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery which also called for the Scottish Government to invest in affordable housing as part of its recommendations.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “I am proud that we have now delivered over 95,000 affordable homes since 2007 with more than 66,000 of these for social rent. We were on track to deliver our target of 50,000 affordable homes by the end of March 2021, but the impact of COVID-19 has caused a necessary pause to activity.

“We will continue to work with partners across the housing sector to deliver the remainder of these homes, as quickly as it is safe to do so and I look forward to construction resuming in a new safe way.”

Source: Scottish Construction Now

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English buyers and reopened English housing market drives demand in Scotland

It’s been two weeks since some of the restrictions on the property market were eased in England but Scotland remains in lockdown.

The publication of Scotland’s COVID-19 route map last week stated that “preparing for the safe reopening of the housing market” would be part of Phase 1 and “relaxation of restrictions on housing moves” would be part of Phase 2.

Phase 1 is due to begin on 28th May, and certain criteria must be met before we can progress to Phase 2 – the next formal review will be held on the 18th June.

ESPC has seen steady increases in viewing enquiries, valuation requests, Home Report downloads and web traffic for a few weeks now, but this increase has become more evident since the English market activity resumed.

While these figures are still lower than usual for this time of year, this increase highlights that there remains strong interest in moving home once some of the current restrictions have eased.

In a recent survey of 30 of their members, 23 stated that they had seen an increase in enquiries since news of the English market restrictions being eased.

The remaining seven agents said activity and enquiries remained about the same as before.

Marion Walker, Property Manager at Castle Douglas-based Hewats Solicitors and Estate Agents, said:

“Since the restrictions were lifted in the housing market in England, I have seen a significant increase in enquiries from south of the border.

“The enquiries range from asking about Home Reports to requests to book in person viewings, which are not currently available in Scotland due to lockdown measures.

“Following on from the recent bank holiday, I would say our daily enquires have risen by a good 50% plus, with English buyers commenting that they had always planned to move to the region and the current situation has moved their plans forward.”

Dianne Paterson, Partner at Russell + Aitken, an agent with offices in Edinburgh and Central Scotland, said:

“Although the property market has not ceased completely during lockdown, it is noticeable that, since the regulations were relaxed in England, we have received an increased number of enquiries on both the sale and purchase side.

“Once the regulations in Scotland are relaxed, we anticipate that the Scottish market will be a busy one, fuelled by eager purchasers and sellers, whose plans were put on hold during this period.

“We are expecting an active few months, with both an increased interest in, and availability of, properties for sale.”

Mary McQueen, Partner at McDougal McQueen, an agent which operates in Edinburgh and the Lothians, said:

“There’s definitely been an increase in new buyer enquiries, and viewers who previously enquired getting in touch again as they think in person viewings have resumed in Scotland as well.

“There have also been more enquiries asking for definite and dates when viewings will start.

“The majority of people do appreciate the need for restrictions but are very keen for them to be eased so we can get back to some sort of normality.”

Michael Maloco, Senior Partner of Dunfermline-based Maloco + Associates, said:

“We’ve had two really busy weeks. We’ve done five or six virtual valuations with four listings of the back of these.

“There have been lots of virtual viewings arranged and physical viewings booked in for when they are possible, with 18 bookings for one property alone.

“We may also have at least one closing date next week too.”

Cochran Dickie Estate Agency has noted an increase in enquiries in the west of Scotland since news of some English property market activities resuming. Curtis Chisholm, a director of the firm commented:

“We have a number of enquiries coming in from people looking to view current stock.

“We have one house in Castlehead in Paisley, which went live just before lockdown, that has 58 viewers lined up.”

Source: Property Industry Eye

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Scottish housing market poised for ‘two waves of bounceback’

Scotland’s housing market is poised for two waves of bounceback with the expectation of a return to pre-coronavirus levels, a leading industry figure has predicted.

The sector has been rocked by stay-at-home and physical distancing measures for agents, surveyors and prospective buyers, combined with a backlog in applications via the Land Register of Scotland service.

However, Paul Denton, the chief executive of the Scottish Building Society, which was established in 1848, said he was starting to see some signs that buyers were looking to life beyond the Covid-19 peak.

“We are still open for business, with our primary focus the health and welfare of our staff and our customers, ensuring we support them financially and emotionally through this time of crisis,” he said.

“We are starting to see signs that buyers are now thinking about life after the Covid-19 peak, with a rise in enquiries on purchase mortgages. And, indeed, our staff are busy processing remortgages, even for those on a mortgage holiday.”

Denton, who represents Scotland on UK Finance’s mortgages board, added: “I think there will be two waves of bounceback. The first, when Registers of Scotland fully reopens and starts clearing the backlog of applications from solicitors. And the second when social isolation measures ease and consumer confidence starts to grow.

“It is clear that the drop in sales volume is driven by social isolation and not a lack of demand from customers.”

New figures show that the average price of a property in Scotland in February was £150,524 – a year-on-year increase of 2.5 per cent, according to statistics from the UK House Price Index. The UK average house price was £230,332 – up 1.1 per cent.

The largest decrease was recorded in the City of Aberdeen, where the average price fell by 3.6 per cent to £143,990. The highest-priced area was the City of Edinburgh, where the average price of a house is £270,864.

Denton added: “These statistics pre-date Covid-19 but reinforce the trend of Scottish house prices rising faster than the rest of the UK as demand outstrips supply. However, there are marked geographical differences too, with the challenges in the oil and gas sector impacting the Aberdeen market.

“Scotland weathered the storm during the 2008 financial crisis. We know this is on a different scale, but the underlying market is resilient and that latent customer demand will see the market bounce back to something near the levels we saw at the beginning of the year.”

By Scott Reid

Source: Edinburgh News

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Scottish Building Society: Lack of supply leading to higher Scottish house price growth

House prices in Scotland are growing faster than the rest of the UK, however, Scottish Building Society chief Paul Denton has warned that demand outstrips supply.

House prices in Scotland are growing faster than the rest of the UK with the average property £154,798 – an increase of 3.5% year on year, according to government House Price Index (HPI) figures released today.

The UK average was £235,298, up 2.2% on November 2018 and an increase of 0.4% on the previous month.

The volume of residential sales in Scotland in September 2019 was 8,628, an increase of 1.8% on the original provisional estimate for September 2018. This compares with an increase of 3.3% in England, 1.3% in Wales and 4.9% in Northern Ireland.

The HPI report says: “Prices vary across Scotland, with the highest-priced area to purchase a property being City of Edinburgh, where the average price was £277,600, and the lowest-priced area being East Ayrshire, where the average price was £95,941.”

Paul Denton, chief executive of Scottish Building Society, said: “The figures relate to November, so it is too early to assess the long-term impact of the General Election result on the Scottish market.

“Many commentators predict economic uncertainty to ease in 2020 with a resultant increase in transactions. However, while consumer confidence is important, demand continues to outstrip supply. We would support any initiative to help people on to the property ladder, including accelerating the number of new homes being built.

“Last month, we became one of the first lenders to take applications from the Scottish Government’s First Home Fund . This will make the housing market fairer by providing £150 million until March 2021 to help 6,000 people buy their first home.”

The UK HPI is calculated based on completed sales at the end of the conveyancing process. This means that while the UK HPI may not be as timely in publishing as the other measures, it is however ultimately more complete with coverage of both cash and mortgage transactions for the whole of the UK.

Source: Scottish Construction Now

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Number of long-term empty properties in Scotland rises for third year in a row

The number of properties and second homes left empty over the long-term in Scotland has risen for the third successive year, a new report has found.

There were to 65,277 domestic addresses lying empty as of September 2019 – a rise of 1,260 properties (two per cent) year-on-year – but slightly lower than the equivalent total of 66,053 properties recorded as of September 2012.

Tackling the number of properties left empty in the long-term has become a priority for Scotland’s 32 councils in recent years, but housing charities have warned more still needs to be done to bring down the total.

The lack of action to tackle the problem was last month branded a “disgrace” by opposition parties, while housing minister Kevin Stewart pledged he would press ahead with compulsory sale orders (CSOs) by the end of the current Parliament in 2021.

While there was a rise in the number of long-term empty properties and second homes, the number of new build homes completed rose by 18% in the year to the end of June 2019.

A total of 21,403 homes were completed in 2019 – 3,210 more than the number of homes completed in 2018.

It is the highest level for completions since 2008.

Shaheena Din, national manager of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is run by Shelter Scotland, said councils faced the challenge of providing support for owners to bring empty properties back into use.

“Most homes become empty due to natural life events such as people dying or moving into residential care,” she said.

“The challenge for local authorities is to provide effective support to owners to bring them back into use so they don’t get stuck empty for years.

“Last year, the combined effort of empty homes officers in 20 local councils in Scotland and our own Empty Homes Advice Service brought back 1,128 homes.

“The latest figures for the current year show that another record-breaking year is in sight.”

Empty homes, abandoned shops, derelict hotels and gap sites could be among those targeted by the introduction of compulsory sale orders which allow councils to force owners to sell such sites at auction.

These differ from compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) as councils don’t have to make the purchase themselves.

Welcoming the increase in the number of new homes completed, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “These figures demonstrate how we are delivering more housing in Scotland.

“From private to social housing, it is encouraging that both new build starts and completions have increased this year, providing more people with a warm, safe place they can call home.

“The increase points to the strength of Scotland’s new build housing sector. We shall continue to push towards our ambitious target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes by 2021.”

By CHRIS MCCALL

Source: Scotsman

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Scottish housing market is surviving despite uncertainty – John Kelly

As we await the result of the ­pre-Christmas general election and what changes this may or may not bring to the position of Scotland in the UK and Europe, it feels like something of a renaissance is afoot.

Although the overall level of confidence in the economy remains fragile, the news is not all doom and gloom. Even with the political and economic uncertainty we have lived through over the last year, house prices in Scotland continued to grow by 1.3 per cent.

The industry body for home building, Homes for Scotland, has highlighted that despite home building numbers eventually falling back to pre-recession levels, there is still a massive shortage of homes. Recent research by Fraser of Allander on behalf of Homes for Scotland showed that house price growth is far from being evenly spread across the country, with Edinburgh and the East showing particularly high growth. In the West of Scotland, areas like Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire, where school performance is strong, also showed higher house price growth.

In our experience, and as shown by ­several economic indicators, Glasgow city centre and the West End also continue to be property hotspots. The news that the next stage of the City Development Plan focusing on the Govan, Partick and the Clyde Corridor will be submitted to ­Scottish ministers is welcome and we anticipate this will provide impetus for the property market.

‘Lack of second-hand stock’

Our business is focused on the West of Scotland and, for us, east and north ­Ayrshire has been a significant area for growth, with average transactions rising by 6.9 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively. Thanks to the improved road network, Ayr and Stewarton are attractive prospects as they are commutable to Glasgow. At the same time the property prices there are more competitive, with buyers getting more square footage and a garden for the same price as a flat in central Glasgow.

The biggest challenge currently is a lack of second-hand residential stock. The influx of new homes projects has helped keep the wheels turning. Projects that were halted are now either completed or well underway in terms of construction and consumers are snapping them up.

We are encouraged to see the Scottish Government’s ambitious net zero emissions target being reflected in many building projects. We are currently marketing City Garden Apartments, a new build of 65 eco-conscious, luxury apartments in Glasgow. Buyers concerned about ­climate change and their carbon footprint can benefit from state-of-the-art energy ­efficiency, electric car charging and an outdoor roof with a bee hotel. New build homes are also attractive to downsizers.

These consumers are moving to more urban locations, nearer restaurants and amenities, into lower maintenance and running cost properties. A ­garden is often replaced by a much more manageable balcony. A good example of an ambitious new project is G3 Square in Finnieston, which we’ve been supporting since the outset, as well as Cathcart House in the south side and the upcoming Fairfields, due to launch in Partick next year.

Another key trend is the number of small to mid-size luxury home developments springing up on the outskirts of Glasgow in areas such as Croftamie and Strathaven. These cater for millennials looking to lay down roots with a family home, who would be otherwise priced out of Glasgow’s “go-to” areas of Newton Mearns, Giffnock and Bearsden.

While life changes, like children or getting married, will happen regardless, there can be no doubt that many potential homebuyers view their next move as discretionary, as opposed to borne out of need. However, we know from lessons of the recession that the property market can survive extreme circumstances. Even though we can all expect more uncertainty, the desire for home ownership is a certainty.

By John Kelly

Source: Scotsman

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Private rental sector ‘not meeting the needs of families’, report finds

Suburban family homes that are specifically built for long-term rent, in places people want to live, should be a strategic part of Scotland’s housing development pipeline, according to a new report from Savills and the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT).

Research into the Private Rental Sector (PRS) aimed at Scottish developers, local authority planners and investors, said the long-term option would reduce pressure on all parts of the housing market and provide those living in the rental sector with improved choice and a stronger sense of security.

Karen Campbell, senior associate director at SFT, said: “The financial crash just over ten years ago created a surge in demand for housing in the Private Rental Sector across Scotland from young people and from families with children, and that demand has continued to grow.

“However, limited availability of good quality housing for rent and a growing level of demand are pushing rent levels through the roof in some locations.

“As well as introducing a supply of good quality, professionally managed new build houses for rent that families can call home and relieving affordability pressure in hot spot locations, exciting wider benefits could include the acceleration of house building programmes, the creation of great places and the attraction of additional institutional investment into the Scottish economy.”

Ms Campbell added: “This research which we have published today will be of interest to policymakers, local authorities, developers and investors to help them to understand the huge opportunities that exist to increase the supply of quality houses for rent in suburban Scotland.”

Savills development director, George Hepburne Scott, said: “Scotland is beginning to witness some genuine traction in the delivery of urban flatted Build to Rent developments in Glasgow and Edinburgh, with Savills involved with a number of live transactions in both cities.

“However, there is significant opportunity for institutional investors to help deliver much needed private family housing for rent in well-connected suburban locations, close to schools and other local amenities that families need.

“The findings clearly show that, in the majority of locations, the affordable housing sector is struggling to deliver the scale of housing required.

“Build to Rent family housing has an important role to play in filling that gap.”

He added: “25% of Scottish renters are families and these households are renting from individual private landlords, with varying quality standards. Despite a steady increase in housing need, there has been a significant year-on-year decline in availability of good quality family housing for rent across the central belt.”

393,000 or 15% of households in Scotland are estimated to live in the private rented sector and the number has grown by 155% over 20 years, according to the Scottish Household Survey.

Citylets reports that average rents in Scotland increased by 4.3% over the course of the past year with three and four-bedroom properties seeing growth in excess of this, at 5.4% and 11.4% respectively, reflecting high demand for family accommodation.

Source: Scottish Construction Now

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Scottish house prices projected to rise by nearly 20%

The average house price is predicted to be £35,000 higher in five years as “Brexit and election-related angst” subsides, according to a report.

Savills expects average house prices across the UK to lift from £231,000 in 2019 to £266,000 in 2024 – with the north outperforming those in the south.

There are also signs the prime central London property market could be set
for a bounce, but elsewhere in London growth in house prices is expected to lag behind the rest of Britain.

North-west England is tipped to see the strongest percentage house price growth, with values predicted by Savills to surge by 24 per cent by 2024.

In Scotland and north-east England, house prices are expected to jump
by nearly one-fifth (19.9%) over the same period, while in Yorkshire and
the Humber growth of 21.6% is forecast.

Faisal Choudhry, Savills head of residential research in Scotland, said: “In Scotland, the key fundamentals of quality of life, good schools and economic growth in the hubs of Edinburgh and Glasgow will drive local markets, but pricing remains key and sellers will have to be pragmatic.”

Wales will also perform strongly, with house prices expected to increase by around 18%, Savills predicts.

Daniel Rees, head of residential at Savills in Cardiff, said the property market in Wales had “undoubtedly” been helped by the Severn Crossing tolls being abolished in 2018.

He said: “Our forecasts affirm the long-term popularity of Wales as an attractive and affordable place to live and work.”

By contrast, property values in London, where housing affordability is often worse than in other parts of the country, are expected to increase by just 4% by 2024.

House prices in London generally recovered more strongly after the financial crisis than elsewhere, but price growth there has been more subdued in recent years as the affordability of a home has become more stretched.

However, expectations for house price growth in prime central London are more positive.

Savills forecasts that prime central London values will rise 3% next year
– the first annual price growth since 2014 – and increase by 20.5% over the next five years.

Recent falls in the value of sterling mean London’s most expensive properties will start to look relatively good value to those investing from overseas – and a build-up of recent interest from buyers indicates the market is set for a bounce, Savills said.

The firm said that while “Brexit and election-related angst” will generally continue to act as a drag on the market over the short term, house prices are expected to rise broadly in line with incomes thereafter.

It estimates that, while house prices will only increase by around 1% across 2020, 2021 will see a stronger 4.5% bounce.

Savills’ forecasts assume that the General Election on December 12 does not result in a significant shift in the policy environment, that the UK ultimately achieves an orderly exit from the EU over the course of 2020 and avoids recession.They also assume that the bank base rate increases gradually to 2.0% by the end of 2024, constraining mortgage affordability and house price growth.

Source: Herald Scotland

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Scottish housing market has fastest sell time, research says

The time needed to sell homes in Glasgow and Edinburgh is half the average for UK cities, according to a survey.

Zoopla’s UK Cities House Price index for September reveals housing market conditions are strongest north of the border despite Aberdeen being the worst performer.

Glasgow and Edinburgh properties sell within six weeks on average, compared to 12 weeks across the whole of the UK.

Aberdeen was the worst performer, with homes taking more than 15 weeks to sell and sellers discounting their homes by 9.4%.

Richard Donnell, research and insight director at Zoopla, said: “There is a continued polarisation in housing market conditions across the country set by underlying market fundamentals, albeit Brexit uncertainty has been a compounding factor for lower market activity in some areas.

“A general election seems to be a growing possibility ahead of any Brexit resolution; however, once the political outlook becomes clearer, we would expect a modest bounce-back in demand for a six–12-month period.

“Market conditions are set to remain weak in southern cities until pricing levels adjust to what buyers are willing, or can afford, to pay.

“London is three years into a re-pricing process, and we expect sales volumes to slowly improve over 2020, while house price growth remains subdued.

“There are large parts of the country where housing affordability remains attractive, fuelled by continued economic growth that supports demand for homes, resulting in reasonable sales periods and only modest gaps between sales and asking prices.”

Glasgow and Edinburgh are also the only UK cities not to register a discount from asking to selling price.

Homes in the two locations instead command an average premium of 6-7% above the asking price.

In contrast, vendors across the UK now accept offers that are on average of 3.8% or £9,800 lower than the initial asking price.

Source: Herald Scotland