‘Major’ changes afoot in Scottish housing market as workers reassess lifestyle priorities

Andrew Milne

PROPERTY professionals have warned that ‘major’ changes in the Scottish housing market are afoot in the post-lockdown world.

With working from home (WFH) remaining prevalent – and potentially permanent – for many people, workers are increasingly reassessing their lifestyle priorities.

DM Hall said while there has been ‘pent-up demand’ in cities such as Edinburgh for a number of years, there has suddenly been an ‘unprecedented’ increase in supply.

The market ‘has gone from zero to full ahead in the blink of an eye’, according to Andrew Milne, residential partner in the Edinburgh office of DM Hall. He said, “The flood of supply stems from a number of factors: people who were ready to move in March but were prevented; people who have reflected on their lifestyles and have been emboldened by lockdown and WFH; and those who want more space than is available in cities.

“One of the idiosyncrasies of this market is the disproportionate number of households without children who are keen to move. Parents, of course, are more constrained by schooling considerations. And, unfortunately, lockdown-related relationship breakdowns mean more demand for housing.

“It is clear that having been confined to city flats for several months has loosened people’s ties to their geographical location and, especially if they have been encouraged to work from home, they are seeking a more fulfilling home environment.”

Milne added that there was an abundance of attractive properties in outlying locations such as East and West Lothian and Fife. He said there was also a noticeable uptake of high-end properties in Edinburgh fuelled by returning Scots unsettled by the pandemic and seeking a sense of home.

“A lot of activity is being driven by people who now do not wish to wait until they are close to retirement to achieve a better work-life balance, when WFH means that they are halfway there now,” Milne added.

Alasdair Seaton, partner in DM Hall’s Dunfermline office commented, “The activity in the market at the moment is certainly not normal. We are seeing moves which are clearly driven by lockdown-related considerations. These include people needing bigger homes if they are going to be working there indefinitely; people who have missed their relatives and grandchildren and who want to be nearer to them; and a substantial movement of people from Edinburgh who want more space, a rural environment or just a bigger property for their money.

“The vast majority of sales are going to a closing date and achieving prices well in excess of their Home Report values. Many are selling without inspection, and very quickly. Again, many of the transactions involve households without children.”

Jennifer Campbell, head of rural agency at Baird Lumsden, agreed that a move to the country was underway. She said, “Plot sales have been very popular as many people are finally undertaking their dream of building their own home. Purchasers are generally seeking rural locations on the outskirts of villages offering peace and privacy and a garden office, or the capacity to put one in. Properties with land have always remained in high demand.

“Our lettings department has also been extremely busy and we have a number of registered applicants from the rest of the UK and overseas wishing to return to Scotland to let a prime rural property to provide a suitable environment for home working.

“Purchasers are generally impatient. They want into their dream home now, trepidatious and fearful of another lockdown. The uncertainty has pushed buyers and sellers to be a bit braver and get on with it. It’s a great time to sell.”