Scottish housing market ‘poised for two waves of bounceback’



Scotland’s £18 billion housing market will experience two waves of bounceback when the country emerges from lockdown, Scottish Building Society chief executive Paul Denton has forecast.

Paul Denton

Mr Denton said the sector has been hit by government stay-at-home measures for agents, surveyors and prospective buyers, combined with a backlog in applications caused by the Registers of Scotland suspension, but he expects the market will return to pre-COVID-19 levels. 

Mr Denton added: “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.

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

“Mortgage technology provider Twenty7Tech provide a good litmus test of the current state of the market. Normally, the ratio of purchase mortgages to remortgages is 55% to 45%. During COVID-19 we have seen that fall to as low as 20:80. Now we are seeing that figure edge up to around 30:70, nothing like before, but an indication of growing confidence.”

Mr 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.”

The average price of a property in Scotland in February 2020 was £150,524 – a year-on-year increase of 2.5%, according to statistics from the UK House Price Index released this week. The UK average house price was £230,332 – up 1.1% 

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

The volume of residential sales in Scotland in December 2019 was 7,984, up 8.0%

Mr Denton continued: “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.

“While we are protecting our customers by offering them financial advice, mortgages holidays, and three-month extensions on mortgage applications, it is important that we align our business to the government’s exit strategy and ensure we adapt to a new norm.

“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.”

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