Inverness is upping its game once again as the Highland market continues to attract buyers

John Albiston, Senior Partner

While the residential property market in Inverness and the Highlands has always been something of a law unto itself because of its geographical characteristics, it is fair to say that it is sharing in a wider return of confidence.

Prices are steadily rising and there is a palpable sense of increased positivity among property professionals with the bellwether sign of transactions going to a closing date becoming ever more pronounced.

One indicator is that lifestyle buyers, who disappeared like snow off a dyke when the recession hit in 2008, are not only starting to return but are once again becoming an active factor in the market.

This sort of momentum buoys up wider activity and acts as a counterweight to the fact that poor secondary housing is still as much of a drag anchor as it is in other comparable parts of the country.

What we have to continue to recognise is the remarkable transformation of Inverness – and, by association, the surrounding areas – from a rather old worldly town into a much more cosmopolitan city where housing stock has doubled in recent decades.

As a consequence of the extraordinary expansion of stock, the shortage of supply which continues to beleaguer other cities is much less of an issue. Supply and demand are much more evenly balanced.

Of course, geopolitics still impinge on the area. Indyref1 pretty well shut down the Highland property market last time round but, strangely, the prospect of a rematch with Indyref2 does not seem to be causing sleepless nights.

It is difficult not to suspect that this has something to do with the remarkable attitude of local people whose first instinct is to get on with things. Given that mortgages have never been cheaper, the willingness to snap up a bargain bubbles quickly to the surface.

What is new in the city, though not so much in the hinterland, is that the traditional progression of first-time buyers from a one-bedroom flat to a two-bed semi and then on, with a fair wind, to something grander has been significantly disrupted.

This is largely down to Help to Buy schemes which mean that new entrants are skipping the early stages and going straight to what would formerly have been viewed as a family home.

The result is that many second hand apartments are struggling to find a buyer and properties which would previously have been viewed as starter flats are falling to buy-to-let investors who are keen to cash in on the Airbnb phenomenon.

Thus, a two-bed flat near the Eden Court or with a view of the river is not only a desirable place to live but also a great investment, and is likely to fetch between £160,000 and £170,000. Similar properties in less attractive areas would realise some £20,000 less.

A three-bed semi would be expected to gain in the region of £200,000, and a two-bed £180,000. Stone-built properties in desirable locations such as Crown could go for north of £400,000 and up to £600,000 for real gems.

Given that Inverness consistently heads the lifestyle attractiveness tables, these last prices could be seen as something of a snip – especially, say, to an Edinburgh seller of a similar property who could maintain the same standards and still trouser some £500,000 in equity.

The south of the city is on the verge of playing host to further new build expansion as the £55 million West Link bypass which joins the A82 and the Dores Road opens up parcels of land which had hitherto been relatively inaccessible.

In all, Inverness – a great Scottish success story – is not resting on its laurels but, if anything, is once again upping its game.

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