House prices and house sales in the Highlands both increased in July according to the latest statistics from Highland Solicitors Property Centre. Their figures show that the number of houses sold in July was up 4% compared to July 2010, with house prices also up 4% on last year.
While these figures are encouraging HSPC point out that these are small increases, which are part of a pattern of price fluctuations, rather than any significant trend. Viewed across the three-month period to July, house prices in the Highlands are fractionally down by 0.4% on the same period in 2010.
HSPC says the latest Registers for Scotland figures show that the Highland property market has been weathering the economic uncertainty quite well. At £157,420 the average house price in the Highlands is 2% above the Scottish average.
But, in common with markets across the UK, property sales are still being held back by potential buyers’ uncertainty about their future financial prospects and by the restricted availability of mortgages.
The severity of the cutbacks in mortgage supply was revealed recently in figures from the Council for Mortgage Lenders. The number of advances to first-time buyers last year was down by almost a half at 17,600, compared to the pre-recession figure of 35,300 in 2007.
HSPC says that, against this background, the Highland property market is performing quite well, compared to other areas in Scotland and the UK.
While many houses are still selling, they report that sales are generally taking longer than they were in the years from 2004 to 2007, prior to the financial crisis. This, they say, reflects what is happening in other areas of the country.
One very encouraging sign is that the number of enquiries on the HSPC website at www.hspc.co.uk, continues at record levels. HSPC says this reveals the volume of pent-up demand which would be likely to turn into sales when market conditions improve.
Meanwhile, with the number of properties on the HSPC Property Register up 24% in July compared with the same month in 2010, home buyers in the Highlands currently have a wide selection of properties to choose from. With the prices being kept keen, HSPC say that property in the Highlands currently remains a buyers’ market.