Given the surfeit of large, quite pretty, but too often overvalued country houses for sale all over Scotland, getting the asking price right will be more crucial than ever this year, says Robert McCulloch of Strutt & Parker in Edinburgh. ‘Based on meetings we’ve had with prospective clients at the end of last year and in early 2013, we expect to see a reasonably good selection of farms and estates coming to the market in the traditional selling season from April to June. There are certainly buyers out there, but they won’t pay over the odds, and an overestimate of as little as 5% on the asking price is enough to kill any interest stone dead in the current market.’ ‘Buyers with long-term investment in mind are well aware that a residential property portfolio is today worth 20%-40% less than in 2007,’ he adds, ‘whereas a portfolio of agricultural land is worth 10% more.
It’s hardly surprising, therefore, to find little demand for estates with too large a house, too many houses or a large main house in need of repair. What today’s estate buyer wants is a well-balanced mix of assets-from houses and buildings to shooting and fishing, farming and forestry.’ Fewer ‘blue chip’ Scottish estates came to the market in 2012 than in the previous year, but the best sold well and quickly, despite a distinct regional bias towards prime locations in the south and east. In May, Strutt & Parker launched the 667-acre Chapel Mains Farm in prosperous Lauderdale, four miles south of Lauder, yet only a 45-minute drive from Edinburgh, at a guide of ‘offers over £3.75 million’. The thriving mixed arable and livestock farm with good shooting facilities found a buyer in June at more than £4m.
Also well placed was the picturesque, 214-acre Elibank estate on the banks of the Tweed at Walkerburn in the heart of the Scottish Borders, yet within easy commuting distance of Edinburgh, 38 miles away. The former family seat of the Murrays, Earls of Elibank, the estate boasts a fine main house, extensive gardens, excellent salmon and sea-trout fishing, informal shooting and stalking and a useful annual income from seasonal grazings, fishing, and holiday-cottage rentals. Launched on the market by Strutt & Parker in April at ‘offers over £2m’, it sold within two weeks for ‘considerably more’ than the asking price.
Still in the Borders, Savills launched the scenic, 921-acre Faldonside farming and sporting estate near Melrose, Roxburghshire, on the market in May at a guide of ‘offers over £3.2m’ for the whole. Set in a secluded location and reputedly coveted by Sir Walter Scott of neighbouring Abbotsford, its focal point was handsome, eight-bedroom Faldonside House, which overlooks its own private loch.. The estate eventually sold in lots in November 2012.
Overall, Scottish farming stole the show last year, outperforming the rest of Britain, especially in the penultimate quarter, when, according to Savills, Scottish land values increased by 7.3% to £6,450 an acre. Some 36,000 acres of farmland were offered on the open market in the first three quarters of 2012, an increase of 22% on the same period of 2011, and the largest acreage offered for sale in the first nine months of any year since 2006.
However, the increased supply was largely due to a greater number of small farms coming to the market-only 23 of the 134 available had more than 400 acres-and, here again, the east-west divide came into play. Again this year, Savills expect that ‘east-coast arable farms of any size will continue to find buyers comparatively easily, but farms in the west will need to be of sufficient scale and well equipped to attract similar levels of interest’.
But one part of the country that will continue to see encouraging levels of sales across the board is surely Aberdeenshire, particularly the highly desirable niche area within 20 miles of Aberdeen. According to David Strang Steel of Strutt & Parker in Banchory, ‘the property market here remained extremely strong in 2012, underpinned by the buoyancy of the oil industry, high employment and the romantic, historical and royal associations of Royal Deeside’.
‘Even in November, at what would normally have been a fairly quiet time of year, we had five or six successful closing dates, on which the properties all sold for more than their asking price,’ he continues. ‘The average closing date sale in Aberdeenshire achieved upwards of 10% above the asking price last year, and we expect that trend to continue in 2013.’
The Beldorney estate in Aberdeenshire sold last July
Successful sales recorded across the entire country-property spectrum in 2012 included the historic, 861-acre, mixed sporting and farming Beldorney estate near Huntly, Aberdeenshire, launched on the market through Strutt & Parker at ‘offers over £3m’ in June, and sold for £3.6m in July. Beldorney is a classic, fairy-tale Scottish estate set in a secluded glen, with, at its heart, the romantic, Category A-listed Beldorney Castle, built by George Gordon in 1550-75, and one of the oldest surviving examples of Z-plan architecture in the north-east. Another historic Aberdeenshire house that bucked the general trend was the Pearson family’s 40,000sq ft Dunecht House, also listed Category A, which sold with its immediate gardens and grounds on the edge of Dunecht House golf course and close to Aberdeen and the city’s airport, at a guide price of excess £1m through Savills and CKD Kennedy Macpherson.
Even in a time of austerity, or perhaps because of it, the lure of a superb salmon and sea-trout beat on the illustrious River Dee was too good to miss when, in September, Strutt & Parker launched the renowned Craigendinnie fishings near Aboyne, 32 miles from Aberdeen, at a guide price of excess £1.4m. By November, the prime 2.2-mile beat, comprising 17 named pools on the right bank of the Dee and the refurbished Tanarside House fishing lodge on the edge of the Tanar Burn, had been sold to a buyer from south However, a buyer prepared to go that extra mile can still find value for money in Aberdeenshire, where Strutt & Parker’s Banchory office (01330 826800) wants ‘offers over £695,000′ for elegant, Category B-listed Drumblair Lodge at Forgue, 34 miles north-west of Aberdeen, in prime Scotch whisky territory.
The handsome country house was built in three main phases: the oldest Georgian part in 1780, the Victorian wings added in 1845 and an Edwardian rear wing added in 1902. The main house has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a partially converted steading, surrounded by 3.17 acres of woodland grounds.
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