Eager buyers flood Arran housing market

John McHugh

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Arran is undergoing a period of unprecedented activity in the residential property market, an enthusiasm which shows no current signs of waning, according to an Ayrshire-based property expert.

John McHugh, a partner in the Irvine office of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors, says the market was already moving very positively up till March, after a sluggish 2019, but as soon as the nation was released from its first experience of general incarceration, a firestorm of activity broke out, every bit as frenzied as what ensued through the 2005 to 2007 period in the run-up to the financial crash and outfall from 2008 onwards.

He said: ‘Very quickly in the summer a significant volume of properties came to the market and as soon as they arrived, they sold, many at closing dates and achieving some of the best prices paid for at least 10 years. The main complaint from agents was that they were constantly short of stock.

‘Its [Arran’s] property market could not be more different to that of the mainland which surrounds it on three sides. There is an entirely different dynamic.

‘The market is much more cosmopolitan, attracting a great deal of English and, indeed, foreign money.

‘It is likely that at least 25 per cent to 30 per cent of properties on the island are English-owned and the number of second homes/holiday homes generally is likely to be well in excess of 50 per cent of the island’s property stock.

‘It is not a new phenomenon, but this year has accelerated what many people see as a major difficulty of rural and island life – that local people are priced out of the market by people coming from areas where house prices are higher by a serious order of magnitude.

‘Even at the lower end of the market, an ex-local authority house on the island can fetch a hefty £125,000 to £160,000, easily a half to two-thirds more than a similar property would manage on the mainland directly to the east.

‘Island homes are also very lettable. Rental for the 20-to-30 weeks of the season can be much more lucrative than a year’s lease to a sitting tenant, meaning that locals are priced out of this option as well.

‘The island premium means that while the average house price in Scotland is around £160,000, the most active sector of the Arran market ranges from £200,000 to £400,000. The past 18 months to two years have also seen an increase in sales activity at £500,000 to £700,000, including a number of impressive red sandstone Victorian mansions and bespoke individual properties.’

And he said isolation appeared to be no disincentive to a successful sale. ‘A three-bedroom property is about to be marketed in Machrie, in the middle of the thinly-populated west coast, in a remote location, up a farm track and over 100 metres above sea level. There is not a shop for miles. But the asking price is around £400,000, and I would be surprised if it does not attract considerable interest.

‘One of the peculiarities of house-hunting in Arran is that many people arrive on the pier at Brodick with a very fixed idea of exactly where they want to buy. Someone with their heart set on Blackwaterfoot would not countenance purchasing in Lamlash. I suspect it is to do with memories of childhood holidays or blissful times spent on the island.

‘All being well though, as the world continues to battle the many health and economic challenges it faces, I strongly suspect that, in its own unique way, Arran will continue to thrive and offer a welcoming hand and opportunity to the many visitors and aspirational buyers who will no doubt continue to crowd the boats next year.’