Scotland's housing market's performance has been dominated by ‘events’ over the past 15 years or so, beginning with the collapse of Northern Rock at the end of 2007, which signalled the end of the mortgage credit boom across the UK. It was followed by a deep economic recession that dragged the housing market down with it - in Scotland, the total market value of residential sales fell by 76 per cent from Q3 2007 to Q1 2009.

During the succeeding years of bank bailouts, stimulus packages and rising unemployment, the housing market remained in a deep slumber. It only really awakened from the middle of 2013 thanks to a recovery in economic growth and stimulus packages, such as Help to Buy. The years since 2013 have seen modest recovery, particularly in the post-pandemic year of 2021, but total market value remains 24% down on its 2007 peak. Ongoing events such as European wars, interest and mortgage rate rises, and the cost-of-living crisis continue to impact on market sentiment and activity. The market has fallen over 5% in H1 2023 compared to the same period last year.

Some areas have performed better than others. Whereas the Edinburgh market is now 29% off peak levels, Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow remain around 40-50% down on where they were in 2007.

A tougher lending environment as well as a wider cost-of-living crisis, has been the main cause of a contracting market since Autumn 2022. The recent RICS Residential Market Survey paints a picture of tighter lending environment weighing down on buyer activity in Scotland as well as the wider UK.

According to UK Finance, new mortgage advances to first-time buyers in Scotland have decreased by 14.9% over a year (on a 4-quarter rolling basis) and for home movers they decreased by 7.4%. This is also down close to 10% on both measures on pre-pandemic levels.

The impact of the increase in interest rates can be seen in measures of mortgage affordability. The average share of income taken up by mortgage payments for new loans for home purchase has increased by 2.5 percentage points for home movers, to stand at 18.4%, and by a larger 3.4 percentage points for first-time buyers, to stand at 19.6%.

While a significant downturn in transactions from 2022 levels over 2023-24, perhaps this time of 15 to 20%, is on the cards, unless there is another significant move in interest rates, house prices would be expected to reduce modestly (perhaps around 5%) than decline more drastically, as was broadly the experience in the 2007-09 recession.

Your Questions Answered