News Column

Help to Buy gets thousands of Scots on to property ladder

May 30, 2014

kate Devlin UK; kate Devlin UK Political Correspondent

ESTATE agents have hailed new figures that show more than 2000 homes in Scotland have been bought through the controversial Help to Buy schemes.

Experts said the measure had helped kick-start parts of the housing market north of the Border that had struggled since the financial crash.

But one called on ministers to limit the help provided in London, amid fears of a housing bubble in the city.

Last month Lloyds, the UK's biggest mortgage lender, announced it was restricting access to high-value loans, including in Scotland, in a bid to dampen house prices in London.

The new figures show that together the two Help to Buy schemes, operated separately by the Scottish and UK Governments, had led to 2185 house sales.

Michael Luck, managing director at Slater Hogg & Howison, said: "I think this has been an excellent initiative. It came as the economy was improving a little, when people were getting a little bit more confident, and when people who wanted to move both up and down the ladder were getting fed up of having to wait."

While opposing any restrictions to the schemes in Scotland, he said "I think the UK Government should put limits in London."

Concern over the impact the measure is having in the city grew after yesterday's figures showed some of those being helped were earning more than pound(s)80,000 a year.

Andrew Perratt, head of Savills Residential in Scotland, said the housing market had improved over the last year - with about 20% more properties sold than at this time last year.

Help to Buy, he said, had "certainly helped first-time buyers, who are now helping to launch second- and third-time buyers into the market".

However, he added: "While I think it has helped, I don't think all the improvements are down to Help to Buy."

And despite the controversy the schemes attract, he said there was no hint that they were triggering unsustainable prices rises north of the Border. "We could not be further away from a housing bubble in Scotland," he said.

The new figures show that six of the top 10 areas using the UK- wide scheme were in Scotland - in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Aberdeen, and South and North Lanarkshire. A total of 957 homes were bought, the overwhelming majority (80%) by first-time buyers.

The average property cost about pound(s)112,000, well below the average Scottish house price of pound(s)180,575, while the average house price to income multiple was just less than three times salary.

Another 1228 homes were bought using the Scottish Government's sister Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme.

SNP housing minister Margaret Burgess said the numbers showed Scottish ministers were "providing more homes, creating more jobs and stimulating the economy". "Many people in Scotland want to own their own home, and raising aspiration and confidence in this way can only be achieved through initiatives such as this," she added.

Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, welcomed the figures, saying: "Today's figures show Help to Buy is working particularly well in Scotland."

Across the UK 7313 households were helped by the UK Government scheme in the first six months since its launch.

Rob Wood, chief UK economist at Berenberg, warned that the impression created by the scheme mattered more than its direct impact. He said: "Curtailing the scheme - in any way - would send a strong, worthwhile signal."

Last night Labour called for the rising demand for homes to be matched by rising supply.


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Source: Herald, The (Scotland)


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