Richard Sexton, director of e.surv chartered surveyors, part of LSL, comments:
Tough mortgage lending criteria and public sector austerity bit the Scottish housing market hard last year, chewing £6,000 off the average house price. Values have now fallen for six months on the trot, and December alone saw over £1,000 knocked clean off the average house price.
A lack of first-time buyer loans is the root cause of the Scottish market’s ills. Mortgage lenders have married high deposit requirements with strict credit scoring criteria, which are keeping would-be first-time buyers in rented accommodation.
The comparison with England and Wales doesn’t make pretty reading: house prices in Scotland over the year have fallen by more than four times that of any region in England and Wales. Scotland’s greater exposure to public sector cuts is one reason. The other is the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending scheme and its lack of impact north of the border. The scheme has been far less effective in Scotland, which is making mortgages scarcer and more expensive than in England and Wales.
There is plenty of regional variation. Despite the sharp fall in the national average house price in 2012, prices have risen in almost one in four local authority areas. Prices in Edinburgh plummeted £16,658 annually, but rose £2,831 in Aberdeen City, highlighting the importance of wealthy local economies to house prices.
Better days should lie ahead in 2013. Lower house prices mean smaller deposits, which will inch some buyers closer to owning their first home. South of the border, mortgage rates for new buyers have fallen to historic lows, and there is a much wider range of mortgages to choose from, which gave the market a leg-up on the way to a bumper January. Scottish buyers will be hoping for something similar in the coming months.