Borders Railway benefitting everything except house prices

Richard Clowes

October 26, 2016

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Richard Clowes is director of the Galashiels office of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors

After all the fanfare and royal attention which accompanied the opening of the Borders Railway last year, the first anniversary passed off last month with more of a whimper than a bang.

Expectations a year ago were high about the longest new domestic railway line to be opened in the United Kingdom for more than 100 years, with three new stations at Tweedbank, Galashiels and Stow.

Annual house price growth continues to slow

With more than a million passengers trundling up and down the line in its first year of operation, it is fair to say that is generally accepted that it is a great boom to the area, though there have been some grumblings about delays, lack of space and timekeeping.

But while there have been no overly ecstatic celebrations a year on, councils are quietly reinforcing the railway effect with a string of developments intended to capitalise on the new line.

An extra £450,000 is being allocated for a dozen projects being considered for investment by Midlothian Council, including Gorebridge town centre improvements. The new cash comes on top of £300,000 already committed by the council towards Borders Railway promotional activities.

And local groups such as Energise Galashiels, established at the end of 2014, are providing a focus for action to create a more vibrant, welcoming and confident community. With around 50 local volunteers, the group has been awarded charitable status and works in tandem with, but is not funded by, Scottish Borders Council.

Activities of this nature have created a distinct buzz in Galashiels and the surrounding communities. In the town, vacant shop units have been given over to local artists, a positive and sensible use of otherwise depressing spaces.

One thing the railway has not yet produced is a significant and lasting uplift in house prices in the area, although our office is the busiest it has ever been and agents are dealing in very encouraging numbers.

However, those homes which come on to the market are selling more quickly. They are regularly under offer within weeks rather than months in most, but not all cases. The margin between the home report valuation and the sale price is at its narrowest for years.

For example, only four to five years ago, the price achieved could have been expected to be 10% to 20% below the home report. That gap has now been reduced to a few thousand pounds and, even on those rare occasions, the HR value is being exceeded slightly.

New build is still ongoing with the third phase of Persimmon’s Gala Meadows development now under way. Sales here have been considerably aided by Help to Buy.

All in all, the market is performing well, even into the late autumn phase and there has been no significant effect from the UK Brexit vote.

However, most commentators are of the opinion that we are still in the phoney war phase of the Brexit withdrawal and there could be problems ahead once Article 50 is triggered by the end of  March next year. We will have to wait and see.

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