SALES of “trophy” estates in Scotland have slumped because wealthy potential buyers are worried about the independence referendum.
Uncertainty about the outcome is being blamed for the value of estate sales dropping by £65m in a year, a fall of almost 70%.
Rich clients in the market for Scottish sporting estates are put off by the fact the country’s future will not be settled until the 2014 vote on independence, according to estate agents.
Jamie MacNab, a partner at Savills in Edinburgh, said: “It’s very difficult to sell a country house at the moment. The main thing is the economy but in certain circumstances it is the uncertainty about independence that is preventing buyers from England and overseas investing in Scottish property.
“What I have noticed for the bigger properties, castles and sporting estates, is buyers who may be London-based and looking for trophy property in Scotland are thinking it is probably best to not make a decision on buying in Scotland until after the vote.
“It is the uncertainty that the vote is generating – buyers are telling us this. [They] don’t know what will happen whichever party gets in.”
Some potential buyers are worried their property could lose half its original value in two years time. Some perceive that an independent Scotland would no longer be considered a “safe haven” for property tycoons and that they might be better off in London.
The company’s figures show that £86m was spent on 22 properties valued at more than £2m last year.
This year the figures have slumped to just £21m being spent on seven estates.
According to the report, sales of properties worth over £1m are also falling, with 64 in the first half of 2011 compared with just 48 in the first six months of 2012.
However, the London market for luxury homes is booming with over 100 sales of properties worth at least £5m in a three-month period this year.
This means that purchases like the £2million Keir House and its 15,000-acre Perthshire estate bought by Highland Spring owner Mahdi al-Tajir, Scotland’s wealthiest man, could be a thing of the past.
Former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, bought the 65,000-acre Balnagown estate in Easter Ross – an estate that used to belong to the Ross Clan of Scotland – and has spent £20m restoring it since 1972.
Russians have also been reported to show an interest in properties in Edinburgh with investors from China and Saudi Arabia even looking to buy their own castle.
In 2010 Spott House in East Lothian, one of the most luxurious properties in the country, was on the market for a massive £25million.
John Coleman, a partner at rural property surveyors Smiths Gore, said: “There is no doubt that people are thinking very hard about investing their money in Scotland before we know what is going to happen in the independence vote.
“They are asking will it affect the value of the property they are planning to buy?”
He added: “If we do go independent will Scotland be seen as the safe haven in property as it is now?
“Overseas investors go to London first then they come up to Scotland, whether it is to buy a castle, to go sailing or for sport. They are prepared to spend money, even though they may only be here for four weeks a year.
“They don’t want to spend £7.5m to find that it’s only worth £3m and are not going to do this if they think that the value of their property may half by 2014.
“They don’t know if Scotland is going to be in the European Union or what currency it will have.
“We would be happier if there was some sort of manifesto for independence so that everyone knew what the way forward was going to be.”
A Scotish Government spokesman said: “There is no evidence whatsoever to support these claims.
“An independent Scotland will be a wealthier and fairer country, and a more attractive and prosperous place to live.”