Highland second home owners evicted as council buys properties

Second home owners are being kicked out of the Scottish Highlands as part of a council plan to buy properties to stop them becoming Airbnb rentals.

A pilot project encourages landowners to sell direct to Highland Council as soaring property prices and a increase in short-term rentals blocks local people from the market.

Although the maximum purchase price is generally capped at £180,000, a higher sum is being considered in some cases and the council has lifted the requirement in Scotland for sellers to pay for a door-to-door report.

They also don’t have to pay estate agent fees, potentially saving them thousands of pounds, with their homes being valued instead by the council or an outside professional.

Allan Maguire, head of development and regeneration at Highland Council, said the scheme was launched after the local authority was approached by several owners who had inherited property from their parents and wanted to keep it in their community.

“Hearts and Minds Approach”

Although they may be able to get a better price by selling their homes on the open market, Mr Maguire said the council had taken a ‘hearts and minds approach’ and sellers would always get value Merchant.

The scheme has attracted interest from 130 sellers across the Highlands since January, with 40 properties bought by the council. Most of the houses were acquired around Inverness and Easter Ross.

Some have been for key workers, with property acquired for a teacher on the Isle of Eigg.

Mr Maguire said: “People will sometimes tell us that their parents have lived in the area all their lives and they don’t want to sell it on the open market and then be used for an Airbnb.

“Rather than you selling the property and then using it as a holiday home, we will pay market value, but we will also not require a property report or payment of estate agent fees.”

Shortage of contractors

Mr Maguire said the council hoped to ‘buy more properties as word spreads’ as it was an ‘extremely difficult’ time for the delivery of more affordable housing.

He said inflationary building costs and a shortage of contractors in the Highlands to bid on housing projects were making the situation worse.

The cost of building a house in parts of Scotland’s west coast has risen from £145,000 to over £200,000 in the past 18 months, he said.

According to estate agents Rightmove, properties in the Highlands sold for an average of £213,525 in 2021, up 7% from 2020 and 15% from the 2019 peak of £185,110.

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