A bumper year for sellers of Scottish estates saw nearly £100m change hands in 2016 in what is understood to be the highest total annual spend on such properties on record.
Strutt & Parker said the 25 transactions represented an increase of 32% on 2015 and a massive 260% on 2014 when the Scottish independence referendum stunted supply.
Agents across Scotland report resilience from buyers and sellers despite continued political uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote and the government’s land reform programme.
“Against this backdrop you would have expected a dampening effect,” said Robert McColloch, estates and farms agency partner at Strutt & Parker.
“But trade has been surprisingly buoyant.”
The definition of an estate varies among land agent databases, but figures show a significant increase in activity over the past 24 months.
Savills said 2016 was the most buoyant Scottish estates market in a decade.
Annual sales typically fluctuate around 20 properties, with 2014 being the only recent anomaly, the firm said.
Evelyn Channing, director of rural sales at Savills, said: “There were also some big estate sales in 2016.
“You usually see one or two a year, but there were several around the £10m mark when the average is around £5m.
“Despite all the political rhetoric going on, deals are being done and people are investing in Scotland which is encouraging.”
UK v overseas buyers
Tom Stewart-Moore, head of Scottish farms agency at Knight Frank, said the resurgence was due in part to increased confidence from UK buyers who competed with overseas bidders.
“Our analysis is that seven estates last year were purchased by EU nationals and Russians,” he told Farmers Weekly.
“The rest were bought by Scottish and English buyers.”
Dutch, French, German, Scandinavian and American bidders have been active, although not always successful, he added.
“Overseas buyers do look at what’s going on politically but place more importance on the estate being of the quality that they are looking for,” said Mr Stewart-Moore.
What do Scottish estate buyers want?
All the agents Farmers Weekly spoke to said they had a list of potential buyers lined up and launches due to arrive from May onwards.
But despite the demand-driven market, buyers remain particular about their investments.
Emma Chalmers, valuer from CKD Galbraith in Perth, said: “Generally, buyers want a practical house that is still a showpiece.
“Where sporting interest is important they will look at the fishing, shooting and stalking potential, and some have farmland interests too.
“Every estate is so different so buyers are not always location specific.”
Northern Scotland has been particularly popular, according to Mrs Chalmers, as has Perthshire.
“Two years ago we sold four estates and found the interest was unbelievable. One was sold at 35% over the guide price with a number of bidders.”
Scottish estates sold recently
Knight Frank sold the 2,600-acre Kinnaird Estate by Dunkeld in Perthshire last April. It generated worldwide interest with sporting and agricultural elements, eventually selling to a Scottish buyer in excess of the £9.6m guide price.
The Tillypronie Estate in Aberdeenshire is famous for its traditional Scottish field sports, offering driven grouse moors and a pheasant shoot as well as salmon fishing.
Let farms, commercial forestry and an 11-bedroom mansion can be found across the 12,000 acres near Tarland. It has recently gone under offer with a guide price of offers over £10.5m, Strutt & Parker said.
Interest in estates in northern Scotland was evidenced by the sale of Suisgill on the River Helmsdale in the Scottish Highlands.
About 14,800 acres of the 16,000-acre estate was hill ground with an in-hand sheep farm, extensive sporting offering and commercial forestry. Its guide price was offers over £5.1m with Savills.
Another significant Perthshire sale was the 3,800-acre Glenbeich Estate which sold in September 2015 significantly in excess of its £3.35m guide price with CKD Galbriath.
A productive livestock farming enterprise was included alongside grouse shoots and deer stalking.