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Sales at Tulloch Homes soar in buoyant market

TULLOCH Homes has seen sales soar in the first five months of this year amid signs of growing buoyancy in the Highlands housing market.

Pent-Up Demand: Tulloch's house sales are soaring but there is no housing bubble, says its chief executive.
Pent-Up Demand: Tulloch's house sales are soaring but there is no housing bubble, says its chief executive.

The latest strong figures led the company to suggest it was the best period of sales across a sustained period it had seen since the 2008 downturn.

Chief executive George Fraser said: "The market is highly buoyant, with April and May being exceptionally active with us.

"We had a good first five months of 2013, but this has been outstripped by this year's figures and the forward outlook remains very positive."

The Inverness company said it had completed 75 transactions in the period which was 29 per cent ahead of the 58 it had recorded in the same period of 2013.

While the business did not release an average price for the sales so far in 2014 its last financial results, to June 2013, said the average price paid across that year were in the region of £200,000.

Inverness, the Black Isle and Aviemore were highlighted as particularly busy areas. A development of £450,000 homes in Aviemore was said to have attracted a number of buyers keen to have a holiday home in the Cairngorms National Park area.

Although Mr Fraser is encouraged by recent results he moved to quell any suggestion that there was a potential Highlands housing bubble developing.

He said: "Pent-up local demand, more mortgage availability and the Help To Buy scheme have all combined to produce this sales surge. The London-centric overheating of the housing market is a very different picture to ours. We're grateful for the Help To Buy scheme and both the industry and homebuyers need it to continue for some time yet."

In the past nine months Tulloch has hired 34 staff to take its payroll to 150. Mr Fraser indicated further recruitment will be going on later this summer but did not give an exact figure on how many people may be added.

It is estimated Tulloch's supply chain helps to support around 1,000 jobs across the Highlands,

Tulloch posted an underlying profit of £2 million in the 12 months to June 30, 2013, on the back of turnover up more than five per cent to £44.7 million.

In February this year it indicated it hoped to build around 200 new homes in its current financial year.

The improving conditions in its traditional heartlands have also led the company to return to the Aberdeen market for the first time in several years. It is in discussion with planning authorities over apartments on Duff Street near the city centre.

Finance director Sandy Grant has previously suggested two central belt sites which had been put on hold during the recession may also be revived.

Yesterday sales director Lynne Boyd said: "A series of new phases at existing developments are in the process of being released to meet demand."

Among those are Muir of Ord, Conon Bridge and Hedgefield House in Inverness close to the city centre.

Dozens of houses from the final phases of the company's Milton of Leys and Greenfields developments in Inverness are also being rolled out in the next few months.

In April last year it was confirmed Goldman Sachs Bank and private equity firm TPG had acquired a 40 per cent stake in Tulloch from Lloyds Banking Group. The shareholding was bought as part of the Project Lundy transaction under which the US financiers bought a £1.2 billion portfolio of loans for an undisclosed sum.

The bank had completed a £50 million debt for equity swap with Tulloch in 2012. Mr Fraser and other members of management own the remaining 60 per cent stake.

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