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New warning over mortgage rates under independence

PROPERTY experts have issued the strongest warning yet that a vote for Scottish independence in this year's referendum will mean a rise in mortgage rates.

More than 300 industry professionals yesterday voted overwhelmingly against backing independence because it was claimed some buyers were holding off until after the result of September's poll is known due to uncertainty over the country's future.

About 90% voted against it in the poll of developers, property lawyers, agents and lenders attending the Savills Scottish Property Outlook Conference in Edinburgh.

Most of those surveyed said house prices would fall or rise less quickly than England, Wales and Northern Ireland if the Scottish Government's plans become reality. Fears over greater risk involved is enough to stall the market and a fledgling economy would hit international credit controls, one estate agent said.

Homeowners and buyers see the uncertainty over issues such as currency, taxation and mortgages as key to their decision.

Three quarters of the professionals polled at the gathering also thought the number of buyers of £1 million-plus homes from outside Scotland would decrease in the event of an independent Scotland.

High-end buyers from England, many of whom are of Scottish descent, make up 17% of the £1m-plus market and are among those who have signalled holding off buying in Scotland until after the referendum.

Last year the sale of such homes north of the Border was worth £136m.

Edinburgh-based Savills said there was a vacuum of infor­mation on the future of the mortgage market in Scotland and if there was a Yes vote this would mean a further 18 months uncertainty at least.

However, country estates have not been affected by the referendum, a finding that echoes that of another properly consultant, CKD Galbraith.

Faisal Choudhry, associate director at Savills, said yesterday: "There is gathering anecdotal evidence that uncertainty around the independence debate is becoming a concern for some buyers and sellers.

"As the Scottish property market recovers from the economic downturn, this uncertainty has the potential to stall the market again.

"About 65% of residential transactions in Scotland every year are dependent on a mortgage, and lending rates applied in Scotland would have the biggest impact on the market post independence.

"As a new country with a small economy on the periphery of Europe, it is likely Scotland would incur a higher credit risk, and have a lower credit rating than the rest of the UK.

"Potential increased risk would probably mean an independent Scotland incurring higher mortgage rates, putting upward pressure on household finances and potentially driving down the value of housing, as buyers seek affordability.

"This might lead to the residential market stalling again, with sellers unwilling to accept lower prices, just as they did during the recent economic downturn."

Jamie Macnab, Savills director and country house sales expert, said: "A lot of buyers are saying they might wait until after September so they can see what they are buying into. They are not English invaders, they are Scots diaspora coming home."

An SNP spokesman said: "The international credit rating agency Standard & Poor recently gave Scotland a glowing economic assessment and confirmed that Scotland would qualify for its 'highest economic assessment' - a huge vote of confidence in the strength of the Scottish economy."

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