AS the Covid-19 lockdown begins to finally ease, rural surveyors Davidson and Robertson had already seen increased activity in the property market – both for sales and lettings.

Well aware that it’s still early days to prove the theory that lifestyle property will be in greater demand, current signs are promising. They found that, during lockdown, private deals had still been completed and there was plenty of market activity for land, with private deals progressed between neighbours.

Strong demand for agricultural land has been led by progressive farm businesses taking local opportunities and off market sales. Director at D and R, George Hipwell, told the SF: “The lockdown, aided by digital technology, led some to reconsider their lifestyle and future property ambitions. Now lockdown has eased, we’ve seen a swell of registrations and activity, with more than a 50% increase in enquiries for lifestyle property to buy and rent.

“Pent up demand for viewings means people are eager to move forward and are decisive and quick to act. Rural property with some land has the greatest level of enquiries, with strong interest from south of the Border.”

Mr Hipwell believes that Burnfoothill Farm, near Lockerbie, was a case in point. Extending to around 120 acres with a three-bedroom farmhouse, this is appealing to those looking at the first rung on the rural property ladder, or as a starter farm.

Lined up in late June, 50% of the viewings came from the preliminary notice. It went on the market on June 26, with huge interest resulting in an early closing date of July 28. D and R saw equal interest in the property as a whole and in lots. Around a third of the enquiries came from buyers south of the Border – from as far away as Devon.

He also believed that, after the announcement on July 9 of a temporary tax discount on lower value lifestyle residential properties either side of the Border could help property sale in the short term,

Stamp Duty (England) is now 0% up to £500,000, and Land and Business Transaction Tax (LBTT) in Scotland is 0% up to £250,000. Although not massive, it will benefit lower priced residential properties. Once legislation is passed, around eight in 10 house buyers in Scotland will not pay LBTT while the benefits are greater and immediate in England.

Overall, D and R firmly believed in the key characteristics that buyers and sellers of rural lifestyle properties need consider. These include:

* Connectivity: Internet speeds, mobile phone reception.

* Office space: Accommodation that provided an office without compromising bedrooms or living space. If not possible, are there opportunities to convert outbuildings or space for an outdoor office?

* Outdoor space: Garden space for raised beds, greenhouse, orchard, entertaining and relaxing.

* Land: Possibility to have a pony paddock and stables, hens, or sheep

* Buildings: Opportunity to repurpose old buildings for personal use or ability to convert, subject to obtaining necessary consents, to generate a second income

Concluding, Mr Hipwell said: “Last year, we saw offers averaging 28% over asking price for all properties sold. At the start of 2020, demand for lifestyle property in Scotland’s central commuter belt continued to be strong. What we are now seeing is evidence that properties further afield, with some land, good road links and digital connectivity are in demand too.

“With a glimpse of life working from home, there are greater prospects for lifestyle property transactions across Scotland and Northern England.”