The perfect match: buying and selling Scottish estates

Galbraith has a long tradition of selling Scottish estates, stretching back over a century. We are perhaps less well-known for buying estates for private purchasers, but in fact we are the most active firm in Scotland in this field.

In a market of reducing supply, with only 16 estates totalling some 70,000 acres selling for a combined £68 million in 2017, compared to 23 totalling 100,000 acres selling for more than £80 million in 2016, the number of private sales increased by 8%.  This reflects the changing shape and mood of both the market and sellers, with many estates never gracing the pages of Country Life, The Field or indeed even the internet.  

The Galbraith Premium Property division has dominated the estate buying market in recent years. Since its inception in 2016, we have provided advice to more than 50% of the buyers who sought the services of a property agent – the next nearest competitor had only a 20% market share.  Prospective purchasers benefit from the fact that we know the history of nearly all the Scottish estates, what they have sold for in the past, and where they sit in the market today. We can also value for bank security, so we have all the valuation evidence at our fingertips. 

Buying a property is one of the most significant and expensive purchases one will ever make, yet the majority, while taking legal advice, fail to take independent property or strategic advice. They tend to rely on the selling agent, who is acting for and of course being paid by the seller. With reference to a recent deal which involved the purchase of two neighbouring properties and six months of negotiation, our clients commented:

We contacted Galbraith having seen something we wanted to assemble. We were unsure how to acquire both properties simultaneously, or what we would have to pay to achieve that. We expected that price would be just one of many issues we would have to address, and we know rural property well, but we did not anticipate the many complexities that ultimately had to be overcome.  

With sport, forestry, building and farming elements all to get to grips with, Galbraith were able to advise us on all aspects of the purchase, leaving no stone unturned. Their thorough investigations and market intelligence meant we absolutely knew what we were buying, and were provided with reassurance that the price paid was reasonable.

Our buying agents deliver real value by making sure that the terms of an offer are right and that the new owners will not be disadvantaged in the future by perhaps accepting all the seller’s demands in a bid to get the deal done. By way of an example, Galbraith recently acted for overseas clients who sought our help just moments before they had agreed a deal to buy an estate. The purchase was later completed at a figure £1.5 million less than they had on the table at the point they sought our help. We also ironed out a number of issues that might very well have caused problems for them in the future. 

For Scottish estate owners thinking of selling, the market remains active and estates continue to be a great attraction to buyers looking to secure a rural lifestyle in Scotland. The current uncertainty surrounding Brexit had been perceived by some as a possible reason to delay an estate sale or purchase, the preference being to ‘wait for the dust to settle’ before taking any decision. However, interest remains high from British and foreign buyers keen toown a slice of Scotland’s iconic countryside. Traditional estates of 10,000 acres or more with a mixture of sport, including a driven grouse moor, red deer stalking and salmon fishing are the most sought after, with interest in such estates coming from across Europe, Russia, the Middle East and even parts of Asia. Grouse moors continue to remain in low supply and always generate strong interest when they do come to the market, while Highland stalking estates are of particular appeal to the continental buyer.  Estates offering either existing forests or land suitable for planting are increasingly of interest, owing to the continued and very attractive tax benefits of woodland ownership in the UK.  

Sometimes a private sale might be an attractive proposition to a seller who perhaps seeks a quiet departure from their estate, and this method can on occasion play to the seller’s advantage as buyers will sometimes pay a premium to prevent it being fully exposed to the wider market, thus effectively cutting out the opposition. That said, there are obvious advantages to a full open market campaign for the seller, the principal being that there is never any doubt about whether the property achieved its full value. When an estate is brought to the market, it may be for the first time in a number of generations, so the sale must be handled by professional agents who are experienced in the estates market. A landed sale will often bring to the fore many intricacies and details. 

A full knowledge, understanding and appreciation of these complexities is essential. Galbraith has handled the sale of more Scottish estates than any other firm in the past five years. One client, who used Galbraith for the sale of their family estate, commented:

Our estate needed several different areas of expertise including shooting, forestry, farming, self-catering cottages and a golf course – all of these were picked up by Galbraith and any problems we had were made easy by them. Every time we phoned or emailed we were very quickly helped; it seemed they always had time for us when they were obviously very busy. I would recommend Galbraith to anyone who is thinking about selling their estate.

For sellers, the current demand is such that a launch to the market this year is highly likely to result in a successful sale, with interest from purchasers nationally and internationally. For buyers, our view is that taking professional advice can resolve many of the challenging issues that purchasers encounter, saving you time and money