The number of second homes in Scotland has nearly halved in the last six years, according to recent figures. Those involved in the Scottish property market are suggesting that higher taxes on additional properties and general economic uncertainty have combined to reduce demand, with the total number of properties listed officially as second homes down from more than 40,000 in 2012 to less than 25,000 in 2018.
In 2016, a three per cent purchase tax – known as the additional dwelling supplement – was introduced in Scotland for all new second and buy-to-let properties valued above £40,000. This would add £6,000 to the cost of purchasing a £200,000 property on top of other local tax charges.
The growth in short-term lets has also been seen to have an impact on the demand for, and supply of, properties that could be used as second homes. This trend has led to calls from some, including Green MSPs, for a "homes first" housing policy and new planning rules covering short-term commercial letting through platforms such as Airbnb.
The number of second homes has fallen faster in Scotland’s major cities than in other parts of the country, the figures reveal, with second homes in Edinburgh down from 5,800 in 2012 to just over 2,000 in 2018. By comparison, the rate of decline in the Highland Council area is much lower, down from 4,500 in 2012 to just under 3,900 in 2018.
Second homes have proved a hot topic for discussion across the UK in recent years. In 2016, the Cornish town of St Ives banned the construction of new-build second homes following a local referendum.