Sean McGinness: COVID-19 impact on land sales – way forward for landowners becoming clearer



Following the reopening of construction sites in Scotland, Sean McGinness believes the picture should start to become clearer for rural landowners who are in discussions with housebuilders and developers regarding potential new developments and land sales.

Sean McGinness

Many individuals will have spent time during lockdown contemplating their future living situations with the benefits of living in more rural locations with increased access to outdoor spaces being viewed as a key motivator in future house buying decisions.   

Scottish landowners could benefit from this potential change in attitudes since many rural estates are well placed within a couple of hours of the central belt, which is a commute many would be willing to take, especially with more acceptance from business of working from home as ‘normal’.

With the Scottish Government extending the help to buy scheme into 2022 there are definite incentives to continue building new homes. Furthermore, the expectation is that the UK Government’s ‘fiscal event’ this month will have some measures aimed at increased housing and infrastructure development.

The aim of this will be to boost confidence in the housebuilding and development sectors, and it is hoped that where the Scottish Government has responsibility for policy it will follow UK policies that encourage housing and infrastructure development. This could lead to developers looking to add to their land banks for future projects in three to five years’ time. Indeed, it is understood that some housebuilders have already raised additional capital to ensure they are in a position to secure the correct site at the correct value.

The upcoming fiscal event will make for interesting viewing to see if there is any further hint at an alignment of capital gains tax with income taxes which could increase the tax on a land sale from 20% to 46%. This was already being suggested prior to the COVID-19 crisis and could be more likely given the level of unplanned debt taken on over the last few months.

Rural businesses have found it tough in the last few months and the government re-opening the construction sector coupled with the anticipated July opening of the tourism and hospitality sectors, with an expected surge in demand for staycations may provide a welcome fillip to the sector.

  • Saffery Champness partner Sean McGinness leads the firm’s Real Estate Practice Group and is a member of its Landed Estates Practice Group


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