House Hunter: 'Do I want the hubbub of Glasgow?'

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The problem

ANTHONY SMITHSON, FROM BIRMINGHAM, WRITES: I am a civil engineer and have just taken a new long-term contract with a firm based in Glasgow. It starts this autumn, so I have to move fast, and because the job will last for three years, I think it will be worthwhile buying somewhere rather than renting, even if I end up selling it in 2009.

I last visited the city in 2004, and I found the mix of old and new fascinating. Even the traditionally scruffy areas - including the Gorbals - have new developments right next to old, refurbished tenement blocks.

I live alone and would like to be based either in the city centre, close to where my office will be, or in a suburb or rural area no more than half an hour's drive from the thick of things. In any case, I am looking for a high-quality property in a good area if possible. I would need only two bedrooms, although more may come in handy (don't they always?), particularly as I may have the opportunity to work at home and would therefore like space for a study.

I will have a budget of up to £350,000 but would like to spend less if possible. What can I buy there?

The advice

HOUSE HUNTER REPLIES: Glasgow is indeed an interesting city and boasts one of the largest regeneration programmes in Europe. A 130-acre site on the edge of the city centre, once occupied by shipbuilding and freight docks, is now being reinvented as Glasgow Harbour, and will be made up of private housing, waterfront amenities and hi-tech small companies. About 40 per cent of the land will be public open space.

The area will not be complete until 2014, so it is currently a building site, although the first homes are now occupied. Ultimately, it is proposed to regenerate right up to the West End of Glasgow city centre, and bus and trams already link the areas.

But most people look to Glasgow for its historic buildings and for your budget you stand a good chance of getting at least an apartment in almost any area you wish, and in many suburbs you could afford a good-sized house.

On the eastern edge of the centre is Merchant City, a 19th-century area which in the past 15 years has been the focus of warehouse conversions into flats, and large-scale regeneration.

The most popular area of period housing is the city's West End, a chic but bohemian district near the Botanic Gardens and Glasgow University, dominated by large four-storey 19th-century townhouses, which are now mostly split into flats.

Glasgow's Southside includes the Gorbals, to which you refer, which has long lost its image as one of Britain's most dangerous places to live. Crime has plummeted as a result of the demolition of some council estates and fresh improvements ranging from new parks and roads to swish private housing - although in Glasgow you are never far from tower blocks, and some 20-storey examples live on in this area.

The solution

Property one: The Beresford. You won't get more central than this refurbished Art Deco block on Sauchiehall Street. This former 1920 hotel has the original façade and sweeping entrance area, but otherwise is being turned into 112 highly modern flats with under-floor heating, steel-dominant kitchens and striking views over the city. Two-bedroom apartment with terrace, £250,000, from Savills, 0141 353 3050.

Property two: Schaw House. Another conversion, this time of a 19th-century Gothic-inspired mansion in Bearsden, north-west Glasgow, and about 15 minutes by train or car from the city centre. Each of the 23 apartments is unique and reflects part of the history of this former hospital, which has large grounds and is in a conservation area. Prices range from £280,000 to £470,000 from Savills, 0141 353 3050.

Property three: Glengarnock Lodge. If you want to blow your entire budget on a prestigious Scottish period property that is a 30-minute drive from central Glasgow, consider this four-bedroom house made of stone and slate. It was built in 1860 on the edge of Muirshiel Country Park, has half an acre of grounds with outbuildings and stabling, plus a double garage. £370,000 from Strutt & Parker, 0141 225 3880.

Fact file

The market has been stronger in Scotland than in most of England for the past three years, although it is cooling a little in Glasgow. The latest figures from the Bank of Scotland show that prices in the city are 7 per cent up on July 2005, so it's a strong market, although areas such as East Ayrshire are still seeing 20 per cent-plus annual rises.

The Glasgow Solicitors' Property Centre and the Registers of Scotland - the Land Registry's name north of the border - are both more conservative and say prices in the Glasgow region have risen by around 4 per cent in the past year.

Remember that the Scottish house-buying system is different from that of England and Wales. Most prices are advertised as being either "fixed" or "offers over".

Fixed-price sellers will accept the first offer for that price, or something near it, just as in the rest of the UK. "Offers over" means the price quoted is the lowest that the seller will accept. Estate agents and solicitors (who act as estate agents in much of Scotland) advise sellers to adopt this system if they think a property will quickly attract competitive offers that will rise substantially above the asking price.

If you would like House Hunter's help in finding a property in the UK or overseas, write to: The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, 020-7005-2000 or e-mail: househunter@independent.co.uk

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