Business as usual for building trade amid warnings of hard times ahead

Within the building trade, signs of a slowdown are beginning to appear, although many contractors maintain it is business as usual.

Owner of Irvine Contractors Leslie Irvine refused to comment on whether work on retirement flats on ground next to the Lerwick Hotel – known locally as Emmerdale – had come to a halt.

Work on the flats started last year, but a reliable source in the building trade said the project had been mothballed.

However, director of E&H Building Contractors Bobby Elphinstone said Shetland was not facing the same problems many mainland construction firms were battling with.

“Shetland is insulated from a lot of the problems over on the mainland,” he said. “We haven’t seen a decline in Shetland at all so far. There will be a slow-down to a degree because of the situation with the banks and the building societies.

“There will be a certain amount of people who won’t be able to secure the funding they get for mortgages, so it’s certainly going to affect first time buyers.

“There’s a tendency for everything to be all doom and gloom and despondency, but the problem certainly isn’t as big as it is on the UK mainland.”

George Garriock of Garriock Brothers said trade was still “busy enough” although a slowdown was expected to kick in next year.

“We are predicting that it’s going to slow down in the housing market, but at the moment that hasn’t filtered through. We’ll be seeing it probably half way into next year before the real slow down happens.

“Houses in Shetland weren’t as over-inflated as they were on the mainland, so I don’t think it’s going to be so bad.”

Director of DITT Construction John Tait said he had seen a downturn in individual enquiries about building domestic houses.

But he said the firm, which is the preferred bidder for Mareel, was keeping itself busy with ongoing construction of the flats at Grantfield in Lerwick.

Large projects are providing a heavy workload for surveyors who otherwise would be struggling with a fall in housing demand.

Director of Lerwick surveyors David Adamson and Partners Stephen Johnston said quantity surveying for some of the SIC’s bigger projects was keeping the firm “very busy” at the moment.

The big jobs will come as a relief for the firm as it rides out the continuing fall in demand for houses.

Mr Johnston said other surveyors on the mainland were in a less fortunate position.

“They’re paying off staff left right and centre because through-put is down.

“A lot of firms have seen their incomes cut by half.”

Mr Johnston said there was “definitely less interest” in Shetland’s housing market, although there was some confusion over just what was happening to prices.

“Some are selling for less than you would think. Others are selling for more.”

He said mortgages were “a bit more difficult to get”, but only if customers were looking for higher percentage offers.

“Rather than banks and building societies causing problems, folk are concerned by what they hear and are thinking a bit longer before shifting.”

In August The Shetland Times highlighted a number of properties that had lingered on the market for several months, some of which are still being advertised now.

The house at 1 Wheelafirth in Tingwall was advertised as far back as the 7th March issue of this paper.

It is still featured on solicitors Dowle, Smith and Rutherford’s website, although its price has dropped from £175,000 to £165,000 (offers over). Armatoon in Gulberwick also remains on the market. It was originally advertised in the summer for offers over £180,000, although it now stands at offers over £168,000.


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