THIS week Craig Borland reacts to new research which found that Helensburgh is one of the top 10 seaside towns to live in in Scotland – at least according to new analysis of the property market...


HELENSBURGH is one of the top 10 seaside towns in Scotland, the Bank of Scotland announced on Monday.

They based their findings on an analysis of the change in house prices in the country’s coastal communities over one-year, five-year and 10-year periods.

That analysis revealed two things as far as Helensburgh is concerned: one, that house prices in Helensburgh rose by 11 per cent from 2017 to 2018, earning it fifth place in that particular top 10; and two, that prices in Helensburgh were the ninth most expensive of any seafront town in Scotland, with a 2018 average of £189,192.

Received wisdom has long had it that rising house prices are a good thing. And they’re certainly a sign of general economic prosperity. But whether rising house prices make an area more desirable is more open to question.

That Helensburgh is a popular place to live in, and move to, is, naturally, no surprise to us. But while people base their decisions on where to buy a new home on a number of criteria – schools, shops, transport links and journey time to work, to name just a few – average property prices have always struck me as a pretty crude measurement of whether any place is a desirable one to live in.

READ MORE: Helensburgh in Scotland's top 10 most desirable seaside towns

The highest house prices in the UK have always been in London, for example, and while it’s a wonderful city to visit, I have no desire whatsoever to share in the hundred-miles-an-hour, everyone-for-themselves, packed-into-the-Tube-like-sardines lifestyle that seems to be the stark reality.

And a booming property market is not, in itself, a universally good thing, no matter where it is. Look at Arran, for example, where it is nearly impossible for those on an average income to buy a house because huge demand for holiday homes and places to retire to has sent prices through the roof.

It’s reasonable to assume, too, that thanks to the forthcoming expansion of the Clyde naval base, the cost of buying a house in the Helensburgh area will continue to rise in the years to come. And people who have grown up here, and want to stay, may well have no option other than to move somewhere cheaper because they can’t afford to buy a home of their own - and what will that do for the town?

Owning your own home isn’t as big a thing as it used to be, of course. And I appreciate that some people may be fine with the idea of never being a home owner, and accept that renting is an inevitable consequence of choosing to live in a particular place.

But renters aren’t immune from the state of the property market either: as the price of buying a home goes up and down, so the cost of renting rises and falls with it. And so the same potential problem arises: if fewer and fewer people can afford to rent in the area, let alone buy, will that really make Helensburgh a better place to live?