Council plays matchmaker for homebuyers

South Ayrshire Council’s positive approach to tackling empty housing in the area has received a double boost thanks to a matchmaking service for buyers and sellers and a free advice and information service regarding the options available to empty home owners.

The Matchmaker service brings sellers of empty properties, in any condition, together with potential buyers and developers. Aimed at helping to bring empty properties back into use the free service can be used whether the property requires some form of repair work or is in walk-in condition.

The benefits to sellers includes increasing the market exposure of their empty property by having it seen by others who are particularly looking to buy in that area – and it can remain for sale with an estate agent while the Council tries to find a match with a local developer or buyer.

For buyers, the scheme is a database of empty properties that might not be registered with an estate agent, offers the advantage of vacant possession and, for homes in need of renovation or repair, can be an opportunity to buy at a more affordable price.

The Council’s innovative loan scheme, offers interest free loans to owners of empty properties in specific areas of housing need, allowing owners of otherwise unused accommodation to bring them up to an acceptable living standard.

In return, the Council rents the property from the owner for use as mid market rent or temporary homeless accommodation, undertaking to manage and maintain the newly repaired property for a period of three to five years.

There is no need to apply. The empty homes officer for your area will contact owners of empty properties who may be eligible for this scheme.

The loan scheme was made possible after the Council secured £414,271 from the Scottish Government’s Innovation Fund – and the idea has now been adopted by the Government as a model of best practice, forming the basis of a £4 million loan scheme now being offered to other local authorities to develop similar initiatives.

Councillor Philip Saxton, Portfolio Holder for Housing commented: “There are just over 500 empty properties in South Ayrshire and we’re determined to bring them back into use as homes for people who need a high quality place to live.

“It’s fantastic news that our empty home loan scheme has attracted national attention.

“The matchmaker scheme will also add value to our efforts to ensure empty houses are coming back to the market, both as homes to rent and buy.”

The Council is also offering free advice and guidance to landlords on how to rent out their property privately, tips on selling, renovating or repairing properties and information on rent deposit guarantee schemes – again free of charge.

Councillor Saxton continued: “This trio of measures, matchmaking, loan and advice is targeted at getting people into homes in South Ayrshire and will be of direct benefit to all sellers, landlords, tenants and the homeless and will help ease the pressure on housing waiting lists.”

He concluded: “Nobody wants to live near or next door to an empty property that may be falling into disrepair, or attracting vandalism.

The measures we’ve put in place will have an impact on restoring these houses, with clear benefits for owners, neighbours and the local community and that’s good news for all concerned.”

Empty home owners may require a wide range of services including tradesperson, clearance companies, gardeners and property maintenance companies. If you are a local business that can offer services to empty home owners please contact the Council’s Empty Homes Officer to discuss how we could assist both your business and empty home owners alike.

For more information on how to register as a buyer or seller on the matchmaking scheme, or for details of eligibility criteria for the empty home loan scheme contact the Council’s Empty Homes Officer on 01292 612909, or email emptyhomes@south-ayrshire.gov.uk.