About Marcus Downie

Marcus was born and raised in Glasgow but left the West of Scotland to study Law at the University of Dundee, graduating with honours in June 2015. He then returned West to study his Diploma in Legal Practice at Strathclyde University which he completed in May 2016. In the summer of 2013 Marcus began working at Mitchells Roberton, initially to assist with the administrative burden of the merger with Donaldson Alexander Russell and Haddow. Marcus was asked to return the following summers to assist with legal work in various different departments before commencing his traineeship in September 2016. Marcus took a particular interest in property and planning law in the course of his studies and is putting this to use working in the conveyancing department, both on residential and commercial transactions. Marcus is an avid sports fan and in his spare time enjoys playing football, squash and tennis. He is also a keen cyclist, having embarked on a number of long distance tours on the continent.

The First Digital Memorial Garden in Scotland

The first digital-led memorial garden is to open in Saline in Fife after Landsales Direct, a Scottish company won planning permission. The garden will feature small plots of ground in which purchasers can place mementoes of loved ones. However the plots will not be marked out with any visible signs and can only be located using digital technology on smart phones. John MacCallum of JM Planning Services, who is the planning agent representing Landsales Direct said “ The means of people locating the time capsule for their loved one will be through digital technology so they will be able to access it using a QR code.”

The idea of a historic cache of goods or information placed with the intention that they will be accessed at a future date by using a QR code seems somewhat at variance. It is widely debated when time capsules were first used but current evidence suggests they were used as early as 1876 but may be prior to that. In 2014 a Revolutionary-era time capsule was found at the Massachusetts State House dating back to 1795. And now in the digitally- led new memorial garden  items will be interred  along with a buried microchip and a “life story” website  about the deceased person can be triggered  on their phone using a QR code.

So what is a QR code? It is a Quick Response Code which is a type of two-dimensional barcode that can be read using smart phones and dedicated QR reading devices. Whilst a standard barcode stores up to 30 numbers a QR barcode can store up to a massive 7,089!

It is not clear how the memorial garden space will be allocated nor how the owners of the garden will package the various elements such as QR codes but what it does do is pose questions about ownership of digital assets after death. As most of us use some aspect of online shopping, banking or social media it can cause difficulties for executors to deal with your online assets after your death if you do not leave up- to – date information. This has to be balanced of course with the need to maintain security over passwords.

This first digital-led memorial garden I am sure will not be the last and there is little doubt that people should now be thinking about how their digital assets are dealt with when they are gone. If I can help in any way or you would wish to have more information please contact me Marcus Downie by email on marcus@mitchells-roberton.co.uk  or by phoning 0141 552 3422.

The Bank of Mum and Dad

The Bank of Mum and Dad apparently is now Britain’s ninth biggest “mortgage lender” putting it on a par with the Yorkshire Building Society. Parents are predicted to lend more than £6.5bn this year to help their children get on the property ladder.  This is a 30% increase on the £5bn loaned in 2016 according to recent research from Legal & General and economics consultancy Cebr.  This means that parents will be involved in more than 25% of UK property transactions as first time buyers continue to struggle to afford homes.

According to the report, the so called Bank of Mum and Dad will help fund property purchases worth about £75bn in 2017 including deposits for more than 298,000 mortgages. Parental assistance is expected to have risen from an average of £17,000 in 2016 to £21,600 this year. For those under the age of 35 the proportion seeking help from parents, friends and family for property purchases stands at 62%.

Nigel Wilson, the chief executive of L & G said “This is the second year of our bank of mum and dad research programme and the statistics show the problem is getting worse, not better.”

“The intergenerational inequality that creates the demand for (parental) funding continues to widen- younger children today don’t have the same opportunities that the baby boomers had, including affordable housing, defined benefit pensions and free university education.”

“Parents want to see their kids get on in life and the bank of mum and dad is a testament to their generosity, but it is also a symptom of our broken housing market.”

The surge in parental lending comes in spite of record low rates on mortgages, fuelled by intense competition between lenders for new business. But while mortgage repayments have never been more affordable, high prices in parts of the country mean first time buyers need large deposits to qualify for loans.

Government Urged to Act on Retirement Housing

Two separate organisations representing the interests of older people have called for a “revolution” in the provision of housing to better meet the needs of those in retirement.

Saga has called on the Chancellor to introduce a Stamp Duty (in Scotland Land Building Transaction Tax)  exemption for those downsizing in retirement. Their recent research has provided compelling evidence that a third of over 60s want to downsize but are deterred by the cost. Abolishing Stamp Duty or in Scotland LBTT ,on age related housing developments would encourage downsizing, add to the housing stock, and help free up housing for younger people aspiring   to own their own home.

Saga’s call for a greater focus on the housing needs of retirees has been echoed by the International Longevity Centre-UK. (ILC-UK) This think tank’s study has revealed that:

  • Nearly 9 in 10 of the 65-79 age group live in under- occupied housing- over 50% live in homes with two or more excess bedrooms
  • According to calculations, there could be a retirement housing gap of 160,000 by 2030 and if the current trend continues by 2050 the gap could grow to 376,000.
  • Retirement housing is much more likely to contain adaptations for elderly living than other forms of housing. Therefore as well as freeing up a range of properties throughout  the housing market downsizing in later life  into retirement housing could help to ensure more people can stay in their homes for longer ,reducing pressure on the residential care sector.
  • When it comes to reasons why older people are currently choosing not to downsize, the ILC-UK’s findings are similar to Saga’s with Stamp Duty or LBTT and other financial costs posing a significant barrier.
  • It also found that lack of suitable housing on the market was a major deterrent.

“The Housing Minister is right to recognise that meeting the needs of last-time buyers and encouraging downsizing is crucial to addressing the housing crisis” commented Baroness Sally Greengross ,Chief Executive ICL-UK. “Downsizing can also ensure that older people live in properties that allow them to stay in their own homes for longer and can release equity that can be used to fund social care in later life.”

“Government should also consider what changes can be made to Stamp Duty (or LBTT) to remove the perceived financial barrier of downsizing” she said.

If you intend to buy or sell property in Scotland, then please contact me Marcus Downie by email marcus@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by phoning 0141 552 3422 and I will be delighted to help.

We Need More Houses

A recently published White Paper on the housing market in England described it as “broken”. According to the White Paper the reason for this is simple- not enough houses are being built, now and in the past and supply significantly lags behind demand. It is estimated that 160,000 new homes have been built annually in England since the 1970s but the actual supply needed to keep up with an increase in population and a historic under-supply of housing is believed to be closer to 250,000.

And it is not the lack of land to build on which is the problem, with only 11% of English land currently built on. Instead the White Paper blames the chronic under-supply of housing on three main factors namely:

  • There are not enough local authorities planning for the homes they need
  • House building is too slow
  • The construction industry is too reliant on a small number of big players

The gap between demand and supply has of course an impact on house prices. Since 1998 the ratio of average house prices to average earnings has apparently more than doubled, making home ownership unaffordable for millions of people. The Coúncil of Mortgage Lenders predicts that by 2020 only a quarter of 30 year olds will own their own home.

Scotland faces similar problems. According to industry body Homes for Scotland the total number of new houses being built in Scotland each year is still down 40% on pre-recession levels, whilst the country’s population has grown to its highest ever level.

“As Sajid Javid said, the root cause of the housing shortage is the simple fact that not enough houses have been built, and that applies equally in Scotland”,commented Nicola Barclay, Chief Executive of Homes for Scotland.

“We need to move away from thinking of housing policy  in terms of election cycles and narrowly focusing on ‘affordable housing’  and instead look at the requirements for all tenures over the next 15-20 years” she added.

“We also need to be brave about the issues that are holding housing back, like the availability of land and the provision of infrastructure, or we will never have enough homes to meet the diverse needs and aspirations of those living in Scotland” she said.

If you intend to buy or sell property in Scotland, I can help. Please contact me Marcus Downie on 0141 552 3422 or by email on marcus@mitchells-roberton.co.uk