Scotland’s Priciest Home Is Cheaper After Second Cut

Scotland’s Priciest Home for Sale
Yester House an 18th-century stately home near Edinburgh. Source: Knight Frank LLP via Bloomberg

Scotland’s most expensive house for sale, an 18th-century mansion with 85 rooms, had its price slashed for the second time this year as the global economic slump curbs the enthusiasm of millionaire buyers.

The owner of Yester House, 23 miles east of Edinburgh, cut the asking price to 8 million pounds ($12.7 million) after failing to attract offers at 12 million pounds. Italian-American opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti’s adopted son originally put it on the market for 15 million pounds in August 2008, the month before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy.

“A lot of people were interested before the world started to go to pot,” John Coleman, who heads the Edinburgh office of property broker Knight Frank LLP’s, which is marketing the house, said in an interview. “We were in negotiations on two occasions. It didn’t happen mainly due to world economics.”

Large Scottish country houses have fallen 16 percent in value over the past two years as the number of properties offered outstripped buyers, Knight Frank said. That contrasts with London’s luxury-home market, where a shortage of supply and an influx of foreign buyers allowed prices to recover to where they were in 2008, Knight Frank’s monthly index showed.

“We had a naive belief that the top end of the market in Scotland would be immune,” Jamie Macnab, head of sales at Savills Plc in Edinburgh, said in an interview. “There has been a much more realistic attitude among sellers over the last few weeks. People are accepting offers they would have rejected a couple of months ago.”

Americans, Russians

Savills recorded a drop of 6.7 percent for prime Scottish homes over the past two years, the company said.

Yester House, a Queen Anne-style Palladian structure that took almost 30 years to build, was shown to wealthy Americans, Germans, Dutch and Russians as well as potential buyers from the U.K. and Asia in the past two years, Coleman said.

A buyer at the lowered price would get less than what was originally offered. The current price doesn’t include the contents of the house and about 300 acres (121 hectares) of woodland that contain the ruins of a 13th century castle whose subterranean hall, Goblin Ha’, was written about by Walter Scott in his poem “Marmion.” Still, 185 acres of parkland and some woods are included in the asking price.

What’s more, any purchaser would have to spend as much as 500,000 pounds on restoration, and contents could add about 2 million pounds to the price tag, according to the selling agent. Still, they would also acquire

Seton Castle

Yester won’t be the first expensive property in the area to sell for far less than the initial asking price.

Seton Castle, four miles away, went on the market in 2005 for the equivalent of $27 million. The property, where Mary Queen of Scots played one of the first recorded rounds of golf, was sold by Savills for 5 million pounds in 2007.

Yester, designed by Scottish architects including William Adam and Robert Adam, was commissioned in 1697 by John Hay, the 2nd Marquess of Tweeddale, whose family occupied the house until 1967. His ancestor, also called John Hay, was made the first Lord Hay of Yester in 1488. The current Marquess is the 22nd Lord Hay of Yester, according to Cracroft’s Peerage.

Situated on the edge of the village of Gifford in the Lammermuir Hills, the house is completely secluded.

A visitor passes through an archway, consisting of two red sandstone pillars linked by decorative metalwork, and then along a driveway more than half a mile long and lined with oaks, beech trees and sequoias.

‘Trophy Property’

Yester last changed hands in 1972, when composer Menotti, writer of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” and founder of the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, was attracted by the acoustics in the main 30-foot by 45-foot reception room, Coleman said. Plans to build a small opera house on the site of the derelict stables never materialized.

Francis Menotti, Gian Carlo’s 72-year-old adopted son, is selling up because his two sons don’t want to take on the house, Coleman said. Francis Menotti was given Yester House by his father, the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, as a wedding present when he married in 1985.

“Yester is one of the great houses of Scotland,” Tony Perriam, a director of Edinburgh-based broker Rettie & Co., said in an interview. “It is a trophy property.”

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