A MAN who grew up in Fort William and now works in his home town has told about how he considered "commuting from Glasgow" as he struggled to find a home in the Highlands.

David Forbes (below) is a finance controller for fish farming firm Mowi and grew up in Fort William. Apart from four years in Glasgow for university, he has lived in his home town for his entire life.

Now 31 with two sons and having been with Mowi for almost a decade, David has been looking for a home to buy in Fort William but found big competition for any property he goes in for.

The National previously told about how difficult it is for people to find a home in the Highlands, especially in tourism hotspots like Fort William.

The National:

David highlighted that along with saving for a mortgage deposit, first-time buyers in the Highland town now have to save even more to ensure they can compete in a bidding war.

He said that a home priced at £170,000 will often go for as much as £190,000, meaning that the buyer will need to stump up at least an extra £20,000 along with a sizeable mortgage deposit.

"You're talking £40,000 of cash needed to buy a home," David said "which is very difficult if you've not got anyone bankrolling you. The view here is that the people getting these houses are more well-off and already have homes and more liquid to play with than first-time buyers.

"The figure that is bandied about locally is that you need at least £20,000 above the asking price to be in with a shout of getting that house. That amount is unachievable for most people.

"That's the biggest issue, as far as I see it, that you have to stump up over and above the odds."

READ MORE: Lesley Riddoch: Do communities know better than councils on housing needs?

David began searching for a home back in 2017 and, due to rents being inflated in the area because of pressure from short-term lets, he has been living with his parents in order to focus on saving.

He has just begun working back at the office after a significant period of working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, but before it hit, he considered looking far outside of Fort William for a home.

He added: "I was looking at houses in Glasgow and I was going to commute rather than staying in a house up here. I was specifically looking at the Helensburgh side of Glasgow because you're right on the A82 and on a good morning you're only looking at an hour and 45-minute drive up to Fort William and you're likely getting a better house than in Fort William and saving on the deposit.

"I felt that if I was going to live outside of Fort William I might as well get the perks of living in a city like Glasgow. The job in Mowi I’m now in is a very good one and it’s a rare thing to find in somewhere like Fort William so I was willing to make the commute every day."

David has since been able to buy a home in his home town. He was successful after two other bidders fell through, but he is still living with his parents due to the house needing renovation work – another added expense.

The National: Fort William is a beacon for tourists visiting the Highlands as it is a good place to access stunning Scottish landscapes and many outdoor pursuits very easilyFort William is a beacon for tourists visiting the Highlands as it is a good place to access stunning Scottish landscapes and many outdoor pursuits very easily (Image: Freelancer)

He added: “Occasionally local sellers will accept lower bids from ‘locals’ rather than selling to buy-to-let style purchasers, so people often have to rely on the kindness of strangers or local knowledge to get on the ladder.”

While David has the means and experience as a local to understand where to look for a home and what to pay, most people moving to the area who might be going to work on one of Mowi’s fish farms, do not have this privilege and it is affecting the ability of companies to attract new staff.

The chief executive of Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association told The National that they have found people on lower incomes in that highly popular area will usually live in caravans during busy summer months and rent somewhere over the winter when tourist pressures are not as high.

A Mowi spokesperson added: "Mowi and the supply chain associated with salmon aquaculture attracts a broad range of highly skilled individuals to, or to remain in, the Highlands and Islands where most Scottish salmon is raised and processed. It is absolutely vital to the success of our business, and to the wellbeing of our employees, that they and their families are able to secure affordable homes quickly.”

The Highland Council’s Strategic Housing Plan is looking to build up to 500 affordable homes every year for the next five years. Of these new homes, 70% will be for affordable rent and 30% for intermediate affordable housing meaning low-cost home ownership or mid-market rent.

In what was described as the “largest housing programme in the area since the mid-1970s” at the start of 2021, Lochaber was promised up to 350 new affordable homes from the Highland Council and its partners. Many of the bigger projects will be completed next year.

READ MORE: Fears of looming crisis as social housing fails to meet energy efficiency goals

Chair of the Highland Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee, councillor Trish Robertson said: “Housing is and will remain a priority for the Council. The Strategic Plan lays out our go-getting goal and I am confident that we will reach the target thanks to the effective and productive partnership approach we have developed with the Scottish Government, Housing Associations and the private sector.”

She added: “In our wider enabling role, we will continue to work to bringing forward sites we own for re-development and work with the private sector to unlock the constraints for other strategic sites throughout the Highlands, using our own Landbank Fund, the Scottish Government Infrastructure Loan Fund and any other funding opportunities that become available.”