THIS week marks the launch of The Herald Property Awards for Scotland 2015 and once more the search is on to find the best examples of recently constructed homes anywhere in the country. In the nine years since the awards were launched they have set an exacting standard for developers and have come to be recognised by the house-buying public as a mark of excellence.

This year, as the housing market accelerates, the number of properties that will be pitched against each other as part of the rigorous judging process is expected to be higher than ever and even before this week’s launch developers were confirming that they would be participating.

This willingness to see their products compared with their competitors’ and scrutinised by a panel of influential figures from the Scottish housing industry can be seen as a positive sign for anyone who is looking for a new home. Once more developments are proliferating and developers clearly have confidence in what they are offering.

Andrew McFarlane, consultant with DM Hall Chartered Surveyors, who returns as chairman of the judging panel, has witnessed a rapid growth in activity in the last 12 months. “Sites that were mothballed during the downturn are now being developed and in those areas where both the product and the price are right there has been a return to selling off-plan.”

Even the prospect of the election, which in the past was guaranteed to slow house sales, has had no discernible effect on business. “There was a slight slowdown in the run-up to the Referendum, but so far there has been no signs that May’s election is having any sort of impact.

That’s probably because there is little in any of the parties’ manifestos that will directly affect house sales. The effect of a Mansion Tax in Scotland would be negligible says Andrew so it is not seen as a threat and he is even dubious that recent changes to Stamp Duty, which have lightened the burden of property tax for some buyers, has had much of an impact in the positive sense.

The real reason behind increasing sales, he believes, is pent-up demand and confidence that the financial landscape is not going to alter greatly in the foreseeable future.

“The fact is that interest rates have been so low for so long that buyers feel that it is unlikely that they will return to the heights of 8 per cent or 10 per cent that they have reached in the past and that any small increases will be slow and manageable.”

There are 15 categories in this year’s awards, including ‘Best Apartment’. Other categories will reward excellence in family homes, renovation projects, full-scale developments and luxury homes. However it is not just bricks and mortar that can garner the plaudits. There are a number of categories that will recognise outstanding efforts by property professionals across all sectors, from construction to marketing and sales.

Once again the Best Show Home category is sponsored by Daw Signs and managing director, Gary Daw says: “We have worked closely with many of the entrants over the last 25 years and know the dedication required to provide a quality product and first class service, we are therefore delighted to be involved once again in an event where hard work and effort are recognised and we look forward to another enjoyable evening.”

Wheatley Group also has a long history with the Awards and Alex McGuire, Wheatley group director of property, says “The Herald Property Awards celebrate the best in both the private sector and the affordable rental sector and we are proud, once again, to be involved. “Wheatley Group is working to increase the supply of affordable housing in the communities we serve.

We are committed to driving up the quality and range of the homes we deliver, from social housing to mid-market and fullmarket rent, meeting needs and expectations of our customers and achieving value for money. We are delighted to support these awards which showcase achievement and innovation in home building and regeneration in Scotland.”

Brian Fulton, director of Ross and Liddell and a judge of The Herald Property Awards, says: “As a leading Scottish property specialist, Ross and Liddell is delighted to continue its support of the Herald Property Awards 2015 for the seventh year in a row.

“The Herald Property Awards for Scotland are recognised by the property industry as a premier event and they are a badge of honour for the winners or those who receive a commendation.

We have high expectations that this year’s entries will reflect the quality of design and construction that we see in our day-to-day duties as property specialists. “We very much look forward to attending the awards ceremony which will also allow us to maintain and strengthen our links across the Scottish residential property industry.”

Space & Time Media are also returning as sponsors and client partner, Keith Benzie, says: ‘Space & Time Media are proud to sponsor the ‘Property Team of the Year’ award at The Herald Property Awards 2015. This award seeks to highlight the hard work of the teams who are driving success within the new homes sector in Scotland – week in, week out.’

New sponsors include Morale Home Furnishings and SafeDeposits Scotland. Jen Paice, chief executive of SafeDeposits Scotland, says: “The Herald and heraldscotland. com plays a very important role in the Scottish property scene through the platform it provides for both the companies in the sector and the issues that affect it.

We are delighted to lend our support to these awards and congratulate all the finalists involved.”