Finding a flat in Edinburgh is just as I remember it from my student years. At the time, I was starting my Masters at the University of Edinburgh in George Square. I don’t recall flat hunting as a pleasant experience. Why? I didn’t know the city, didn’t have an income, didn’t have a UK guarantor.
In addition, studio or one bedroom flats were way out of my budget. That’s not all. The few rooms I viewed and liked were gone before I could do anything about it. When I finally found a flat in Edinburgh, or rather a room in a shared house, I had to put down 6 months of rent upfront. Plus the deposit and other agency fees. That was back in 2015 and I didn’t have a UK-based guarantor.
This time round, things are different. First, I rented in Edinburgh before. And so did my husband. Second, we are two and know the city. We also have UK-based guarantors and an income which helped the process dramatically. Now that we secured the perfect flat in Edinburgh, let me help you do the same.
The Edinburgh rental market
Of all the cities I lived in, Edinburgh is one of my favorite. Forget about the gloomy weather and the grey sky. The Athens of the North is so much more than that! The city has a lot to offer: rich history, great entertainment, fantastic food scene, beautiful architecture and more. And that’s why the city is very popular.
Edinburgh is also homes of top universities and great industries. All those things make it a city that is in very high demand and quite sought after. As a result, the housing market is tough. The apartment supply often does not match the demand, and therefore finding a flat in Edinburgh may appear tricky.
Let’s look at the some data. The average time a property is listed on the market is 14 days currently. In addition, the Edinburgh average rental values are up close to 24%. Rent increased a lot in the past years, although the Scottish government has system in place to keep that under control. In any case, the competition for properties under £1,500/month is tough. However, how bleak this may look, you can still find a really nice flat in Edinburgh – furnished or not. You’ll need to be reactive, prepared and agile.
Documents you’ll need
To piggy back of the previous section: the Edinburgh housing market is tough. Landlords have plenty of applicants to choose from. Properties come and go fast. To increase your chances, you need to make sure you gave all necessary documentation sorted out and ready before even beginning to search for a flat. Typically, you will need:
- Scan of your ID (i.e., passport, national ID card, etc);
- Proof of current address (i.e., utility bill, phone bill, last 3 months of bank statements, etc);
- List of references (i.e., contact details of past agencies/landlords you rented from);
- Proof of employment and/or income (i.e., employer’s contact details, work contract, last 3 months of pay slips, etc);
- A guarantor who makes at least 36 times your monthly rent and who has been in the UK for 3 to 5 years. The guarantor may need to be a homeowner themselves.
Every prospective tenant applying together for a property must supply the above. Note that you will need a guarantor if you:
- Are starting a new job soon, or;
- Have been in a new job for less than 2 months, or;
- Have been in the UK for less than 6 months, or;
- Don’t have income (i.e., students, etc.);
- Have an annual income that is less than 30 times your monthly rent.
All the above are not mutually exclusive. You may fall in multiple categories at once. If you need a guarantor, consider the combined household income of your guarantor(s). The average annual income in the UK is about £35,000. Someone of their own may not be able to become a guarantor. However, the combined income of a couple living together for example should add up to 36 times your monthly rent.
If you are an international student or resident, and don’t know anyone who could be a guarantor, worry not. There are a few websites that can help:
Some useful websites for your search
There are two places I recommend you look at for a flat in Edinburgh: letting agency websites and property listing aggregators. Typically, letting agencies will publish properties on their website first and then onto aggregators a day or two later. Not all properties will be advertised at the same time.
Some well-known Edinburgh letting agencies include:
- D.J. Alexander;
- Southside Management;
- Home Lettings Edinburgh;
- Dove Davis;
- Umega Lettings;
- White Lettings;
- Little Johns;
- Clan Gordon;
- Zone Edinburgh.
I have in the past rented through Little Johns, and my husband from both Rettie and D.J. Alexander. Our new flat in Edinburgh is through Rettie. Please, note that each agency will have a different viewing request and application process.
Looking at property listing aggregators, you will have amongst others:
Agencies will publish on many of those websites at once to maximize visibility. Thus, some of those aggregators may feel a bit repetitive. Yet, they are always good to look at. I don’t recommend using Gumtree and similar sites.
Once you have found a few properties that you like and are within your budget, it is time book viewings. Before you do so, create a flat hunt tracker on a spreadsheet. That is what I did while searching for a flat in Edinburgh and it helped massively. You can look at the template I created if it helps. Don’t forget to make a copy for yourself in your Google Drive.
Once that is done, add the link to all the properties you want to see to the tracker. Make sure you also have the following information: agency name, availability, monthly rent, property type (unfurnished, furnished), council band tax, address.
Now there are two ways to book a viewing:
- Fill out a viewing request form on the agency website;
- Call the agency directly.
About half the time, the viewing request form will suggest time slots. Select one that works for you and that’s it, you’re all set up. Some other times, there is no time slot available. This may be because all the time slots are filled, that the property is currently under offer or that the agency has not have the time to arrange time slots. In addition, you will need to fill out the form for every single property you are interested in.
This is why I recommend that you call the agency directly. Give them a list of the properties they managed that you want to book a viewing for. Trust me, this will go much faster as you will have an answer straight away. We secure our flat in Edinburgh because I called right the moment the listing was live as the request form did not have time slots available. We were the first people to view the flat and send in an application.
After you have secured viewings, update the tracker with date and time. You can also add each viewing to your Google Calendar or iPhone Calendar.
Questions for the letting agent
If you’re not stranger to flat hunting, you’ll know the drill. Don’t let yourself be fooled by beautiful images on a property listing. Remember: Instagram vs reality. The photos are here for advertising purposes only. Therefore, it’s up to you to mitigate expectations and ask the right questions. Most of the time, listings are quite comprehensive but it is always good to confirm:
- Council tax band: Based on your apartment location, Council Tax can be very high. Bands go from A to E, cheaper to the pricier. Find the monthly cost, add that to your monthly rent, fit that into your budget. Sometimes, a cheaper property with a higher tax band costs more than a pricier property with a lower tax band.
- Energy performance (EPC): Energy consumption is a big thing and can be money hungry. Grading goes from A to G, A being the most efficient and G the least. The lower the grade, the more your energy consumption will be impacted and the higher your utility bills will be.
- Single or double glazing windows: Pigging back off the above, window glazing impacts energy performance. Double glazing means good insulation and energy savings. Single glazing may let cold air in and warm air out, thus increasing your energy needs and cost.
- General insulation: Same as above. The better the insulation, the lower the cost.
- Central heating: For convenience, efficiency and cost saving, central heating is better than space heaters. Plus, it heats all rooms equally.
- Average monthly utility bills: The letting agent may not always have that information, but it is always good to know.
- Bike storage options: If you have a bike or want to get a bike, you need a place to store it. Not all buildings will allow you to leave your bike in the hallway. Some may do and even have a dedicated storage option.
- Parking space: Some buildings will have dedicated street parking spaces or an underground parking. That’s the ideal situation. If not, then you may either need a permit to park your car or pay for street parking.
Before you send in an application
There is more to finding your dream flat in Edinburgh that its look and layout. Take the time to walk around the neighborhood and check out amenities. Even a quick look on Google Map may do the trick. We viewed an incredible apartment with the most beautiful kitchen in Trinity but it was so far from everything. No supermarket or restaurants around, only houses. If that’s what you’re looking for, then great. If not, then take the time to check what’s around.
I personally really liked it when there are a few cafés and restaurants around. Even a bakery to get some bread in the morning. Being within walking distance of a good-sized supermarket makes thing very convenient too. About 10 to 15 minutes walking time top. If you’re a student, you either want to be within walking, cycling or busing distance of your school. If you like running, is there a park not to far, or a gym maybe? All things to take into consideration.
If you need to travel, check if there is a bus stop close by. Or a tram stop. A commute time can become much longer when we look at door-to-door and connections. And this can significantly impact your personal life and the downtime time you have available. In most cases, being able to walk to work is a huge privilege. Especially in a big city, or if you work in the city center. Therefore, most of us are a bit farther out. Fortunately, the monthly bus pass in Edinburgh is not too pricey (£66 for 4 weeks). There are scheme that make it free for anyone under 22 or over 60.
Sending in your application
And here we are, finally. You viewed a flat in Edinburgh, you loved it, you’re ready to submit an application. First of all, lets stop right there. One application won’t cut it. As we know, competition is tough and there will be many other prospective tenants interested in the same property. What you need to do, is apply for multiple properties at once.
At this stage, you’re basically sending an expression of your interest. You’ll supply information relevant to your current situation, job, income, address, location, references and guarantor. Once all that is sent, the agency forwards it to the landlord for consideration. When they make a decision and if your application is successful, you supply all the documents listed earlier in this blog post.
If you have sent multiple applications and they are all successful, pick your favorite one of course. Note that a flat in Edinburgh is only taken off the market once the deposit is paid. If you’re an international resident with a non-UK bank account, the transfer may take longer to clear. In that case, send a screenshot of the wire transfer confirmation.
The agency will check your references (as well as any other join tenant’s), the references of your guarantors (if applicable). This may take up to a week. When all that is done, they will send across the tenancy agreement. Like every other contract, it may seem repetitive and tedious, but do read it thoroughly. Scotland has a very strong tenant protection. This is a good thing. But you still want to be thorough. After all parties to the agreement have signed, i.e., you, your partner, your guarantors, it is time to pick up the keys and move into your new home!
I hope this guide helped you in finding your dream flat in Edinburgh. If there is anything you feel is missing, any tip, feel free to make a suggestion in the comment. If you’re looking for an apartment in Edinburgh, remember to download my flat hunt tracker!
Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope you liked this post.
See you soon,