Accommodation in Edinburgh

Finding accommodation in Edinburgh is a top priority for most newly arrived expats. Those fresh from abroad need not lose too much sleep over the issue though, there's a wide range of property available with something to suit everyone. 

Types of property in Edinburgh

Foreigners will quickly find that Edinburgh itself is a fairly compact city, made up of various areas and suburbs, each with its own character: the Georgian New Town, eclectic Leith, quaint Dean Village, family-friendly Morningside, and many more. For expats wanting to live further out of the city, villages in Midlothian, East Lothian, West Lothian or even Fife may offer a less expensive, quieter life, though with the transaction cost of a longer, more expensive commute.

Edinburgh has a reliable and easy-to-use transportation system, thus proximity to work need not be a major concern when choosing where to live. However, an expat family with children that will be attending a state-sponsored school will want to research which areas are associated with the best educational institutions.

Expats should consider whether they would prefer to live in an old or modern flat (apartment), and whether they would prefer to be surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city centre or the more relaxed atmosphere of the surrounding suburbs.

Roughly 90 percent of the accommodation found in the city centre of Edinburgh is in traditional, old tenements that often lack the modern conveniences expats may have come to expect. While this doesn't mean that housing is below standard, it may mean that some unusual furnishing techniques are embraced – like carpeting in the bathroom. Furthermore, the older areas of the city tend to offer smaller apartments, as space was at a premium during construction.

Finding property in Edinburgh

If unable to visit Edinburgh prior to moving to set up accommodation, an expat can certainly settle the issue from abroad with the help of an estate agent (for purchasing) or letting agent (for renting).

However, most expats in search of accommodation prefer to view their prospective home prior to moving in, in which case, arranging a “holiday let” for the first week or two allows for a comfortable and more affordable place to stay while house-hunting. 

Holiday lets are available weekly and all year round; do note that these are more difficult to arrange in August due the large number of tourists in town for the festivals.

For first time Edinburgh renters, contacting a letting agency will likely be the best way to start; letting agents can advise regarding districts of town that would be most suitable, and can provide a more in depth look at the renting options in Edinburgh. Expats should keep in mind that letting agencies will only show properties they have listed in their portfolio, so be sure to visit several. Similarly, if looking to buy, begin the search by visiting an estate agent or a solicitor’s property department.

Alternatively, available properties can also be found by perusing the property section of the local paper or online property sites, whereupon the letting agency or private landlord should be contacted directly to view the apartment.

Renting property in Edinburgh 

Flats available for rent are let by agencies or directly by private landlords. While properties open up year round, the largest number can usually be found in September or January. Long-term lets are generally available for six months or one year.

Property is generally listed as it becomes available, with next day move in dates up to six weeks in advance. In Edinburgh, expats will be able to find furnished, unfurnished or partially furnished flats, depending on their needs. Do be aware, however, that “furnished” varies significantly, so be sure to confirm what exactly is included in the property (e.g. furniture, kitchen supplies, appliances). Rental rates vary according to the size of the property, the location and the level of furnishing. 

Properties do tend to go quickly, so it’s best to act fast upon finding something promising. Most letting agencies will require the completion of an application and payment of a non-refundable letting agency fee; these particulars vary by agency, so it’s best to ask about their procedures and policies before submitting an application.

For some expats, flat-sharing may be an attractive option as it is generally less expensive and provides a great opportunity to get connected with others. For individuals especially, this can be incredibly cost-effective, and is a fantastic means to making fast friends.