Flat hunting is undoubtedly a pain. You will have heard many rumours of rival gangs of flat mates sprinting, cycling and driving from flat viewings to the letting agents to be the first to sign the lease. Personally I have never seen this happen, but the urban legends live on. In reality, it is still quite tough to sort out a flat, especially if you are coming straight out of halls. Here are some tips that will hopefully make it easier.
Location, location, location! There are four main student areas in Edinburgh, with the most popular being Marchmont, Bruntsfield and Newington. Less popular, and decidedly more expensive is New Town. The more expensive of the top three is Marchmont, which lies directly south of the Meadows and combines the classic studenty stereotype with that of yummy mummies, which is not a bad thing, as there are plenty of great cafes as a result.
Cheaper than Marchmont is Bruntsfield; it is south-west of the Meadows, and is a far busier area, with tons of amazing cafes, restaurants and bakeries. It is also that little bit further from George Square, but holds host to quite large flats, so if you have a large group, Bruntsfield may be for you. Newington is cheapest of the three, and closest to the central campus, but could be considered a ‘rougher’ and less suburban choice than the previous options (there is a distinct lack of yummy mummies and a definite surge in emergency vehicle sirens) but it still maintains a diverse array of cafes, shops and amenities.
Second, work out a budget between yourself and your future flatmates. There can be awkward moments when flat-hunting, but do not let money be one of them – it could be disastrous. Before viewing any flats at all, agree on the maximum you would be willing to pay. Edinburgh can be an expensive city to rent in so be wary. The Marchmont average is between £380-£500 a month per person (but £500 is a lot, so do not go higher than £450.) The Bruntsfield average is around £350-£450, and Newington can be anywhere from £300 upwards (you would be extremely lucky to find a nice flat for £300.)
Third, do not go for the first flat you see. In first year, myself and my flatmates made this mistake and ended up paying way too much for a very average flat simply because of the fear of missing out. Letting agents let out flats in waves, so there will be more flats available every few weeks that were not there when you first looked. Once you have seen a flat you are all happy with, think about it still! Do not go rushing in to such a big decision; remember this is a legally binding contract, so do not take it lightly. You will find somewhere to live and it is important that the flat is right for everyone.
Letting agents can be sly so do not be a hundred per cent trusting of their smiling visages. I would recommend Complete Solutions – a agency based in Marchmont, but with properties all over Edinburgh. They are very professional and attentive, so no sly tricks here. Umega, also based in Marchmont are also quite reliable. I would avoid Southside Property Management if at all possible, as I have heard very poor reports for their care of their flats. Also be aware that the deposit for the flat should be held independently of the landlord via the SafeDeposits Scotland scheme, meaning that your deposit will be safe from landlords making up reasons why you cannot get it back. They have to submit evidence of breaches of the tenancy to the scheme if they want to charge you for anything.
Flat-hunting is complicated and can be a stressful time, but try and enjoy the experience if at all possible. You are searching for your home, which should be a place of sanctuary away from your frantic university lives. You will learn a lot about yourself and your soon-to-be-flatmates in the process, so try to have some fun and most importantly, use these tips to avoid getting mugged off!
[Image: Ellie Parker]