Edinburgh rental market post lockdown

How new rules on house moves and Covid19 have changed Scottish lettings

Scottish and Edinburgh letting agents were allowed to open for business on 29.06.2020, with these last 3 weeks marking the new normal. While there are less viewers in July 2020 then in July 2019, these 2020 applicants are more decisive and they know what they want. Most Scottish letting agents have reopened, with some staff still working from home. This is not a return to old times – new normal means no walk-ins. Pre-approved individual viewings now replace block slots – with sanitising hand gel, vinyl gloves and face masks now necessities for all Scottish property managers, letting agents and clients. So what has actually changed? 

More structure and rules in Edinburgh lettings

More structure and rules in Edinburgh lettings
In 2019 and earlier, nearly everybody could view any property they wanted, as most checks apart from declared income (credit check, employment and accommodation referencing) were done after viewing. Here at Edinburgh Letting Centre, Covid19 hastened the transformation towards online and remote lettings. We purchased 3D equipment long before the outbreak, but we did not fully utilise their capabilities. In June 2020, when the Scottish Government announced the relaxation of house moves, we changed the way we let our properties. The new stages of the tenant journey are:
  • Reading a property ad/viewing photographs on one of the major national portals. 
  • Viewing a virtual property tour on Edinburgh Letting Centre’s website.
  • Online application for the property. 
  • Income checks carried out. 
  • Face-to-face viewing for pre-approved applicants. 
  • Holding deposit payment. 
  • Referencing.
  • Signing the lease (electronically). 
  • Signing the inventory (electronically), payment of the deposit remainder and the first month’s rent.
  • Moving in.
Face-to-face viewings are no longer the starting point of a tenant journey. Rather, it confirms that they are rather certain they actually want the property. Traditionally, most viewers, if they are not really interested, would not fill in an application form in advance. Although quite user-friendly and straightforward, the perception exists that it is time-consuming and requires a lot of detail. So, when a prospective tenant now applies prior to viewing in-person, they are already quite certain the property suits their needs. The technology of 3D virtual tours is very realistic and a superb time-saving device. This new process means everything is streamlined and considerably more efficient: Potential tenants no longer waste valuable time viewing flats that they might feel photographs misrepresent (3D doesn’t lie). Applying between the virtual step and viewing in-person ensures the prospective tenants know what they want and can be more decisive, more quickly. It also means everyone knows ahead of time if tenants cannot document sufficient income to secure the flat. Letting agents now spend less time travelling between properties for appointments that might be unnecessary. And finally – with the application process already underway – letting agents can secure an appropriate tenant without delay for their landlords.
We have been receiving less phone calls and email enquiries than last year, but this year viewing requests are less random.  In general, Edinburgh Letting Centre feels that the lockdown and the current restrictions made us a more efficient letting agency. 

HMO in Edinburgh are popular – but only with proper communal space

Most HMOs were empty by the end of May. However, July has brought students back to the market and Edinburgh Letting Centre has been really busy letting HMOs. As of 15th July, we have let most available HMOs – with tenants often willing to move in in August or early September. In general, HMOs let without difficulties – as long as they are in good locations, have proper living rooms and communal spaces – and are not overpriced. So what kind of HMO properties linger on the market? 
  • Tired looking bedsits in shared HMO properties. The days of bedsits and living among strangers in private rental properties in Edinburgh seems to be gone. Today’s students prefer to live with friends – or in professionally managed student halls. Bedrooms of significantly above average standard in properties where the landlord provides regular cleaning of communal spaces are still popular. 
  • HMOs without proper communal space – meaning living rooms that have been transformed into a bedroom with the kitchen / diner being the only communal space available. Students don’t really want to live in flats without a living room or a space when they can all hang out together. These flats will always rent last and empty first. Our suggestion to HMO landlords is to consider the length of voids and do the sums before converting a living area to a bedroom. A desire for the perceived financial uplift of turning all rooms into bedrooms, does not always counter-balance the loss of several months rent; as such accommodation does not suit student priorities today.
  • HMO properties with very small bedrooms. 

n general, coronavirus exacerbated trends that have previously been prevalent – longer summer voids, high competition for attractive properties and low interest in HMOs that are somewhat lacking. The best advice for Edinburgh HMO landlords for 2020 we can give now is: make your property as presentable and as attractive as possible – or face longer voids.