Buying A Property – How Do Glasgow And Edinburgh Compare?
A tale of two cities
The old saying goes that in Scotland’s capital city the refrain is ‘you’ll have had your tea’ while 48 miles west in Glasgow you’ll be greeted with ‘would you like some tea?’ Light humour aside, I suspect residents of both cities will agree that there are some obvious and more nuanced differences to be noted when comparing the cities at either end of the M8 motorway.
I don’t propose here to stray too far into the cultural differences and similarities of Glasgow – Scotland’s largest city – with its east coast cousin that is the seat of the Scottish Parliament. However, I do believe that it’s relevant to reflect on some of the factors that may influence or shape buying behaviour when choosing between Glasgow and Edinburgh for a home.
Indeed, anecdotally at least, it’s often remarked that Edinburgh is a much more expensive city than Glasgow in which to buy a home. You may hear remarks like ‘you’ll get another room for your money in Glasgow compared to Edinburgh.’ Hopefully, this blog will cast further light on whether there really is a significant difference in property between the two cities.
Tourism, travel and culture
Aesthetically and culturally, unquestionably both have their enduring appeal with a rich seam of history and art that can be seen in the architecture of buildings. Glasgow has its grand Kelvingrove Art Gallery in the west end and People’s Palace on Glasgow Green while according to Statista, it’s Edinburgh Castle that continues to be Scotland’s most paid-for visitor attraction (1.3 million visitors). Ten minutes’ walk away, the National Museum of Scotland is also Scotland’s most popular free visitor attraction.
Edinburgh, a city of around 500,000 inhabitants, annually swells in population when it hosts the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe. That’s a point not lost on some who may seek a buy-to-let property in the capital. However, if you are eyeing properties with a view to capitalising on key periods in the tourism calendar, be mindful that City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) is introducing its controversial short-term let licensing scheme.
Glasgow too, once the world’s shipbuilding powerhouse and still the gateway to Scotland’s west highlands and islands, attracts its share of major global events. Recently this has included the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships and COP26 Climate Conference in 2021. Oh, and according to Time Out Index in 2022 Glasgow was named the friendliest city in the world!
Of course, it’s jobs that draw many of working age to the city. Edinburgh’s hosting of parliament may account for its many public sector and governmental agencies while both cities have a healthy share of professional services, tech and manufacturing businesses.
Edinburgh has its trams while Glasgow boasts Scotland’s only subway system. Both continue to invest in creating more sustainable travel systems that it’s hoped will attract more people to live, work and recreate in their city. Notably, it’s Glasgow that recently introduced Scotland’s first Low Emission Zones (LEZ) with financial penalties for cars and lorries that don’t conform to lower emission criteria. Controversial for some, the LEZ scheme is also likely to be introduced by City of Edinburgh Council in 2024.
As noted in my recent blogs, including about flats, it’s evident that City of Edinburgh continues to command strong prices from a seller’s perspective. For example, in terms of annual price change by local authority area, the UK House Price Index: June 2023 highlights that in June 2023, Edinburgh had an average property selling price of £332,000 (compared to £323,000 in June 2022). By comparison, Glasgow recorded £173,000 in June 2023, up 1.2% from the previous year.
I’m wary of placing too much emphasis on statistics but as a headline point, it’s clear that from a buyer’s perspective, you will often need deeper pockets to purchase a property in Scotland’s capital.
Certainly, in the Edinburgh neighbourhoods of Murrayfield, Ravelston and the Grange you could easily expect to pay an average price north of £600,000 for a property. Equally, a glance at recent sold house prices in the trendy inner-city areas around Stockbridge, will tell you that a 2-bedroom flat can easily sell for over £300,000. An imposing 3-or 4-bedroom property can sell for well north of that figure. And as I’ve previously noted, it can be a similar picture to the south of the city centre. In the popular areas of Bruntsfield, the average selling price is currently over £370,000 with many 2-bedroom flats easily commanding more than £330,000.
Look just slightly east and a well-appointed 2-bedroom garden flat in Marchmont recently sold for over £450,000 while in Morningside or the neighbourhood of Blackhall to the west of the city centre, a well-appointed, sizeable, detached property may sell for well more than £600,000.
The south-west commuter corridor of Edinburgh, including the villages of Colinton, Bonaly, Baberton, Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno are all highly popular destinations. This includes families who may seek greater space in a family detached or semi-detached home. Pockets of streets within the likes of Currie may have a 2-bedroom flat for in and around £200,000 (occasionally less) and a semi-detached property for over £310,000. However, you will generally be looking at £400,000+ for family homes in many of these areas and more than £550,000 for some of the more substantial properties.
And while Edinburgh is a far smaller city than Glasgow, the capital does have neighbourhoods where the buy-in price will be significantly lower than those noted above. For example, while there’s keen demand for one and two -bedroom flats in Edinburgh, for around £185,000+ you should find a property in Abbeyhill and Meadowbank. Moreover, you may pay less in areas like Pilrig and Easter Road.
However, for the purposes of this comparison with Edinburgh, take note that I’ll overlook property prices in the likes of the affluent outlying areas of Bearsden and Milngavie that are within East Dunbartonshire and Newton Mearns that lie seven miles to the south-west of Glasgow city centre in East Renfrewshire.
If you know the city, it may be no surprise that north of the River Clyde the affluent west end neighbourhoods of Jordanhill, Kelvinside and Dowanhill as among the most expensive to buy a property. You’ll find many different types of property in these parts. You could easily pay over £300,000 for a 3-bedroom dwelling on Jordanhill Drive or over £260,000 for a well-appointed 2-bedroom period flat in Hyndland. Of course, there are exceptions and some of the established detached period properties in the west end will market for considerably more than £500,000.
Jump across the Clyde and in and around the likes of Pollockshields it’s a similar mix of high- end detached properties, smart new builds and smaller one and two-bedroom flats. Again, prices can vary markedly depending on the property and precise location. However, not far away in Bellahouston you may find a sizeable 3-bedroom semi-detached property for under £300,000 while if you move closer to the Clyde, the likes of Govan should provide an option to find a flat and jump on the property ladder for under £150,000.
Back on the north-side of the Clyde and within the west end, depending on the property type (including new builds) you can still find 2-bedroom flats on the market for under £200,000, including in the Partick area. Close to the cosmopolitan thoroughfare of Byres Road and with a subway and mainline train station, Partick is very popular with students who seek both the west end life and a short commute to University of Glasgow.
Over the past 30 years, the Clyde waterfront has been radically transformed and today new-build developments and pockets of traditional Victorian era tenements attract different types of buyers, including for buy-to-let. Prices can vary greatly with sleek modern apartments at Glasgow Harbour for upwards of £230,000 though in the Whiteinch area I’ve noted some one-bedroom apartments marketed for under £150,000.
Of course, if city centre living is your preference, for around £200,000 (but in some instances more than £300,000), you will find flats and stylish apartments springing up in and around Merchant City and off the likes of Buchanan Street and Ingram Street. Move slightly eastwards to the likes of Dennistoun and there are also good options for spacious traditional tenement flats with differing price points depending on the specific property and location.
However, not everyone wishes to live in or close to the city centre and like Edinburgh, Glasgow is notable for its outlying commutable communities. In the north of the city this includes the huge area of Knightswood and still further out, Drumchapel. In the latter, you may find a 3-bedroom semi-detached property for around £140,000 or a small flat for under £100,000.
In my opinion – and arguably borne out by some of the analysis above and national statistics, you will currently pay more for a like-for-like property in Edinburgh compared to Glasgow. However, the size of Glasgow perhaps gives you greater choice within a particular budget and in both cities, there can be great variation from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. For example, Baberton to Wester Hailes (Edinburgh) or North Kelvinside to Maryhill (Glasgow) are communities very close to each other but in many cases with very different property values.
Keep in mind too that in both cities (e.g., Jordanhill in Glasgow) the school catchment area can greatly influence property prices.
Obviously, as a potential buyer there are many factors that will influence your preferred location including affordability, commuter time from work and school etc. Over the past decade, both cities have invested to try and encourage greater commuting by foot, bike and public transport (including by Edinburgh Tram). This can make ‘sustainable’ travel from some outlying districts in both cities more realistic.
Every property is different and if as a seller you are contemplating your next move, I’d be delighted to apply my 25+ years of experience as an independent and certified RICS chartered surveyor to assess and prepare your Home Report documentation.
Andrew MacKenzie is a qualified Chartered Surveyor with over 20 years’ experience within the Scottish Property market. He specialises in all types of residential valuations including Home Reports, Private Valuation reports and Development Appraisals.
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