Update – rents in West Lothian have increased above the rate of inflation since 2010
Mon 23 Nov 2020
Despite the challenges posed by coronavirus, and the continuing tough restrictions in place across Scotland as part of the four-tier system north of the border, the latest official private rented sector statistics published by the Scottish Government paint a relatively promising picture across the country.
Scotland’s Chief Statistician recently released statistics on the annual average private sector rents to the end of September 2020.
It found that average rents for two-bedroom properties, the most common type of private rented home in Scotland, rose above Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation of 0.5% in 11 out of 18 areas.
While there were regional variations, the trends combine to show an estimated 1.1% annual increase in average two-bedroom monthly rents across Scotland.
On a similarly positive note, there were estimated increases in average rents across Scotland for one bedroom (1.8%), three bedroom (2.2%), four bedroom (2.0%) and one bedroom shared properties (2.5%), with the latter being where a room is rented in shared accommodation – popular among young professionals and students.
On a more long-term basis, the statistics found that average rents in Lothian and Greater Glasgow increased above the rate of inflation between 2010 and 2020 across all property sizes.
The annual figures included in this publication cover the period from October 1 2019 to September 30 2020, a big chunk of which has been under various Covid restrictions.
Scottish Government measures to control and reduce the spread of coronavirus were introduced in mid-March, with housing market-related restrictions eventually eased towards the end of June. The Government says that any Covid-related impacts on the figures presented may therefore be limited.
What else does the publication include?
The full statistical publication from the Scottish Government’s Chief Statistician includes the main findings on rent levels for one bedroom, two bedroom, three bedroom, four bedroom, and one bedroom shared properties.
It also highlights information on rent levels for these property sizes across each of the 18 broad rental market areas in Scotland, alongside containing information on average rents and rents at the higher and lower end of the market.
To put the findings together, the publication uses data from the Rent Service Scotland market evidence database, ‘which is collected for the purposes of determining annual Local Housing Allowance levels and Local Reference Rent’.
The rental information included in the market evidence database is largely based on advertised rents, though, so it’s important to remember that the statistics presented in this publication do not represent rent increases for existing tenants.
The Scotland-level average mean rent figures for the above publication have been calculated on a weighted average approach using separate Scottish Household Survey-based stock estimates. Additionally, this methodology has been applied to the 2010 to 2019 historic time series to ‘help improve the precision and robustness of the national level average rent figures series presented’.
What did we find out about West Lothian?
On page 44 of the 76-page PDF report, there is a broad rental market area profile of West Lothian – the Scottish council area we at Letting Solutions cover, which sits almost directly between Scotland’s two biggest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and plays host to the bustling town of Livingston.
The data found that average (mean) rents in West Lothian between 2019 and 2020 increased for one bedroom (1.8%), two bedroom (1.1%), four bedroom (4.7%) and one bedroom shared properties (1.0%), but decreased for three bedroom properties (-0.7%), which compares to CPI inflation of 0.5% across this time period.
Average rents increased for all property sizes between 2010 and 2020, ranging from 19.7% for one-bedroom properties up to 32.5% for four-bedroom properties, which compares to CPI inflation of 21.5% across this time period.
Meanwhile, for three and four-bedroom properties, increases at the top end of the market (upper quartile) between 2010 and 2020 have generally been higher than increases at the bottom end (lower quartile), increasing the gap in rents between the top and bottom of the market slightly.
Average two-bedroom rents have been lower than the Scotland average in each year since 2010, with the average rent in 2020 being £636 per month.
Given its strategic location between Scotland’s main cities, West Lothian is the perfect destination for renters who work or study in Edinburgh, Glasgow or nearby Falkirk.
On the other hand, thanks to the work from home boom triggered by the pandemic, which has changed many people’s working patterns for good, there might be less reason for tenants to commute – and, if they want less hustle and bustle and a move away from city centre living, Livingston, West Calder, Bathgate and the other towns and villages of West Lothian could be the perfect fit.
Rents are likely to be more affordable here than Glasgow or Edinburgh, but from a landlord’s perspective lower initial costs in buying a home means yields are higher, while capital appreciation should also be strong thanks to steadily rising house prices.
So, while challenges remain, the stats suggest now is very much still a good time to be a landlord in West Lothian.
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