Monday, 9 December 2013


Don't get your hopes up, this isn't an incisive commentary on the state of housing in Scotland as part of the iniquitous union. its just me giving you a guided tour of the letting market as it exists - not in our reality but in its own - where adjectives & descriptive prose are thrashed and misused with gleeful abandon.

Keeping a roof over your head is the single biggest outlay many of us have, whether its a mortgage or a private rent. You have to be incredibly lucky/spawny/marginalised in order to qualify for social housing which is the cheapest option these days.

It used to be that renting was much cheaper than buying, you would rent until you had saved enough for a deposit on something a bit more permanent - even I can remember when rentals were reasonable - it wasn't that long ago. Now though, with the advent of buy-to-let mortgages and the increase in demand for rental properties (largely down to the increase in house prices generally and an influx of competition from central and Eastern Europe) housing is one of the biggest challenges facing society today.

We now seem to be in the daft situation where renting is more expensive than funding a mortgage and the costs permeate into every other facet of life. Using Edinburgh as an example, rental prices are so high now, for the single man about town sharing is really the only option. There is a gulf of difference in terms of quality of abode if you're prepared to share; on your own, you might manage a bedsit or one bed flat with the added tang of potentially being stabbed by one of your neighbours - or - you could opt to enter into a sharing arrangement, with the added tang of being stabbed of an evening by the person you're sharing with, but in a much nicer flat.

Shallow Grave: not that far fetched.

Equally, you could adopt a more optimistic approach, you could meet new and interesting people. The company - someone to chat to in the evening after a hard day at the office and whose food you can pinch if you're a bit short of cash.

The truth is, if you share with a friend - at best you will develop a bit of a dislike for them, at worse - you will end up despising them enthusiastically and truth be told; they you. If you share with a stranger, the feelings just develop a bit more quickly -it really is only a matter of time.

Here are some examples. Firstly, we're all brought up differently so have differing expectations - oddities come to light like one flatmate never having grown up having a plastic basin for their kitchen sink but also not having that wee sink to one side to pour away dregs, his family put the plug in and washed their dishes 'raw'. My question was, how did they get rid of the dregs, did they just drink them or did they walk to an open window and shout Gardyloo? 

Or how about the flatmate who thought it was acceptable to leave shit smeared up the inside of the toilet bowl so that when I visited - I in turn gagged then wondered how the fuck he a) managed to get it that high up the side and b) how he managed not to notice before leaving the smallest room - did he want me to score it out of ten, the filthy bastard?

And finally (because that last example was a bit of a nadir in terms of house sharing) how about the flatmate who instead of washing dishes, would just go on to use other kitchenware. I came home one night to find him eating his dinner out of the kitchen sink. I'm joking, it was a large plastic mixing bowl.

I should say, I probably had bad habits too, although I'm positive they were restricted to being a bit obsessive/compulsive so quite fussy about things like - let me think - finding someone else's shit smeared up the inside of a toilet I'm supposed to be able to use or discovering another flatmate using the bath tub as a nosebag.

Onto the letting market. Popular websites for letting include or These are portal websites into which all the main estate agents feed adverts. My favourite though is Gumtree, only on Gumtree do you get the truly fanciful language, here's a quick guide to what their words actually mean, they can be found in most ad's describing property for rent, usually prefixed with the sentence:

[insert estate agents name here] are proud to bring to the rental market...


Ugly, quite ugly.


Fucking tiny.

A bit damp.

It won't be, it'll be fantastically average.

Has taps.

New build with hollow walls.

Something will either be there that you don't expect or not there that you would, like windows or a front door.

See 'Compact'.

Low door lintels, you'll bump your head if you forget.

Uniquely shit (otherwise see 'quirky'.)

Well presented:
... in the advert but not in reality.

You can prefix any of those with words like 'extremely' or 'very' but these additions are entirely superfluous, I've never come across a fantastic flat anywhere. Fantastic to me means there's a magic garden in the basement where the Chinese Men's Olympic 10m high dive team dive off miniature trees made of hula hoops in to pools filled with red cola - that is fantastic.

Recently, I found an advert that trumps all of the above:

I'm not sure you'll be able to read it all, occasionally you do get private landlords getting carried away but this comes from an agency called Home Lettings. They've managed to deploy the word 'exhilarating' in the description, its a flat, not a fucking roller coaster - punters are looking for somewhere to live, not a line of coke to snort.

Truly unique it says. No it isn't, its a fucking flat in Prestonpans, it would only be truly unique if it was on the moon - not some joy-free heartless Barrett Homes development in Prestonpans.

Estate agents are also starting to use the Ryanair paradigm. This is where they say they're flying to Madrid (say) but the plane actually lands in Alicante. So it is with estate agents, a flat might be advertised as being in Duddingston, (quite a nice area of Edinburgh) but is actually situated in Niddrie (which isn't very nice at all, no offence.) Equally, Corstorphine (very difficult to pronounce if you're not a local) is nice enough, but often mistaken for Broomhouse which is a total fucking dump - even people who live there would agree.

And we haven't even started on the prices, if it wasn't such a basic human need, it would be hilarious. With each ever more silly advert I see, I want to email the vendor and ask them if they're joking. I earn just above what is considered to be the average wage yet, I cannot afford to live in most one bed flats available to rent in Edinburgh today. It doesn't become affordable - which is to say justifiable - unless you move 40 or 50 miles out. In order to make meaningful savings; if you work in Edinburgh, you need to go north of Dunfermline or south of Galashiels and it goes without saying - anything you save on housing gets spent on additional fuel costs.

Currently I'm unfortunate enough to be able to sponge off parents, I fill their cupboards with food and change the odd light bulb, get embroiled in bizarre activities (my Dad asked me to eject a 'DVD' from his TV recently - guess what type of 'DVD' it was...) I say 'unfortunate enough' because if I wasn't able to, I'd probably just bite the bullet and find some poor soul to share with, I wouldn't get nagged or asked to rub Deep Heat anywhere about my Father's person.

I think I might put an advert on Gumtree... I really do feel I'd be a 'fantastic' flat mate. I'd be terribly 'proud to present myself to the rental market' being as I am an 'attractive' chap with a 'unique' sense of humour. My many charming - some might say 'quirky' - habits are sure to woo the kind of flinty-eyed right wing, Christian homophobic, pet-hating militant vegetarians who usually advertise on Gumtree for flat shares...

I feel certain I'd hit it off with some one...

The beginnings of a new Silent Witness plot mair like, I can see it now, it'll be like The Killing but in Gorgie.


  1. My brother lives in Edinburgh and recently moved in with his girlfriend. They had to move to nearly Peebles to get somewhere suitable that they could afford. And they are reasonably well off. It's a LONG drive into Edinburgh from there.

    What on earth do you do in Edinburgh if you are on minimum wage?

  2. I have no idea, you'd have to share, even if you got a flat in a bad area - which there are in Edinburgh.

    I don't think people leave home any more, they just can't. I listen to young folk blethering about where they're going to live, I can't bring myself to tell them how it actually is.

    Even if you do go for a mortgage, save your money for the deposit etc - all you're going to get is a shoe box in a tenement down some dingy street. This mad rush to buy property has began to eat itself, house prices going up is a bad thing as far as I'm concerned, ever since Thatcher they've been turning housing in to a commodity - its not good at all.

  3. Pa

    Social Housing is not that much cheaper. I live in a Home In Scotland House, they are crap but thats another story, anyway as someone who works for the council and therefor just misses out on benefits I can tell you that my rent is not cheap. In fact it has went up 5%, 6%, 7%, in each of the last 3 years while my wages went up 0%, 0%, 1% during the same period. Social Housing Landlords make the assumption that all their tenants are on benefit so therefor they can milk the system as badly as those in the private sector can. There are many people who don't qualify for help being milked. I write a long letter every year pointing this out when they do their so called rent increase consultation and you know what I have never even had a response. There needs to be major change in the housing market across the board. Social housing should be a hand up and like Tris says you access it until you can go for the mortage if that is your desire. Personally I will never buy a house on the principle that I believe in social housing.


  4. Hi Bruce.

    Its been so long since I've even tried social housing, prices have obviously gone up as you say.

    And that was the serious point I was trying to make: something as intrinsic as shelter shouldn't be so difficult to access.

    Funnily enough, I rented a flat in Leith (bit of a shit hole but cheap.) It was £425 for the first couple of years then went up to £450 - that was the only increase in three years - and I think it took place because they had to replace a duff storage heater.

    Housing just shouldn't be like this.


Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?