Moving to the #UK (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)? Specifically to Scotland? Chances are, you’re looking in the popular Glasgow area. I’m in the process of looking for flats right now and there’s quite a few good tips I’ve picked up for myself along the way so far! I’m sure I’ll pick up more soon and am open to any tips others may have. Hope this helps!
MOST HELPFUL SITES
- Flats = Apartments
- Letting = Renting
- Double Glazed = a good thing. It means your windows have an extra pane of glass with air in between. Makes your windows more energy efficient around here in the winter months.
- Council Tax = kind of like an HOA fee. You have to pay it every month – although I hear you pay it over a period of 10 months and then you get a 2 month break. Interesting.
- Professional Let = flats for professionals (i.e. no students)
A FEW GOOD TIPS…
Many places make you see the flat in person before you can reserve it with a deposit.
Some may let you have a coworker or friend view it for you, but I’ve found that most places make you see the place personally. Apparently this is because of two reasons I’ve heard: (1) you may get there and hate the place in person for whatever reason (pictures can be very deceiving, trust me) or (2) fraud. A bartender told me there was a lot of fraud involved with people reserving places from abroad. Shrugs. Whatever the reason, just know, you’re probably going to have to see the place in person first.
Have a car/taxi available to drive to the letting office. (Plus have your phone on the ready to call).
One important lesson I learned: some letting agencies show flats in groups. I mistakenly thought that the viewing I arranged was private and for me, only. It was more like an open-house appointment. When I arrived at my “dream flat” – the one I spent over two weeks gawking over, oohing and ahhing over, letting my friends and family see it, etc. – I sadly discovered that several other eager would-be residents were also there at the same time to view it. There was a young student-age couple there, an older grad student from Canada and some other people. Not only was everyone interested in it (despite it being a mess to look at since the current resident still lived there and apparently wasn’t very clean), but two of us were walking together towards the letting office to apply for it at the same time. The most heartbreaking part: when we got there, we learned the young student couple had already been there (they must’ve driven) and put a deposit on it. Sneaky blokes!! They said they were leaving to get coffee and talk it over. Shame on me. They got over on me that time! I’ll know better next time. Advice to myself (and others): have a car ready to drive you to the letting office immediately to put your deposit in and apply. Also, just to be safe, my game plan next time is also to have the letting office phone number ready so I can CALL them to tell them I’m on my way (and hopefully make sure they don’t let anyone else in the viewing party put a deposit down before I can). I don’t know if that will really work or not but I’m going to try it.
Have some backup flats ready to view.
Map out where the flats that you want to see are in the city. Have something to write with (or take notes with otherwise) while you’re walking – you’ll run into some properties you didn’t necessarily see posted online. Take pictures. Try to set up appointments ahead of time and map it out in a way that makes logistical sense (depending on whether you’re riding/driving or walking).
DO walk the area.
I’ve found it extremely invaluable to bring some walking shoes (and rain gear) and WALK the area. See what’s around. Does it feel safe to you? Does it seem clean? Does it have good access to public transportation (trains, buses, etc.)? Are there good restaurants around? Grocery/convenience stores? What’s the bar scene like?
Street signs are on buildings.
Another key difference from America – don’t look for street signs on street corners. Rather, look up on the corners of buildings. They’re often on a cornerstone type of grey sign built right into the building. So when you’re traipsing around the streets of the UK, that’s something good to know. Additionally, know that your wifi on your phone may not work too well. I had two phones when I was searching – a work phone which I used the hotspot for and my personal iPhone. The GPS didn’t work so well live on my phone while walking. Sometimes it did, but other times it was hard to catch up. I liked having an old school hardcopy of a map available as a backup – just so I would be sure I could find my way back to my hotel at the end of the day.
A few other American differences…
Unlike most American apartments, landlords here don’t necessarily do the things we’re accustomed to to prepare for your occupation of the property. For instance – it’s not customary to freshly paint the walls before you move in. Sometimes the carpet may be pretty nasty but it may not be the landlord’s priority to replace that part of the flat at this time. Caulking of bathtubs, water stains on the ceiling, fresh covers on couches, etc. All those things you may notice may not necessarily be done for you like you may think. So take a moment and ASK QUESTIONS. Notice everything. Before you sign, know what will and won’t be done to the flat and make sure you’re OK with that.
Preferences: know what you want and DON’T want.
I like the more historical buildings – sandstone exteriors with beautiful, intricate crown molding on the interior. I love lots of character! What I DON’T love? Black leather couches. Blue leather couches. Red leather couches. Red walls. Lime green walls. Black walls with white carpet and pink and green words on them (yes, I saw that in a flat). Blue tiled bathrooms. Black and white tiled kitchen floors. Shall I go on? I’m sorry to say, but there’s a lot of tackiness in the UK. Everything isn’t a pretty, neutral palette like we tend to prefer (or are accustomed to) in the US. A lot of places come with wallpaper and crazy accent walls. If you can deal – great! But I know I can’t. If you need the place furnished, be sure you’re searching for furnished places. Sometimes even though you search for furnished, a few unfurnished spots pop up, so just be sure to double-check before you call. Another thing to consider – as much as I love those high-character, historical flats, there’s a downside: they tend to be much less energy efficient. They tend to have higher ceilings so that can attribute to a higher gas bill during those chilly winter months. Just something else to think about.
My top 3 favorite areas of Glasgow to search
The three areas I like so far in Glasgow: the area around Kelvingrove Park, Hyndland and otherwise any area in the West End. All of those areas give you nice access to City Centre, shopping, parks, transportation, etc. Plus they feel a little safer than most areas directly in City Centre. They’re prettier, more “professional let” (see lingo above) and seem a little cleaner than what you find in City Centre. My co-workers agree, these are all nice areas to look in that they thought I would like very much. This video shows a quick snippet of the area right near Kelvingrove Park. Quite charming!