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Edinburgh’s housing crisis drives up expat rental cost to record high

  • Edinburgh has jumped eight places in the accommodation cost global rankings, and has reached its highest position in Europe in four years (43rd)
  • Monthly rental cost for expats in the Scottish capital has shot up by £568 over the last five years
  • Aberdeen has dropped 23 places in the global ranking and is £528 per month less than it was at its peak in 2017
  • London retains the top spot for most expensive city in Europe for rental accommodation, costing on average £3,673 per month more than Edinburgh

Edinburgh has risen eight places in the global rankings for expatriate rental accommodation, as the average cost of a three-bedroom, mid-range home in the Scottish capital has increased by £106 per month, up to £1,635 (USD 2,144), the highest in over five years, according to the latest Accommodation Ranking report published by global mobility expert, ECA International (ECA).

“In addition to a growing population due to the high standard of liveability attracting expats, the prevalent Airbnb market has also impacted the cost of rental accommodation in Edinburgh as availability of longer-term rental accommodation fails to meet current demand,” said Alec Smith, Accommodation Services Manager at ECA International.

Globally, Edinburgh ranks 156th most expensive location for expat rental accommodation in the world and the 43rd in Europe, with Sweden’s Gothenburg (42) and Switzerland’s Bern (44) either side of the Scottish capital.
Meanwhile, the slowing oil and gas industry sees rental costs dip further in Aberdeen, resulting in the Scottish city’s lowest ranking since 2012. The average cost of the same type of property in Aberdeen now costs £1,160 (USD 1,521), £475 cheaper per month than in Edinburgh, and down from £1,235 in 2019. It is now £528 per month less than it was at its peak in 2017 (£1,688).

London remains the most expensive rental city in Europe 

London continues to hold the top spot for the most expensive rental accommodation in Europe for expatriates, with an increase of £121 per month. The average cost of a three-bedroom, mid-range home for expatriates is now £5,308 per month (USD 6,959).

“London remains attractive to workers in the UK and from abroad, despite anticipated economic disruption from Brexit. In addition to this, the phasing out of tax relief on mortgage interest payments for buy to let landlords has acted as a brake on supply. Removing this tax relief has had the intended effect, a reduction in the number of new buy-to-let landlords, but a knock on effect has been a reduction in the availability of rented accommodation” said Smith.

Manchester and Birmingham have seen a small increment of £30 and £25 per month respectively, which will be welcome news for renters in Birmingham after a staggering £110 per month increase last year.
The average cost of a three-bedroom home in Manchester, which ranks 29th in Europe, is £1,874 (USD 2,457) and in Birmingham, ranked 32nd, is £1,831 (USD 2,401). 

Rental highs across Europe

Dublin remains in the top five most expensive locations in Europe for rental accommodation, with the average rent now €3,613 per month (USD 4,086), making it costlier than other European capital cities such as Paris at €3,461 (USD 3,914), Berlin at €2,354 (USD 2,662) and Madrid at €2,393 (USD 2,706). 

Meanwhile Cyprus saw the biggest rise in expatriate rental costs in Europe, with Limassol’s rent up USD 53 or €128 per month (USD 1,197 / €1,058) and Nicosia up USD 40 or €120 a month (USD 1,220 / €1,079).

Smith said “Growing interest in the schools sector is a big factor in the spike in Cypriot rental prices; the number of international students has almost tripled in the last five years and the number of higher education providers have more than doubled, this has led to an increase in demand and a housing shortage.”

“The Airbnb market also had an impact in reducing supply by converting long-term rentals into short-term, and the rejuvenation of the construction industry following the Cypriot financial crisis has also brought more expat workers to the area” added Smith.

Many German cities also saw big jumps in the average rent, with Munich, Berlin and Stuttgart all seeing increases of over 6% from last year.

“There has been a property boom for the last 10 years in Germany, as its high quality of life, policy benefits for expats, and sustained growth in employment rates and GDP makes it an attractive area to live and set up business. Home ownership is also very low, with the percentage of renters in Berlin being as high as 85%; construction capacity has been lagging behind this high demand and there is a critical housing shortage. The German government are putting in rent controls to try and limit landlords taking advantage of this situation, such as rent freezes and limits on rental increases after modernisation, but in general these have not yet come into effect,” said Smith.

Kiev saw big rises in rent and jumped 16 places back into the global top 50. “The rise of Kiev in the rankings is largely due to a return in confidence from many MNCs, with businesses and expats returning to the city after years of turmoil,” noted Smith. 

Rent hike in the US

The US has become considerably more expensive for expats with nearly all US cities in the rankings having risen, some considerably. The US now has three cities in the global top ten, these being New York, San Francisco and Miami, as the strength of the US economy endures, with the dollar gaining against most major world currencies.

The average expatriate rental cost of a three-bedroom home in San Francisco is USD($) 6,590 per month, up by USD 218, while the same type of property in Miami now costs USD 5,254 per month, up by USD 136.

Smith said “Generally speaking, the US cities in our rankings have risen due to the strong performance of the dollar, but there are also local reasons for the rises to expatriate rental costs too. For example, in Boston, biotech and pharmaceutical industry sectors have drawn expatriates to the city in large numbers, bolstering demand for properties in prime neighbourhoods, whereas New York saw lower than expected rental increases after Amazon withdrew their plans to establish a second headquarters in Queens.”

Hong Kong remains the most expensive location in the world for expat rent

Hong Kong has been named the most expensive location in the world for expat accommodation, for the third year in a row, with the average monthly rent standing at a whopping USD 11,318, an increase of over 3%. 

Smith said “Despite another increase in rental costs for expatriates living in Hong Kong, the rise was lower than the 4.9% rise seen the year before. Hong Kong has the most expensive rents due to a number of factors, such as the high population density of the territory and limited opportunities to build new homes, which combine to drive rental costs upwards. However, in light of the prolonged anti-government protests and coronavirus outbreak currently underway, we expect to see rents fall throughout 2020 as the number of overseas workers in Hong Kong drops significantly and the usually high demand for housing is tempered.”


Notes to Editors

Figures used in this release were taken from ECA's September 2019 Accommodation Survey.

The survey was based on the average rental prices for a three-bedroom apartment in the mid-range of the expatriate market.

About ECA International's housing data

This ranking is based on data from ECA's accommodation reports, which have been published annually since 1996.

The reports provide comprehensive and reliable information for locations worldwide on the rental trends, types of accommodation and districts commonly sought by expatriates. To ensure impartiality and to maintain the accuracy of information, data from a number of sources is used to compile each accommodation report. ECA uses a global network of estate agents, relocation agents and extensive in-house research into worldwide property markets to establish and verify the housing data in the reports. Rental prices are collected annually. This housing data is also fed into ECA's Accommodation Tool which can be used to set, manage and review the right accommodation allowances for international assignees.

The rental prices were collected in September 2019 and have been converted into US dollars for ease of comparison using the September 2019 exchange rate.

About ECA International 

ECA International is the market-leading provider of knowledge, information and technology that enables businesses to manage their international reward programmes.

Partnering with thousands of clients on every continent, we provide a fully-integrated suite of quality data, specialist software, consultancy and training. Our unparalleled insights guide clients as they mobilise their most valuable resource: people.

We make the complex world of international mobility simple, providing clients with the expertise and support they need to make the right decisions - every time.

ECA International: Mobility solutions for a world that’s constantly moving.

For further information, please contact:

Jack Firth 
Tel: +44 0 20 7351 5000

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