Property: Turning over a new Leith

Hot Spot: Edinburgh
The Scottish Parliament is coming. The Scottish Parliament is coming." Unfortunately, Edinburgh property conversations these days often end where they began: with anticipation of the new Parliament at Holyrood, in the city centre.

How much turbulence will it cause in Edinburgh property values? Some local estate agents expect limited movement, in keeping with a city of half a million people. Others anticipate soaring prices, while Colin Strang Steel, a partner at Knight Frank, believes that most of the effects that will happen already have: "I think prices will start to level off now. Most of the demand will soon be satisfied."

Colin Campbell is an army officer, and he has been watching the property market carefully. A single man who is currently flat-hunting, he is concentrating his efforts in central Edinburgh: "I'm looking in New Town, Stockbridge and Comely Bank, and prices are going through the roof. A few months ago, a flat on offer for pounds 79,000 went for pounds 105,000."

Mr Campbell contrasts Edinburgh nightlife with that of London, where evenings can begin in one area and often end up miles away in a completely different part of town. "Here, you walk out of your house, go to one section of town, and stay for the night. Living away from the centre would detract from that."

And soaring city-centre prices, he believes, are counter-balanced in that this area will be "more insulated against price falls in future".

Excitement regarding the new Parliament is obscuring the perception of many waterfront refurbishment schemes, that are putting previously unappealing or non-residential sections of town firmly on to the housebuyers' map. The new home of the royal yacht Britannia, Leith, "was once Edinburgh's port and it had been run down," says solicitor George Clark, chairman of the Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre (ESPC).

"This historic port now has developments similar to London's Docklands, such as bonded warehouses converted into lofts, and trendy restaurants, bars and nightlife."

Mr Clark notes that Leith has already seen big price increases, which are propelling buyers further east along the harbour, to areas such as Portobello and Joppa. "Portobello was a Victorian holiday resort with good housing stock but no scope for Docklands-type development." The entire waterfront is slated for massive redevelopment in the future.

Closer to the city centre, "certain parts of Newington have Victorian villas, but the sections with flats may attract buyers priced out of Marchmont, where two-bedroom flats sell for approximately pounds 100,000," notes Mr Clark. "The same flat in Viewforth is only pounds 70-pounds 80,000, and further out, prices in Slateford are even lower."

Mr Clark's take on Parliament? It may stimulate the rental rather than the buyer's market.

The Low-Down

Transport: Edinburgh has an international airport with daily flights to more than 10 major UK and continental destinations. By train, journey times are 4.5 hours to London, 1.5 hours to Newcastle, and 45 minutes to Glasgow.

Lies and damned lies: The Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre (ESPC) compiles and distributes average prices and percentage changes for several inner- city areas as well as the suburbs, West Lothian, East Lothian, and Midlothian. City-centre prices increased 23 per cent between 1997 and 1998, and Marchmont and Bruntsfield jumped 18 per cent. Leading all categories, however, are suburban post-1920 detached villas, which have risen by 26 per cent. The ESPC has been tracking prices for more than 25 years and has yet to see a drop, the average rising from pounds 9,084 in 1973 to pounds 80,000 in 1998.

New developments: When completed this summer, Bryant Homes' Heriot Square in Roseburn will contain nearly 200 two- and three-bedroom flats (146 already sold), being built in six phases. The 19 on current release are selling for pounds 110,000 to pounds 148,000.

Waterfront Edinburgh: This is the title of a government/private partnership to build nearly 4,000 residential units along the eight-mile waterfront. First for sprucing up are Granton and Muirhouse.

Council tax: Band A is pounds 578, and Band H pounds 1,734.

Estate Agents: ESPC 0131 624 8000; George Clark 0131 550 1001; Knight Frank 0131 225 8171.