Study reveals which city offers the best work-life Balance in Scotland

05/12/2023
Edinburgh

EDINBURGH is the least affordable city in Scotland to own a home in. Meanwhile, Aberdeen offers the best work-life balance in the country. 

On a national level, five cathedral cities top the list of UK cities with the least disposable incomes after paying their basic bills and mortgage rates. Among bigger UK cities, Bath is the least affordable place to own a home in in England; Newport – in Wales; Bangor – in Northern Ireland; and Edinburgh – in Scotland. Newcastle is the #1 UK city that leaves homeowners with the most disposable income. In Scotland, this is Aberdeen; in Northern Ireland – Lisburn; in Wales – Wrexham. 

UK-based data collection experts at SmartSurvey reveal how much disposable income two average-earning homeowners living and working in every UK city would have after paying their basic household bills and mortgage rate. The study evaluates and compares median property prices and median PAYE earnings, as well as gas, electricity, water and council tax bills in 73 cities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The mortgage rates are calculated equally, based on a 10% deposit and a fixed 5% interest rate over 25 years.

Which Scotland cities are least and most affordable for homeowners


Edinburgh is the least affordable city in Scotland. Median earnings of £2,427 are not proportional to the costs of owning a home in Edinburgh, priced at £325,000, on average. After paying their mortgage rate and basic bills, two average-earning homeowners here would have £2,408 to spare for other expenses every month. 

People in Aberdeen enjoy the best work-life balance of all city dwellers in Scotland. Despite having the most expensive homes in Scotland (£534,000), salaries are the best here (£3,489). Average homeowners living and working in Aberdeen can pay their monthly utilities and mortgage and still have £3,215 every month to cover any other household costs.

Scotland cities, ranked by least to most disposable income left after basic bills and mortgage, based on two median-earning adults per household

UK rankingCityMedian monthly earnings (£)Median home prices (£)Basic monthly bills (£)Monthly disposable income after bills & mortgage (£)
51Edinburgh 2,427  325,000  367.48  2,408.51 
55Dundee 2,144 194,995 402.10 2,457.50
56Inverness 2,213  225,000  391.66  2,458.45 
61Stirling 2,309 280,000 227.89 2,580.52
63Glasgow 2,208  180,000  403.27  2,662.09 
65Dunfermline 2,230 185,000 356.14 2,774.02
69Perth 2,224  225,000  227.89  2,870.00 
71Aberdeen 3,489 534,000 397.66 3,215.51

How (un)affordable are UK cities

The median price for a city home in the UK is £260,000. City residents generally earn £2,154 a month. Their gas, electricity, water and council tax (or “rates” in Northern Ireland) bills amount to £348 every month, while mortgage rates are estimated at £1,520. This leaves two average-earning city homeowners with £2,440 in disposable income every month to cover all their other household costs.

Average-earning homeowners in St Davids have the least disposable income left after paying their basic bills and mortgage rates. With median property priced at £450,000 in St Davids, two homeowners earning an average of £1,921 face £385 bills every month. An idyllic cathedral city in Pembrokeshire and the UK’s smallest urban area with very high property price tags. Its residents do not earn much locally and would only have £864 per month for the entire household. This is supposed to cover the costs of annual grocery, clothing, household goods, transportation, health, leisure, education, communication and any other necessities of all the members of the household.

A single average earner could not realistically become the sole homeowner of a property in St Davids as their income covers only two-thirds of the mortgage rate alone.

Four other cathedral cities – Chichester, Truro, Canterbury and Winchester – squeeze homeowners’ pockets the most. Property prices and bills are generally high here, whereas incomes lag far behind, making them unrealistic for most average earners wanting a comfortable life. Only in Truro single median earnings are higher than mortgage rates, but this would leave sole homeowners with just £147 per month to cover basic bills and all other necessities.

Mo Naser, SmartSurvey CEO explained: “If you really have your heart set on living in a quaint cathedral city, you would most likely need to earn your paychecks elsewhere and commute for a quarter of a century to pay off your mortgage. Otherwise, you are looking at 25 years with hardly any disposable income left.”

Top 10 UK cities with the least disposable income 

per month after bills and mortgage, based on two average-earning homeowners

St Davids£864
Chichester£974
Truro£1,400
Canterbury£1,413
Winchester£1,488
Bath£1,537
Newport£1,637
Norwich£1,761
Exeter£1,762
Hereford£1,780

Cities with the most disposable income after bills and mortgage

Newcastle is the #1 city in the UK where homeowners are left with the most disposable income after paying their basic bills and mortgage rate. Property prices here are £50,000 below the UK median, estimated at £210,000. Newcastle’s earning potential is £482 more than the national average, currently standing at £2,636 per month. With gas, energy, water and council tax bills averaging £318 every month, this leaves Geordies with a monthly budget £3,531 to spare for any other household needs.

Top 10 UK cities with the most disposable income 

per month after bills and mortgage, based on two average-earning homeowners

Newcastle£3,531
Aberdeen£3,531
London£3,216
Lisburn£2,952
Perth£2,870
Armagh£2,815
Durham£2,811
Belfast£2,799
Dunfermline£2,774
Sunderland£2,720

London

London has the second most expensive homes of all UK cities. The median price point for London properties is currently at £534,000, while gas, electricity, water and council tax bills come up to about £385 per month. If two Londoners, earning an average of £3,489 a month each, paid their basic bills and their monthly mortgage rate of £2,811, they would be left with £3,215 per month to cover all other expenses. This is the second highest amount of disposable income, after Newcastle.


Cheapest bills

Cities in Northern Ireland generally have the lowest energy, gas, water and rate bills in the UK. This is partly because the water for domestic households is government-subsidised and the local rates are lower compared to council tax bills in other UK cities. 

The highest average bills in England are in Hereford, Ripon, Winchester and St Albans, ranging between £408 and £431 every month. In Wales, these are found in Wrexham, Cardiff, St Davids and Newport, averaging £385-£405. Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness have the highest basic bills in Scotland, costing residents between £392 and £403 per month.


Cheapest city homes

The cheapest homes of all UK cities are in Armagh (Northern Ireland), Aberdeen (Scotland), Durham (England) and Belfast (Northern Ireland) – where median prices for properties are all under £160,000. The most expensive domestic properties are in St Albans in Hertfordshire, home to many London commuters. Median home prices here are estimated at £595,000 – £61,000 more than within London.

Mo Naser, SmartSurvey CEO, commented: “Commuting in and out of the city can be exhausting, time-consuming, unreliable and gradually more and more expensive. Our study hopes to help those who enjoy both working and living in the same city choose a place to call their own according to their budgets. The bumps on the road to home ownership vary at different stages, depending on the city you choose to live and work in. 

“Getting on the property ladder in London, for example, is the toughest step in the entire home ownership journey, but once you have saved enough for a deposit, you can really feel your pockets at ease. This is not the case for other cities, where saving for a deposit might not be that farfetched, but the bills and the earning potential that city offers may not leave you with much money to spare over time. 

“Finding that sweet spot in the long run, where you can settle down, spend less time on the train and more with your family, and have enough money for a comfortable life is every city lover’s dream.”

The study was conducted by SmartSurvey, a leading UK digital surveying platform. It uses the latest available data from local councils, the Office for National Statistics, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, Rightmove, Statista and Which.

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