It’s no secret that house hunting in London is not for the feint-hearted. Before you even begin, the task of deciding which area to live in is an endless struggle tossing up safety, proximity to transport links, pubs and cafes, rental costs and a host of other factors. The list of options is infinite and it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
I was lucky to be moving to a short-term sharehouse (well, lucky in this respect) before Justin and I were to commit to our long-term rental. After a few weeks at my new home, it was clear that the area was perfect for us and vastly narrowed our search area. My experience is limited, but I’ve found a few key things that really helped to find our perfect new home.
That money you have saved? Save more!
Before moving over, I worked out how much money I needed to survive the first few months leading up to my first salary payment (in February!). Everything was taken into consideration: rent, transport, groceries and utilities. The biggest mistake here was to forget that I’d sold or donated a majority of my personal items. When arriving in London with one suitcase I was in dire need of jeans, tops, multiple coats, toiletries, shoes; everything.
Another huge factor to consider are the estate agent fees. Administration fees vary, however be ready to pay about £200 to sign a lease, plus more per person applying. On top of this, expect a huge fee to hold a property if you apply (upwards of £700) which will be deducted from your bond, fees for inventory checks (in our case the landlord pays this at the start of the lease and tenants pay at the end), bond (4-6 weeks rent IF you have an income or a guarantor, more if you don’t) and even a few weeks of rent in advance. All of this money, paid upfront, can be thousands of pounds that you weren’t expecting.
Use rental websites to guide your expectations
Websites like rightmove are great for exploring your options and working out how much rent you can expect to pay in different areas of London. Unfortunately, a majority of the properties listed have already been snapped up, or if they haven’t you’ll be one of many applicants.
Plenty of information can be found online, allowing you to compare the benefits of different areas around London. These few informed our search but there is so much more out there to explore.
- Easy Roommate has created this interactive map comparing commutes (from “easy travels” to “hellish Journeys”) to the average rental prices in each area.
- Citymapper is a necessity in London. The app has “Get me home” and “Get me to work” functionality, so that no matter where you are, you’re never lost. You can also change your desired arrival time which is great for planning your commute ahead of time. Use this to work out the pay-as-you-go cost and the time of your commute.
- London Setup has listed out each suburb with commentary on safety, price, nightlife and transport. The site looks a bit dodgy but it’s a great starting point to conduct further research.
- Numbeo is a great site for comparing the cost of living in different cities and forecasting your approximate expenses. Comparing London to Brisbane is a sad story, but there were many other factors leading to our decision to move here.
This is only the beginning – search online for the factors that are important to you and there are lots of sites just waiting to be found. If you have found a great site or app, share it with me!
Make your agent do the work
You will end up paying your estate agent a lot of money to find you a home, so use them! Justin and I walked along the high street of our desired area and dropped in to every estate agent we encountered. The visits began to feel a bit Groundhog-Day-esque; each one needed your name, phone number (I just got my new number so had to look this up every single time), combined income, desired rental amount, type of property and move in date. Some of the agents were very proactive in contacting us afterwards, however some were very slack.
Finding a property is time-consuming and tiring. Over a period of about two weeks, I was viewing properties most nights after work. If the agent calls you with a suitable property, be prepared to view it that evening. While they are working for you, they will also be in contact with other clients and normally the first person to apply will be the one who gets the property.
As above, using property listing sites can be a useful stage of the process, however visiting to the agents directly will mean you have a much better chance of even viewing a property.
Once you’ve found the one
We finally found something perfect! When you’re ready to apply for a property, you will first need to make an offer. In London, it is possible (and the norm) to negotiate the rental amount and other terms like the lease length, whether the apartment is furnished and whether you’ll be paying utilities. We ended up shaving a little off the advertised price but didn’t get our way with utilities. I would definitely recommend negotiating.
Once your landlord is happy with the offer, you need to fill out another application form. If you are offered a property, you need to be willing to take it. In our case, we needed to supply card details; once the landlord accepted our application the agency took a fee to make sure we were serious about the property. We were then asked for a few documents for referencing: three months of bank statements, passports and visas, HR reference from work confirming salary and employment status and a reference from our current landlords. This may vary by agent but be prepared to hand everything over. It helps to have access to a scanner.
Once the references are checked you will sign the lease and hand over the rest of the fees. Hooray!
One thing to note is that in London, the landlords have a lot more to do with the tenants than in Australia. It will vary by agency, but once the lease is signed and the fees are paid, you deal directly with the landlord for maintenance and other matters.
As a tenant, you may be responsible for paying the fees below. As I haven’t actually started my new tenancy yet, this page will be updated in a month or so after I have a better insight into how things work. It’s very hard to find information about this sort of thing online!
- Council tax – work out which council area your property is in and sign up for direct debit to pay this monthly, direct to the council
- Utilities – this is negotiated when applying for the property and is normally paid monthly
- Rent – normally paid monthly to the landlord
Finding your new home in London is difficult but rewarding when you find the one. Don’t settle for something you aren’t happy with because you’re stressed; the right one will come along. If you have any information or tips you’d like to share, let me know.