You’ve decided to move, maybe even have your eye on an area or two, but where to start? Read on for our top tips for finding somewhere to live in London…
Renting or buying?
You already know the answer to this, right? We’ll be focusing on renting in London as that’s what most do when they first move to the city, and it’s also what we have the most experience of!
Who are you living with?
Do you have someone in mind already? If you’re moving with friends, acquaintances or as a couple, that’s sorted. If you’re moving alone, check out our guide to Moving to London Alone for even more tips, but the below will be relevant as well…
What are you looking for?
A room, a flat, a house, student accommodation? This will determine where you start your search, so it’s good to know in advance. This is where you’ll need to do some investigation and work out what you can afford. If you’re a couple, you can save a lot by renting a room in a shared house, or spend more but get a flat to yourself.
Students moving to London will usually get advice from their university or college if they provide accommodation; check that out as you will then find yourself living with people of the same age and usually at the same institution, so it’s a great way to make friends. But you can also look for private accommodation which is sometimes cheaper.
As a group of friends moving to London, you’ll find that you can afford a house with a garden in some zones further out, or a flat more centrally, so make sure you’re all on the same page before you start looking to avoid arguments later on! If you’re moving on your own, your budget and the area you’re looking at will determine whether you rent a room or a flat.
Where to start
Googling ‘rent London flat’ is a good start, and will give a great idea of the price ranges for different areas and by different agents. It’s a good idea to arrange to stay in London if you can while flat hunting – now’s the time to borrow your friends’ sofas – as the market moves fast and we’d always recommend you go for a viewing if possible before making an offer. Get yourself on letting agents’ email and phone lists to hear about new additions to their books, as what’s online will often be out of date and already let out.
If you’re looking for a room, try SpareRoom.co.uk or EasyRoommate – they both have lots of filters so you can easily narrow down to rooms within a specific area, with a garden, non-smoking, and even based on the current tenants’ age range. If you’re working try to live with other professionals; it may sound fun reliving your student years, but you’ll be annoyed and/or slightly jealous if your new housemates stay up all night and don’t have to leave the house ’til 3pm for a lecture when you’re off to work at 8am!
Things to know before you start
Letting agents will ask your budget pretty much straight away, so it’s good to know your preferred budget (total and per person) and absolute maximum – they’ll almost always try to ‘tempt’ you with more expensive places, so make it clear what you can afford and stick to your guns!
You’ll need to know how many rooms you need, if having a living room is important (often these are turned into extra bedrooms, so stress to the agent if this is a no-go for you), if you want a furnished, part-furnished or unfurnished property, double or single rooms… the list goes on but these are the most important to think about beforehand, particularly if you’re looking in a group. If you find the perfect flat with 3 double rooms and 1 single, who would take the single and how would you figure out rent? Think about this in advance and you won’t be floundering during the viewing when there’s another group right behind you who may make an offer before you make a decision.
Work out the costs
When you’re thinking about your budget, don’t forget to factor in the deposit, letting agent fees if applicable, and estimated monthly bills (some or all of these are sometimes included in the rent, so don’t forget to check). As well as moving costs if you need to hire a van, the cost of furnishing or buying extra kitchen items etc once you’ve moved in. If you’re renting as a group, make sure everyone is aware of these and agree in advance who’s going to be ‘in charge’.
Have everything ready
Letting agents and even private landlords will often ask for a guarantor if you’re not earning a certain amount per month (usually worked out as a multiple of monthly rent). If you’re likely to need this, make sure you have a parent on board in advance. You might also need proof of income or a reference from a previous landlord, so bear this in mind while you’re hunting.