So, you’ve decided to join the 8.9 million of us living in London. Is it worth it?
Personally, I would have to say yes, London doesn’t disappoint. Not for me anyway. Despite only having lived in London for the past five months, I’ve already fallen in love with the city. It’s bustling diversity, vibrant avenues and it’s promise of independence and possibility.
Deciding to move to London is only the first step however in the daunting renter’s journey. If you’re anything like I was, your thoughts are probably now flooded with questions like; can I afford it?; how much rent should I pay?; where in London should I live?; does it have a good social scene? And so on. This blog post is based on my experience and might not be fitting for a more mature couple or a family of four. But, if you’re young, in your 20s/30s, and are looking for a place to start, this might be of some help to you.
Find out what you’re looking for and what you can afford:
First things first, you need to determine your budget. Renting in London costs anywhere between £450 – £1,000 per month. And this is before you start factoring in bills, food, taxes and travel costs. Start by working out how much you earn per month and go from there.
This is also a good time to start thinking about your priorities – would you rather have a nicer place somewhere quiet? Or, are you willing to sacrifice nicer accommodation if it means a shorter commute to work? The latter may be less important to you now considering how coronavirus has transformed the way we work. If you’re only commuting 2-3 times a week it’s worth considering if the properties you’re looking at are fit for working from home. Assuming you work in the centre of London, you also need to consider that living in a higher zone means paying more for travel (and living in a lower zone means higher rents – annoying, I know). To give you a rough idea, here’s a breakdown of costs that you’ll need to consider:
Starting monthly income = £
• Travel (estimate how often you think you’ll be using the tube/bus)
• Food (estimate how much you tend to spend on food – I pay roughly £120 a month)
• Bills (consider what you’ve paid before and make an estimate – I pay around £40)
• Entertainment (how often do you like to go out? Factor in dinners, drinks, gigs etc)
• Phone bill (your monthly phone/sim contract)
• Direct debits & card payments (subscriptions like Netflix and Spotify)
To give some context I live in a two-bedroom flat with a friend, so we split the cost of everything from food to bills. What you pay will vary depending on how many people you live with and what type of property it is. If you’re moving to London on your own you might want to consider a flatshare or houseshare. This is where you rent a room from a landlord or agency in a flat/house occupied by others you may or may not know. This can be a good way to save money on rent whilst living independently. Although this is very much a luck of the draw, but could be a great way to meet new people! If you’re interested I highly recommend looking on sites like SpareRoom or IdealFlateMate as these are dedicated to flat and house shares.
Location Location Location – Where to live in London:
As you probably know London is split into four areas – North, South, West and East. Within these areas, you have 32 boroughs, local authority districts, unique in their communities and what they offer. I, myself, live in East London which I love, but before moving I considered all four areas of London and garnered a good idea of each, knowledge which has been added to thanks to friends, family and my own explorations of the city. Keep reading for a brief summary of each.
Known for its lively social scene and cultural landmarks like Primrose Hill, Camden Market, Regents Park and more, North London is a popular choice for young professionals, students and families. Prices range on the slightly more expensive side due to its multicultural hangouts and well-connected transport links. If your income allows, here are five areas to consider in North London:
• Finsbury park
Ideal for young professionals, art lovers and alleyway strollers, South London has a lot going on with a host of great neighbourhoods offering a mix of markets, green spaces, pubs and cafes. You can find some really affordable properties in good nick with plenty of local spots to explore. If you’re hunting around in South London, check out the areas listed below. Greenwich and Deptford have great transport links to central London through the DLR.
Probably the area of London I know least about, other than the obvious places like Richmond Park and Notting Hill. I have spent some time in Hammersmith and Fulham and got a very chilled and trendy vibe. I’ll leave it to this article by TimeOut to give a more well-rounded idea of West London: https://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/best-things-to-do-in-west-london. As for places to live, here are my top picks (as recommended by my friends and research):
• Shepherd’s Bush
Now not to be too biased, but I feel like East London is a great in-between of all four areas, being reasonable in price, a good distance from central and hosting a bold social scene brimming with creativity. Some of its notable attractions include the iconic Brick Lane street, Columbia Road Flower Market, Victoria Park and the V&A Museum. Renting in East London is pretty cheap but will vary the closer you get to central/Shoreditch. Areas to focus on include, but aren’t limited to:
• Bethnal Green
• Stoke Newington
• Canary Wharf
Tops tips for property hunting:
Now you have a better idea of what you can afford and whereabouts in London you want to focus your search, it’s time to actually start searching! Here are my top tips:
TIP 1: BE SAVVY
Be prepared to be patient, dedicated and very on it when it comes to messaging agents and booking viewings. This is a lot harder when you live outside of London as you can’t just pop down the road to see a viewing. If you know of a friend or family member living in London it might be worth asking to bunk with them for a few days so you can be more flexible when it comes to viewings. One thing I learned about flat hunting was how quickly a property can be snapped up. If this isn’t a luxury you can afford, do your best to book as many flat viewings in one day as you can. I managed to see six different properties in one day, saving myself multiple trips to London and train fares.
TIP 2: GET APP-Y
With the speed at which properties can appear and disappear again, I highly recommend downloading real estate apps like Rightmove and Zoopla. This gives you quick access to property listings at all times and makes contacting estate agents even easier. Save the properties you like the look of to narrow down your search and keep track of who you’ve contacted.
TIP 3: ASK QUESTIONS
It always pays to be prepared when you’re flat viewing. The more questions you ask now the fewer surprises you get further down the line. Be vigilant and organised by preparing a list of questions to ask before you see each property, either by writing them in your phone or making a checklist. If you’re struggling to know what to ask, here are a few suggestions:
1. What’s included in the furnishings? – Find out exactly what’s being left
2. What bills am I responsible for? – Ask for a total estimate
3. Property maintenance – Who’s my first point of contact?
4. Do they know the neighbours? – If so, what are they like?
5. Run through amenities – is there anything that doesn’t work? (this is something I wish I’d asked as it turns out our buzzer didn’t work for letting people in the building).
6. Can I redecorate? – this is something they’ll need to check with the landlord
7. What’s the situation with parking? – useful if you drive or your visitors do
And that concludes my ultimate guide to moving to London in 2021. Stay tuned for more London-themed blogs, such as budgeting and must-see places.
As always, my dm’s are open to any questions/feedback.