Moving to London can be a daunting and complicated process. Not only will you have to find suitable work, sort out travel arrangements, and adapt to the pace of life in the UK’s biggest city, you should also accustom yourself with the London property market and secure a great living situation.
Unless you are able to purchase property in the capital (and coping with the financial implications that come with such an investment), you ought to know how to find a house to rent. While this may be no simple task – not least for those who have never rented property in the UK before – it becomes far more manageable when you pin down the basics. So in this post we aim to help people moving to London find their perfect property, with minimal stress and financial strain along the way.
Since the rental market in London is so competitive, all the best rental properties are likely to be on the market for just a few days. Indeed, you may even have to view properties alongside other interested parties who are also raring to pack up and move in as soon as possible. So when you find a house that you really like, be prepared to move quickly through the process of viewing the property and making a final offer. This means freeing up your schedule and making yourself available should estate agents get in touch with unmissable opportunities. Bring your laptop to viewings as you may need to sit in a café afterwards and send off the paperwork straight away!
Most estate agents will be working as late as 8pm on weekdays to accommodate people after working hours, and weekend viewings should be booked well in advance with more popular properties in competitive areas. If you show a certain degree of interest and efficiency at this stage of the renting process, you will be more likely to stand out above all other renters and secure the property first. To avoid disappointment and delay if somebody else gets there first, you should have multiple prospects on the go at once.
Choose your approach
While perusing houses online through aggregate sites like Rightmove and Zoopla gives you a great overview of the rental market and the different areas of London, they are not the best when it comes to securing a property. It’s always best to get directly in touch with estate agents. Detail your requirements and preferences to them and build a strong relationship so that they can make the most out of your property search.
Since properties listed online receive huge amounts of interest from house-hunters, they are likely to sell much quicker than those found in an estate agent’s private portfolio. Sure, registering your interest through a quick online message seems way easier than calling up loads of agencies, but in reality the latter approach guarantees a more tailored and efficient process, not to mention less chance of being scammed.
Figure out your requirements
There will be certain aspects of your prospective rental house that you consider non-negotiable, such as how many bedrooms you need and which price bracket you are working within. However, in order to hone your property search and find the best rentals that suit your needs, you will have to consider some more specific requirements. Do you want your house to be furnished or unfurnished? Which local amenities would you prefer? What is your budget with regards to individual living costs? How far from your workplace are you comfortable living?
When you have a more specific idea of what exactly it is that you want from a London property, you will be able to present a clearer renter profile to estate agents and narrow your search down to properties that accurately suit your requirements. So have a think about what you hope to get out of London life and get researching!
Choose your location
Where exactly you choose to rent in London will of course depend on what you’re looking for. Families trying to find a house to rent may be looking at quiet areas with the best schools, while young professionals straight out of uni may prefer bustling areas with the best bars. Indeed, sometimes the choice is a no-brainer: perhaps all of your friends live in Clapham, maybe your work is nearest to Shepherd’s bush, or it could be that you have planned on living in Camden!
In such cases the question of your ideal location is made a lot more simple. But if you’re at a complete loss as to which areas in London are the best, you might need to do some research. Consider the requirements that you have for an ideal property and look for areas which suit those requirements best. Avid runners and dog walkers might prefer areas replete with parks. Party lovers may want to be surrounded by the best nightlife London has to offer. And foodies should be looking at locations with the hottest restaurant and café scene.
You are investing in the location as well as the property, so make sure you properly survey the area – by using information online and by nosing around after your viewing – before you put down any offers.
Whatever expectations you have about the cost of renting, you should be prepared to adjust them accordingly when you move to the capital. London properties are notorious for having higher rent (although the well-documented benefits of life in the city always make up for it) compared to markets elsewhere in the country. If you’re moving to London on a budget and yearning for more ‘reasonable’ prices, you might want to look at those areas with lower rent.
Note: since many listings display the rent of a given property using a per week system, you should know how to translate this figure into the rent per month. Simply multiplying the weekly rent by four will not give you an accurate figure for the monthly rent. This will only give you the impression that the monthly rent is lower than it truly is. Rather, you should multiply the weekly rent by 52 and then divide it by 12 for the correct monthly amount (or get an online rent converter to do the sums for you). Furthermore, on top of your monthly rent and the upfront deposit, you should also prepare yourself (mentally, if not financially) for a range of fees from your landlord and agency – nobody said moving to London was cheap!
London may be huge, but you can’t deny that it remains very well connected thanks to its extensive public transport systems. Most listings will be advertised with reference to the nearest underground station, and while living close to the tube is an advantage it certainly isn’t essential. Many people choose to get around London using cycle hires (i.e. Boris Bikes, for which there are 750 docks throughout the city) or their own bikes, thereby avoiding the stress of rush hour and adding some cardio to their commute. Likewise, depending on where you live, you may only need to get the bus to work (only £1.50 for a single journey) or perhaps a quick walk will suffice.
While your rent may be higher in properties closer to central London (i.e. zones one and two), your transport options will be much cheaper and easier – this has the benefit of better access to all the amazing places and events found in the thick of the city. So make sure that you eye up the main transport options that come with a potential rental property before signing contracts. After all, the appeal of a perfect house is somewhat dampened when it takes over an hour to get involved in city life. Most good estate agents will tell you all about the transport options available to tenants, including where the nearest tube station is, what the local bus routes are, and how long it takes to get to central London.
If you’re looking to rent a beautiful property in South West London, take a look at the lettings we have available here at James Anderson.