Wednesday, 24 April 2013

London Rents: Newcomer's Guide

Before relocating to London, I spent three months looking online for the place we would call our "home". When I first went on a renting website, I was in for a surprise, a bad one that is: London rents. Dreadful. Renting a 2 bed flat in a decent part of London can eat up as much as half your family income. The reason is simple: high demand, low supply. Estate agents and landlords take advantage of that and prospective tenants feel, to say the least, robbed.

A Mum in London
Illustration via
Here are my tips for finding an affordable and nice London home:

London is divided in zones. Zones one and two are pretty expensive, be ready to pay a small fortune for a 2 bed flat. You may of course find cheaper options, especially in ex local authority buildings, but I doubt you'd find your dream home there. The more you move away from central London, the cheaper the rents get. Most parts of zone 3 have good connections to central London, so it may be worth the extra commuting.

Private Landlord vs Estate Agent
Firstly, estate agents charge the so-called tenant fees for establishing, renewing contracts and for referencing you (these fees can easily reach the sum of 250 pounds). Most private landlords won't charge you for that. Secondly, you stand a better chance to negotiate the price with the private landlord. Also, private landlords might be more flexible for furniture arrangements or if you need to put a nail to hang your favorite picture. There are some sites where landlords market directly their properties (details at the end).

Targeted Search
You'll have to spent many hours in front of a screen to find your dream home. This process is made easier if you:
  • Know exactly what you're looking for. Top budget, location, number of bedrooms/baths, garden, parking, type of building
  • Search every other day to be the first to spot the new entries
  • React immediately if you see a property you like. You stand better chances to get it and to negotiate the price or move-in date if you are the first to view it
Council Tax
Last but not least, do not forget the council tax of the property you will be moving in, as it can affect your overall rent budget. Some boroughs have low council tax for band D -the most common tax band- properties (ie Wandsworth around £700, Fulham and Hammersmith around £1060 per year), while other like Camden have high council tax (£1325 per year). So, don't forget to take that in account too.

Happy house-hunting!

To check London boroughs (crime rates, house's prices, council tax) go here, here & here
For London zones, commuting time & prices, check Transport for London
Where do private landlords list their properties? Check on Gumtree and Upad

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