Finding a home in Britain’s capital can be a challenge when you are new to the city. However, there are ways of simplifying your search. London has a surface area of 1,572km² and thirty districts, which make thousands of homes available to both rent and buy.
It is good to start with a clear idea of which area you would like to live in. Whether you are looking for green spaces, a vibrant nightlife, or just good value for money, decide which areas have the most to offer you. Consider what other commitments you will have (e.g. commute to work) to further refine your target areas.
Shared housing is hugely popular in London, as it allows people to live closer to the centre and in a more spacious setting for a smaller price. Private accommodation is costly. You will find more studios and small apartments towards the centre, where space is scarce, and more houses in the outskirts.
The outskirts of London are much more affordable and spacious, but travel from and to is complicated. Also, the culture is significantly different. Consult the Transport for London website and Standard Tube Map to see what your travel prospects would be from certain areas.
London’s Main Areas
The main part of the city is divided into Central London, North London, South London, East London and West London. Each area has a distinct identity and culture.
Typically more commercial than residential, housing in Central London is less common and more expensive. It is understandable that when you are within walking distance from Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square, and Sherlock Holmes’ house on Baker Street accommodation will come at a premium. Great spots to live in are Bloomsbury, Fitzrovia, Marylebone and Mayfair.
Typical locals: professionals in their 40s, wealthy couples, and families
Connected to the city centre by London Underground’s Northern Line, North London’s quiet neighbourhoods are just 15 minutes away from the hustle and bustle. North London is a perfect area for commuters and those with families. Leafy, attractive areas include Highgate, Hampstead, Tufnell Park and Finsbury Park.
Typical locals: variety of ages, commuters, couples, and families
Routinely voted London’s best place to live, Clapham has a great vibe, many things to do and is relatively affordable. The area is home to Clapham Common — a spacious urban park — and has excellent transport links (including Europe’s busiest railway station, Clapham Junction), offering the best of both worlds. Other great places to look at are Brixton, Balham and Tooting Bec.
Typical locals: variety of ages, commuters, couples, and families
East London is arguably London’s most vibrant, creative and diverse area. It is filled with galleries, markets, trendy shops, and cafes, providing a variety of activities.
Shoreditch, Dalston and Haggerston sometimes come under fire for having become too fashionable and too expensive, but they continue to be popular places to live and socialise.
Typical locals: young professionals in their 20s and 30s, students, creative personalities
Although still very mixed, West London has acquired a reputation for being home to wealthy professionals and families, with areas such as Holland Park, Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove being particularly beautiful and expensive examples of the ongoing gentrification of the capital.
Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith, although are within walking distance from the above, are much more affordable and still well-connected to the city centre and surrounding areas.
Towards the edge of London, places such as Wimbledon, Barnes and Richmond offer greener and more spacious dwellings.
Typical locals: professionals in their mid 30s, couples, and families
Types of accommodation in London
There are different types of accommodation available in London: studios, flats, houses, hostels and hotels. The prices vary according to the number of rooms, the area, and the local transport services. The cheapest housing options are studios and shared housing, normally at a distance from the centre.
The average rent for a room can vary from £600 - £1,200. Average prices for a one bedroom flat start from £1,200 and £2,200 if you are looking for two bedrooms.
The further away you are from the city centre, the lower the rent prices are. The price of a studio in the centre is typically the same as a two bedroom flat further out. If you travel outside of London, where transport into the centre can be as short as a 20-minute ride on a national rail train, you can rent a whole house for the same price.
Find accommodation in London
Flats and houses come and go quickly in London, with listings on websites such as Gumtree being filled and taken off the site within a day, or even within the hour. Keeping an eye on the market and being quick are important, as are these following tips:
- Have available all the essential documents
- Set up email notifications for properties that are meeting your expectations
- Search daily (as a minimum) on both the internet and in agency shops
- Ring property contact numbers instead of dropping emails
- Secure the first viewing of the day
- Be quick to confirm your interest in the property
The real estate market in London
Most people rent in London because it is one of the most expensive European cities to buy property. London's real estate market continues to grow at a rapid rate, with prices escalating to eye-watering levels.
If you have your heart set on buying a property in London, searching in Greater London can often be much more affordable and secure more space, such as homes with gardens.
Central London property prices are on average at £1,459,408, at £600,000 in Greater London, and at £400,000 in areas such as Waltham Forest.
Good to know:
Mortgages are also available for foreign nationals.
Buying a property in London can also be a profitable investment in the long term, helping you to save on rent significantly. Many homeowners also rent out their properties to help achieve a return on investment.
It is important to work with a legitimate landlord or even more secure an estate agency. You can find estate agencies online or by visiting your local high streets.
Buy a property in London
The steps involved in buying real estate can last at least eight weeks. Your legal representative will arrange for the exchange of contracts on your behalf, and verify the validity of sales document, conduct research on the environment surrounding the property with local authorities, and review the contract before you sign.
Moreover, you are required to pay a 10% deposit of the sale price to the seller when you formally agree to purchase the property.
Once you sign and pay the deposit and then decide not to proceed, you will not be refunded. The seller might even charge you for damages and breach of contract.
Expat.com - Housing in London
Long term accommodation
Rental property search engine www.rightmove.co.uk
Rental property search engine www.primelocation.com
Private renting search for apartment and flat shares www.gumtree.com
Flat share search uk.easyroommate.com
Flat share search www.spareroom.co.uk
Flat share search www.flatmaterooms.co.uk