Accommodation in London

apartments in London
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Updated 2021-08-25 12:06

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 neighbourhoods have the most to offer you. Consider what other commitments you will have (e.g. commute to work, children's school and extracurricular activities, etc.) 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 biger setting for a lower 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.

Central London

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.

North London

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: a variety of ages, commuters, couples, and families.

South London

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: a variety of ages, commuters, couples, and families.

East London

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 expensive, but they continue to be popular places to live and socialise.

Typical locals: young professionals in their 20s and 30s, students, creative personalities.

West London

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 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 is 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 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 be a profitable investment in the long term, helping you to save on rent significantly. Many homeowners rent out their properties to help achieve a return on investment. It is important to work with a legitimate landlord or 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, verify the validity of the 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.

Warning:

Once you have signed and paid 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.

Student accommodation in London

The options of student accommodation in London are abundant. Whether you want the privacy of a studio or the community ambience of a flatshare, there will be something for you located close to your university or in your preferred London area. There are many websites where you can compare rooms, studios, and flats in hundreds of halls of residences across London. Prices vary depending on the location, amenities, and facilities provided in the residence, but you should expect anything between £160 and £350 per week for a room and a shared kitchen. The cost of most student properties in London includes bills and furniture.

Tip:

Decide on the area and your housing budget first to narrow down your options.

Good to know:

Most student accommodation contracts are for one academic year. To keep the housing over the summer, you should arrange in advance.

Important:

Most UK landlords will ask for a guarantor, which is a person (usually a family member) who also signs your contract, guaranteeing that they will be paying your rent if you can't.

COVID-19 accommodation demand changes

Two years of COVID-19 restrictions, intermittent lockdowns, and remote working changed the housing standards and factors buyers and tenants focus on. Many Londoners saw the pandemic as an opportunity to escape the crowded city and shift towards a more rustic lifestyle, closer to nature. Hence, house hunters looked for outdoor spaces and even garages that they could turn into multi-purpose areas (e.g., an office, gym, playroom, etc.). Remote working meant less frequent commutes, which could therefore be longer. People started moving beyond London's Green Belt into detached houses with larger living spaces and big gardens. However, there's no abundance of such properties for the time being, thereby making them highly unaffordable or a privilege for the few.

Good to know:

As lockdown restrictions ease, house hunters tend to go back to their pre-pandemic priorities, postponing long-term plans for a calmer and healthier lifestyle in rural areas.

House hunting tips to consider

House hunting in London can be even more overwhelming than in other parts of the world due to the big size of the city, the high cost of rentals, and the abundance of old properties. The Edwardian architecture is admirable and great for sightseeing, but when it comes to living in a 100-years old property, it's a different story and may require a lot of compromises.

To make your home search more efficient and less stressful, consider hiring a reliable and certified real estate agent because he or she may hear about a home before it's advertised for the public. Also, they will do all the communication and set up the viewings with the property owners, which can be very time consuming. You can ask for recommendations from other expats on the Expat.com London forum. Remember, you don't have to book the first real estate agent you come across, and it's up to you to interview several candidates before you assign the job to one.

The best advice is to be flexible, not meaning you have to forget all of your tick boxes in your wish list, but maybe consider alternative neighbourhoods and types of housing (e.g., townhouses, semi-detached houses, apartments, etc.). Finding a home in London may be a bit difficult, but once you have determined your budget, your and your family's needs, and the home characteristics you are not willing to trade-off, you will be on the right way towards finding your home in London.

Rights and responsibilities for tenants

If you rent a house in London from a private property owner, it's good to be aware of your rights and responsibilities. For example, the property owner should put your deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) instead of a private account. In addition, you have the right to challenge high or unfair charges. Also, you have the right to know who your landlord or landlady is and ask for an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to see information about the property's energy use and average costs, as well as recommendations about how to reduce them.

As a tenant, you must take good care of the property, pay the agreed rent on time, including your Council Tax and utility bills, and pay for any damage that you have caused to the property. Subletting a property isn't allowed unless the property owner agrees or it is clearly stated in the tenancy agreement.

Good to know:

The property owner has the right to access the property to inspect or make repairs. However, they have to give you at least 24 hours' notice and agree with you on a suitable day and time of visit.

Useful links:

Tenancy agreement

COVID-19 renting guidance

Short-term accommodation:

Air BnB

Hotel Booking

HostelBookers

Long term accommodation:

Rightmove - Rental property search engine

Prime Location - Rental property search engine

Private renting search for apartments and flatshares

Easy Roommate - Flatshare search

Spare Room - Flatshare search 

Flatmate Rooms - Flatshare search

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.