Moving to London can be a daunting prospect, especially if you’re doing it alone. I moved to London about 6 months after I’d finished university and secured by first ‘big city’ job; the whole process turned out to be a lot more stressful than I had ever anticipated. Cancelled viewings, non responsive landlords, adverts that misrepresent more than the average tinder profile picture, rent prices that seem to creep up daily, it was all a bit of a nightmare. That was three and a half years ago now and I’ve learnt a lot about the art of moving to London since then, in fact I laugh at myself when I think back at how many mistakes I made.
If you want to learn how to move to London without repeating my mistakes then read on because I’m imparting my wisdom onto you! Here are some tips that I strongly advise you follow to make the process of moving to London for the first time a lot less painful.
1. Decide how much time you’ll need to find a place to live in London, then double it.
I absolutely guarantee that however long you think it will take to find a house or flat in London, in reality it will take longer. You’re probably thinking that London is so big that there must be dozens of perfect places just waiting for you, afraid not. What does this mean? Well for a start you definitely shouldn’t agree a start date for your new London job before you secure a place to live, because even if you think you can find somewhere in 2 weeks, chances are you won’t.
Whilst there is a constant stream of new places becoming available, most of them won’t be suitable for you and even if you find one that is, you probably won’t get it the first time you try. You have to remember that there are probably 10 other people vying for the same space, so you may end up being rejected for someone else even if you offer the right money at the right time. Which brings me onto my next tip…
2. Treat house hunting in London like finding a job
I’d be willing to go on record to say that moving to London is a lot like finding a job; plenty available, most are not that great and the ones that are good are fought over furiously. Every person who is renting their flat, house or spare room receives dozens of offers a day from people desperate to move, this means they can be picky.
You need to treat this whole process as if you were applying for a job. First, send a great first message detailing who you are, why you’re moving and what you’re looking for in a flat/flatmate. This is your ‘cover letter’ and let’s your potential landlord or flatmate get to know you a bit better. Remember that first impressions matter, even over email, so be sure to insert a bit of personality into your opening remarks and be clear and concise.
If you’re lucky they’ll get back to you and offer a viewing, treat this like the ‘interview’ section of the process. You’re goal here is to get the person showing you around to like you, because if they do you’re much more likely to be offered the place. Dress well (not necessarily a suit, it isn’t that much like a job interview), be friendly and try to engage in conversation.
3. Lower your expectations
If you’re moving straight from your parents suburban detached in the Home Counties, your’re in for a bit of a shock at the type of house you’ll probably end up living in. While I’m sure you have dreams of moving to a giant converted warehouse or a glass-clad new build, unless you have cash to splash this almost certainly isn’t going to happen.
Most of the houses you’ll see are small, often with minimal garden space and sometimes no communal areas (converted into bedrooms most of the time). Obviously this depends on how much you have to spend, but for young people earning an average wage this is often the reality, although that being said….
4. If you can, take your time and you might find a hidden gem.
If you’re not in any particular rush, take your time until the right place at the right price comes along. Yes, London is ridiculously expensive and you usually get poor value for money, but not everyone is out to squeeze you for every penny you’ve got. Spend enough time looking and you’ll come across great places to live at reasonable prices, but this takes time and patience. Don’t rush into the first house you see, because where you live is a big part of whether you’ll enjoy living in London.
5. Look in the right places.
There are several websites that are absolutely essential when moving to London, regardless of the type of accommodation you are looking for. If you are looking for a room in an existing house share, Spareroom.co.uk is probably the best website to sign up to. Spareroom lists thousands of rooms all over London and you can search based on dozens of parameters. You can use it for free but if you pay £5 you get first access to the newly listed flats, I’ve personally used this service to find a room twice. Another great website for finding a room is easyroommate.com, but I’ve had less experience using it.
If you’re looking for a whole flat or house you can use rightmove.com to get an overview of all the properties available, but you’ll likely need to deal with letting agents and sign a contract.
You can also use websites like Gumtree and Craigslist but you’re more likely to come across time wasters and scammers. Just remember, If it seems to good to be true then it is.
6. Think carefully about where you want to live
It seems obvious but I think a lot of people fail to really consider which part of London they want to live and just move somewhere that’s convenient for work. One area of London can be drastically different from somewhere else half a mile away and there is nothing worse than realising 6 months into moving that you hate the area you live in.
First you need to decide the length of time you’re willing to commute, I would suggest as short as possible but it’s down to you. Now you need to spend extensive time researching the areas that are within your commute distance and budget, ideally you should walk around and get to know it.
Don’t spend all your money on rent
Having an amazing place to live isn’t going to make you happy when you can’t afford to go out after work or see your friends at the weekend. I suggest spending no more than 30% of your monthly income on rent, you’ll then have enough left over to actually enjoy living in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Remember, you can always upgrade if you feel like you can afford it, but it’s always better to spend too little than too much.
That’s all I can think of for now! I’ve made it seem like an absolute nightmare but it isn’t too bad. Just remember to give yourself enough time to find the right place and do your research before you settle on anywhere. Even if the process is stressful, remember that in the end it will be worth it, London is a great place to live!