What would life be without moving?! Certainly less stressful, but probably also far less exciting.
It’s a local move this time – though I’m not sure that actually offers much relief. If only we’d known this time last year that the building across the street would be approved for tear-down… Oh well, we are thankful to be renters rather than owners and to have to opportunity to change our circumstances fairly easily when issues like this arise!
House hunting has looked much different this time around. We started early and gave ourselves just under two months to look – much different than the speedy 24-48 hour searches we’ve had in the past! And without a car to aid in the process for the first time, I’ve traipsed easily close to 40 miles back and forth (half of those miles uphill! Not recommended.) to the more than 25 viewings with my sweet E in the ErgoBaby. I really ought to be in fantastic shape after this adventure, but really, I’m just tired. Physically. Mentally. Everything. It’s hard work trying to find that diamond in the rough!
Really great properties don’t come up often and disappear within a day or two in London, so if you’re not on top of the latest offerings, chances are you’ll miss some great opportunities. And, as I’ve quickly learned this time around, when I’m walking to these showings, it’s more important than ever to have a good understanding of what I’ll be seeing before I head out for that appointment!
Here are our top tips for House Hunting in London:
- Do your homework and try to set realistic expectations. We started browsing properties online as soon as we knew we’d be moving in order to get a good feel for our budget and the types of properties that we could expect to see. Moving from the Midwest, Boston was a shock to our system when it came to our spending-to-expectations ratio, but London has severely rained on our parade, both figuratively and literally, on most occasions when it comes to enjoying the housing search process. What we considered to be a very reasonable budget often didn’t get us as far as we had hoped, and we quickly learned the pictures provided online don’t tell the whole story. Don’t lose heart, if you find yourself in the same situation though! We learned to always have a list of questions prepared for the agent (don’t be shy!) when we called to book an appointment and were able to paint a more realistic picture (both positively and negatively, in some cases) of the property before making that visit. And always remember – it’s all about what you do with what you have! Resolve to spend more time exploring the great outdoors and amazing city at your fingertips, and the entire situation may take on a new light…
- Think WEEKLY. At first glance, London rental prices might look pretty darn good, but multiply that number by four or five, and it can be quite a punch in the gut. Rents in the UK are calculated on a “per week” basis rather than “per month.” It is generally recommended that the following equation should be used to determine the monthly equivalent, if you need it:
(Rate Per Week x 52)/12 = Rate Per Month
*Also, don’t hesitate to negotiate that weekly rate! We’ve learned it’s a very common practice in the UK.
- The internet is your best friend. Good properties disappear in a heartbeat, and the only way to stay on top of the market is to check online. Obsessively. Listings posted to the following websites are offered through agencies rather than landlords and offer one comprehensive location to search all of the properties in the area rather than having to add your filters on each individual agency’s homepage. Here are the three most popular sites for apartment hunting in London:
- Zoopla.co.uk – As a general rule, it seems that just about any property listed on one of these websites will also likely be available on the other sites below; however, be it back-end loading speeds or agency preferences, Zoopla generally seems to post it first.
- Rightmove.co.uk – While most properties will carry over from Zoopla, Rightmove has created its own competitive edge by providing additional insights on the listings – it calls out both “Just Added” AND notes dates when properties have been reduced in price! This became incredibly helpful as we got in to weeks 4 and 5 of searching…
- Primelocation.co.uk – This site seems to beg you to believe its properties are special. I would argue that most listings, again, are the same as those posted to Zoopla and Rightmove; however, I will say unique properties do pop up here occasionally! It’s worth it to keep your eyes open for them.
- Be Creative. If your search is anything like ours, be prepared to come across a few oddly shaped rooms, strange layouts and questionable spaces. It was certainly difficult to imagine our belongings and lives in these quirky spaces, but with a bit of dreaming and a few evenings playing “Photoshop your furniture into that Crazy Floorplan,” we usually found some way to make it fit…more or less. I’ll admit the opportunity to see inside so many of the buildings I walk past on a daily basis has been a lot of fun, but you’d never guess what lies behind some of those stately facades!
As with any move, the time put in to researching properties, the hit or miss viewings and stress of such big decisions has weighed on Troy and me greatly for the last few weeks, but we’ve chosen to continuously challenge each other on wants vs. needs and taken every opportunity we could to explore new corners of the city as we looked at flats in new areas of town. All while making sure we laugh at least once a day. Which can be harder than you might think somedays…