London is one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the English-speaking world. Here’s a crash course in long-term property rentals for Americans who haven’t been yet.
No matter how many times you have shopped for a new apartment in the states, once you hit London many things change. As an American, you have to be prepared for the differences in living conditions between the U.S. and England and be prepared for how each flat is marketed. Many things will be different for you including pricing, sizes and what comes with the flats.
Choose your neighborhood
The Internet is a great place to help you choose your neighborhood preferences and even get a good start. However, in every neighborhood there is most likely a real estate office filled with listings that are available. If you want to really know what is ready to be rented, you need to spend a little time pounding the pavement [ED: or Google walking it!].
Like any city, there are neighborhoods you want to live in and many that you don’t. Each neighborhood comes with its own prices so you will have to look at what you can afford when making your decision.
East and west
For example, East London is known as the haven for the bohemian, cool and artsy population. More specifically, you should check out Haggerston, Shadwell, Hackney Wick, Hackney Central, and Stoke Newington if this sounds like your crowd.
If you prefer something a little more high rent, West London is the place for you. Flats and other housing in this section of the city are known to be far more expensive but they do boast some of the most fantastic architecture. Neighborhoods that are worth looking at in this area include Mayfair, Kensington and Chelsea, Notting Hill, Fulham, Shepherd’s Bush, Holland Park, and Hammersmith.
North and south
North London is generally more popular with families so if you have kids you should seriously consider the neighborhoods in this area. Camden Town, Angel, St John’s Wood, Belsize Park (north/west London), Hampstead (north/west London) and Finsbury Park are worth a closer look.
South of the Thames is one of the places where you will get more value for the money making the perfect spot for young professionals. Royal Borough of Greenwich, New Cross, Deptford and Peckham are just a few locations you should scout if this area sounds like a good fit for you.
Everything seems so affordable
At first glance, it will seem that flat prices in London are surprisingly reasonable. That is because as Americans, we are used to seeing prices listed on a per month basis. However, when you are searching for the perfect flat in London, most of the prices are listed on a per week basis. You must multiple all the prices times four to see what it will cost you per month.
“Flat” size and appliances
“Flat” sizes can vary greatly but many have been shrinking in size for many years. On average, you can expect to find a flat somewhere in the 50 to 100 square meter range, which in North American terms means about 500-1000 square feet. Remember, the larger the flat the more your weekly rent will be so many of the largest flats will be very expensive.
Most flats today are said to come furnished with modern appliances. These often include a stove, small refrigerator, sink and sometimes a dishwasher and washing machine (in the kitchen!).
Furnished or unfurnished
Most of the flats you will look at will come furnished. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your taste. It is possible to negotiate to have the furniture removed so you can furnish it yourself, but if the flat was decorated by the owner, you may want to handle the negotiation with extreme care as not to offend the owner of the property.
Living, working, long-term vacationing in London
Living in London can be truly exciting for Americans looking to live and work in a truly historical city. However, shopping for a new flat when you aren’t familiar with how our good friends across the pond when it comes to real estate can be frustrating.
Knowing what to look for and where to look is the first step you must take in choosing a place to rent in London. From there you must decide on your price and understand how flats are priced so you can be sure you choose a place that is within your budget in the area you want. From there, it is time to hit the road and seek out that first flat that you will call home after you leave the shores of America for the great city that is London.