This is our second stint living and working in London, and wow, was it easier this time around to find a place to live. Not so much in that it’s simple to get a place here – on the contrary, unless you’re seeking to rent a single room for yourself (which is achievable using services like Airbnb.com, spareroom.co.uk, easyroommate.com or Gumtree.co.uk), finding a home can be a tricky affair. It was easier for us this time however, because we knew exactly the area we wanted to be in, which is half the battle, given this can be one very big, daunting place for the uninitiated.
For those new to town, “homes” here usually come in the form of a studio (literally one room, possibly with a bed on a mezzanine level), one or two bedroom “flat”, otherwise known as an apartment or unit in other parts of the world. London’s renowned for its small spaces so don’t expect to rent a huge house or apartment which potentially you’ll be used to if coming from somewhere like Australia (unless you’ve already secured a high powered job – good on you if so). Never fear however, because London’s palpable energy makes up for any of these other concessions you may have to make.
When we first arrived in 2010, the only area we were aware of was Notting Hill because, you guessed it, we had seen the movie! We ended up in a studio room in Bayswater (next door to Notting Hill) which, while well situated in terms of transport and convenience amenities, didn’t really do it for me regarding value for money, comfort, nice neighbours and a homely type of feel. It’s also very touristy – not very “English” at all, unless you’re talking tacky Cool Britannia gift stores. When we first arrived we had no idea how to find a flat in London. In fact, everything we looked at seemed overpriced, dingy, dirty and overwhelmingly bad.
Fast forward a year on from the Bayswater experience, and by chance we ended up in a one bedroom basement flat in a gorgeous area of the east called London Fields. Our flat had been newly refurbished and was positioned as the lower section of a beautiful Georgian-period three-level home. This was a private rental that we happened across by chance (good timing) on Gumtree.com one Sunday morning – the location wasn’t even listed! We loved London Fields so much that we truly believe it was fate that lead us there. With a serene park up the road, coffee shops, markets, many cute dogs and nice people around, we’d finally discovered a part of the city we could truly enjoy; it is what I describe as “my authentic London”. London Fields presented an opportunity to settle in to a community, topped off with the conveniences and joys the east end now offers, including fabulous transport links (at that point our nearest stations were Haggerston and London Fields).
How to find a flat in London – top tips (particularly for first-timers)
This time around we knew we wanted to be in the east, which has really developed over the past few years to become the new, “hip” area of town. With fantastic overground and underground transport links, as well as bus routes heading every which way, and hot new bars, restaurants, coffee shops and cool communal areas opening every day, we knew this is where we wanted to be. Ironically, the flat (or one bedroom apartment/unit) we’ve ended up in is part of a relatively new complex we saw being built when we were last here, and we’d eyed it off saying, “we’d love to live there one day”! The application process and waiting period can be a bit stressful though. Patience is required. Here are my top tips on how to find a flat in London:
1. Start looking the moment you get to town – turnover of properties here is swift, and you have to be online and making phone calls every day to secure an appointment for the properties you want to view. There’s not much point in looking before you get here because real estate agents want you on the ground. Flats are snapped up in a jiffy so be on the ball and check your favourite websites every morning and afternoon. Our go-to sites included rightmove.co.uk and gumtree.co.uk (for private rentals and agency – but be mindful of scams, if it seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
2. Make calls rather than sending emails, in the interest of saving time.
3. Be mindful, real estate fees for those looking to rent may include the agent’s time for showing you around, referencing and administration fees. These are legitimate, BUT only if they’re outlined on a “terms and conditions” agreement. We once had someone try to charge us after showing us around, with no prior warning of a fee, and invoiced via a very dodgy PayPal transaction – I refused to pay and they did not chase me. These costs are part of finding a property here though, and can range from £99 (AU $200) so save your pennies before you arrive.
4. Have savings! In London you need around six weeks deposit, four weeks rent and additional fees (as mentioned above), and you’ll need to have this on hand (or accessible in a bank account/credit card) to secure the accommodation you want. Also, keep in mind it can take weeks to find a job here, and most people are paid monthly, so potentially you’ll need another month’s rent saved too. Rent here is expensive, but once you’re earning the pound it’s not as bad, and cost of living in London is actually rather inexpensive once you begin to “live like a local”, so keep that in mind at the beginning if your outlays are feeling really large and getting the better of you.
5. The referencing process is rigorous, so be prepared – ensure you have details of personal, rental and employer referees on hand, make sure they know they’re likely to hear from a referencing agent (in our case, it was via email) and ask them nicely if they would mind facilitating a swift turn-around of information. You may need pay-slips and/or personal taxation documentation (if you have been/are working for yourself), and ideally you’ll have (or one of you, if you’re a couple) London-based employer details, to show that income will indeed be coming in, and at what level it will be. The process can be a little stressful, but if you’re prepared with all this information and contacts on hand, you’ll be fine.
6. Be open to meeting the owners (landlord(s)) if they’re interested in meeting you. It’s great for keeping the lines of communication open and easy, and you never know when you might need to call on them.
7. If you need to establish yourself with anything from cutlery to kitchen appliances and linen, head directly for inexpensive options (until you’re earning the pound, at least) like the pound stores (e.g Poundland, everything just a £ (situated on most high streets/within high traffic areas)), argos.co.uk, Primark and Matalan. When I first moved here I bought everything from M&S because I didn’t know any better – talk about watching as your money disappears faster than you can say Superman!
Essentially you need to be organised with information,thorough with following up on all aspects of the process with your agent, make sure you have funds saved and available, referees ready to vouch for you, and details of your past, present and future financial situation on hand.
Also, don’t take it for granted you’ll be approved for the property you hope for – have a few options on the boil until someone makes you a solid offer. You definitely need a plan A, B or C, otherwise you’ll be in that hotel/hostel/staying with friends for a good while.
If you’re unsure as to where in London (or any big city, for that matter) would best suit you, do some research – ask your friends on social media for advice, or drop a line to bloggers and expats on the ground in the city – most are happy to share what they’ve learned and we’ve all been in the same boat. Don’t just choose an area because you’ve seen it on TV or because a friend recommends it – it might not feel or be right for you, or it could be miles from where you’re meant to be working. If in doubt, and if possible, consider signing a six month lease so that if for any reason where you first end up isn’t ideal, you can move on. In summary, read, ask questions, and discover a life you love here in old Blighty!
Do you have a question, or perhaps additional advice to share? Please let us know in the comments below.
Admittedly I’ve been pretty exhausted over the past few days. The flight from Australia to the UK does take it out of you, although the destination is totally worthwhile. I’d hoped to have posted more here on our adventures but it just hasn’t happened. Quick recap though, we’re staying in Shoreditch (to the east), near the original favourite neck of the woods, London Fields. We’ve gone back to explore pretty precincts like Angel and Islington, and into the city by the Thames. More images and stories to come, but for now, a quick look at Christmas in grey old Blighty (and I say that in the most affectionate of tones).
Off to the 02 tonight to see a concert filled with fab ‘old timers’, like Steps, Rick Astley, Bananarama, Jason… and Kylie! Happy 21st all … glad to see you’re still here x
Christmas in the city: looking across to St Paul’s beautiful cathedral from One New Change centre
Breakfast with a view this morning from Crowne Plaza level 7, 100 Shoreditch High Street
Who wouldn’t want to visit anywhere that’s called ‘majestic wines’? (Shoreditch High Street)
I realise I’m a little slow off the mark, compared with a lot of people who have no end of law of attraction stories. I’ve just discovered the ‘Law of Attraction’, via an amazing book (bible?) lent to me, Ask and it is Givenby Esther and Jerry Hicks.
Evidently it’s all similar or the same principle as The Secret which was huge a few years back. Indeed the law of attraction stories in there were inspired by Ask and it is Given (you’ll need to listen to some interviews with the Hicks’ to find out more).
I’m learning in Ask and it is given that if we’re guided by how we ‘feel’, that we have the best chance of following our true paths. There are many, many inspiring law of attraction stories out there (and now, on this blog, like here and here).
When we feel great, as in, we feel/know things are right, then ultimately we’re doing the right thing and are very ‘connected’ with our source energy.
Law of attraction stories: the feeling of ‘home’ or belonging
Tonight, walking through my old London neighbourhood, London Fields and quaint Broadway Market (pictured below).
I remembered how every day here I felt happy. From the moment the flat ‘found us’ by chance, the energy in the neighbourhood felt right. It was the law of attraction. It’s a law of attraction love story!
I loved walking in that gate every day, loved the little flat, adored the park, markets, shops, dogs in pubs…
Every moment felt right, and leaving felt so wrong, to the point where I know I wasn’t meant to leave (at that time, anyway). Life was ‘right’.
The energy was flowing and I was meant to be there in that place at that time; perhaps in another life, I’d be there for longer.
Given these kinds of situations then, how do you get that feeling back?
How do you make another situation ‘right’?
Not that I’m unhappy with my lot (on the contrary, I realise I’m one of the lucky ones), but curious – anyone got any insights?
What are YOUR law of attraction stories? Let me know in the comments.
PS you might be able to tell from the newer posts in this blog – my law of attraction story ended up pretty great, because a few years later I’m back living just two train stations away from Broadway Market.
The Profile Magazine chicks were lucky enough to attend Runway Twenty.Twelve on Saturday night. A super fab fashion show presented by Cachelle Model Management in Cairns at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Champers, cocktails, music, food and fashion … what more could a girl ask for?
Maybe to meet a celeb or two? We did bump in to uber cool top designer, Wayne Cooper, who I discovered is from the same part of East London as we loved. He even hung out at Broadway Market like we used to!
But who really wants to read about a fashion show when you can watch one? A sneaky peek sample here x
Welcome to Travel Live learn, where we are passionate about living a life full of great adventures. We are Sarah + Cooper: we know life's short, and we're here to encourage you to make the most of it! We have worked in media, communication and creative roles for many years, and have spent over 10 years living and working abroad. Our hottest content topics here are pet friendly travel, house + pet sitting, and designing a life as expats or digital nomads wherever in the world you want to be. Join our community of over 11,000 like-minded adventurers - find out more by signing up for the mailing list and our Facebook Group. Find us on YouTube too. NEW podcast now live: search 'Freedom and Four Paws' on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts or your fave podcast service provider.