Renting in London ; Advice on Money And Location

renting in london oxford street

 

When you tell someone that you’re looking for a place in London they all say the same thing: ‘Good Luck!’ I investigate why renting in London has developed such a bad reputation and argue that it shouldn’t deter people from moving to London…

I thought I’d get a rounder view by inviting Adam back onto the blog to talk about his experiences as well as mine when it comes to renting in London. All you need to know is that his name is Adam, he is 21, originally from Coventry and he rents in London! Without further ado, here is our informal chat about renting in London.

 

First of all, let’s talk about our renting background…

ADAM: 

I’ve been renting for three years in London since I left school. I’ve rented two different properties and a third one beginning soon.

HANNAH: 

My background is literally the same; three years of renting in London but one of those years for us was student on-campus accommodation which is kind of different.

 

Why rent in London?

ADAM:

I’ve always wanted to live in London and the opportunity to study here was the initial step to getting here. As I’m sure everyone is aware, living in London isn’t cheap but there is a reason so many people move here each year including myself. When you live in London you almost have to accept the fact that renting is the only financially viable route to staying as buying property is a fallacy unless you’re earning the big bucks.

HANNAH:

I think that renting in London, especially the prices, is just a part of London living as much as anything else. Living in London is a lifestyle choice to live somewhere busy and exciting with great transport links and be in a really beautiful space with lots of creative people and expensive drinks and expensive housing is literally just a part of that. I think that your London friends all get it as well, you’re all doing the same thing so spending so much money on rent doesn’t feel as abnormal as non-Londoners might think.

 

What’s been your renting experience so far in regards to contracts, pricing and places?

ADAM:

Coming out of school, seeing contract prices for the first time can be daunting but generally if you study or work here you’ll be subsidised for the cost of living. I first lived in halls of residence while studying and it was cheaper than private renting so the transition can also include daunting numbers. One downside to renting in London is the property you actually get for your money is often much older and far more disheveled than if you were to rent for the same price anywhere else in the country even with the subsidies. My first experience renting privately transpired to be rather negative as rich Landlords pawn off their responsibilities to understaffed agencies meaning the already crumbling houses worsen in state as you live there. Mould, flooding, broken appliances, damp, gas leaks, overgrown gardens to name a few problems which are largely ignored or postponed. These are the more negative aspects of London living. There are however positives; you pay the price of living in such conditions to begin with and in return you benefit from amazing transport links and a real taste of London life. I think that this is a process which every Londoner will go through or endure at at least one point when they first arrive but it teaches you a lot and prepares you for your next private renting experience because you know you can do better if you find the right landlord, property and location.

Contracts are generally drawn from a similar template; having a good landlord that you can directly contact is important as we’ve had various issues regarding our contracts. If you can contact them then you’re able to negotiate and ensure that they uphold their half of the contractual responsibilities. In terms of pricing, landlords are able to charge you a high place for renting because of the high demand and competition for housing so just be aware.

HANNAH:

Our student housing was amazing but we paid the price for it too, it was about £500 a month. Our second house that we lived in for two years was disgusting and about £450. I’m so ashamed of it; the area, the smell of it, the peeling paint and mouldy walls, the unsafe door and everything. The only positive thing about it is its proximity to Richmond Park- our only escape! So we’ve had a sheltered experience in student accommodation and a shitty time with private unreachable landlords but hope to have mediated these problems with our next contract which is another two year contract but in a new place much closer to central with a landlord on call. We’ve had quite the mixed bag of experiences but we’re sure about this next place!

 

London pricing: How does it work? What is your understanding of it?

ADAM:

London pricing is unique in that you are paying more for the distance to a bus stop or station and local landmarks than you are for the property itself. It’s easy to be offended by the cost of a ‘well worn’ property before knowing that it’s next to a transport link. Living way out of central London can still be expensive if, say, you’re right by a station on the Victoria line. You should also be aware of hidden costs on top of the suggested monthly rental price as you could find yourself paying anywhere up to £200 extra a month before utilities.

HANNAH:

I really want to talk about house pricing because people don’t really understand it. There are so many elements to house pricing in London, for example: how new is the property? Is it in central and close to popular amenities? Is it out the way of everything? Does it have good transport links? Is it next to a pocket park or a larger, more sought after park? Is it close to a landmark? If you want to rent a really big house then you will probably sacrifice on the location and the area. You might end up with a really nice house for a good price on a questionable estate. If you want a nice area in central London on a tube line that’s fairly new but within budget then this is all definitely more possible than people think- I mean that’s what we’ve just done! But we had to sacrifice on space so we got a one bed instead of a two bed. (We sacrificed our guest bedroom / gym / office space for a larger lounge instead). I think that’s the best way I can explain how the system works. Sometimes you can get large properties in great areas but they’re old and often have damp issues or other issues. You’ve just got to decide what’s important to you. For us, we wanted a new property so we’d have less disasters than this sh*thole!

 

Is there a typical budget someone should have? What should be considered absurd?

ADAM:

It all depends on what your income is. For a student in a house share, I wouldn’t pay more than £500 a month. If you were looking for a place on your own and it was your first rental you’ll probably be looking anywhere between £1200 and £1600 a month for a one bedroom property. For a young professional on their own it would be absurd to pay anything above this higher bracket unless it was a luxury apartment overlooking the Thames in Canary Wharf! Again, it all depends on what you’re looking for; you could find a cheap property that suits you well but is miles from your place of work yet equally you could be paying 2000 for a cupboard on Putney High Street.

HANNAH:

Our budget has always been kind because there’s two of us and I don’t think I could do it on my own! I think for the average professional a nice property is around £1300- that’s the typical price. I, personally, wouldn’t pay any more than that. I’m glad we halve the cost between us and have money leftover!

 

What is it like looking for places to rent in London?

ADAM:

It’s like fighting your other bear siblings for the corpse of a deer. (Laughs). Competition is high and estate agents often make you feel like you have to make a decision within five minutes of seeing a property as demand for housing is so high. Many times I have wanted a property and found that I had lost it because I was either a few hours too late in responding or wasn’t flexible enough with the landlord’s demands where another tenant was. In this way, you have to bend over to the demands of the landlord in any property or find yourself without a place to stay. There’s an abundance of properties available and you can often arrange five to ten viewings in a day if you were really committed (which you have to be). Searching for a property is largely a game of ‘what am I willing to sacrifice in order to live in X or whatever?’ I’ve especially found that most landlords will tell you ‘no’ if you have pets or want a pet because there’s a long line of tenants who don’t have pets and would be less hassle for them so finding a property when you have animals becomes all the more difficult and stressful.

An estate agent said to us recently that if you see a property and it ticks three out of five boxes of what you’re looking for then it’s probably the perfect place for you as even he acknowledged that there is sacrifice in housing yourself in London.

HANNAH:

I understand why people say ‘good luck’ when finding a house in London because there are so many things to consider; make a list of what you want in a property and look for it, make a lot of house viewing appointments to really check things out and be sceptical about everything! We saw a property that looked super cute online but was small, damp, mouldy and falling apart when we arrived for a house viewing! We had estate agents cancel on us because of lost keys and other excuses, we had them try to rush us into things and hide extortionate admin fees from us. It’s so important to ask about every little fee, even if calling them out makes for an uncomfortable situation! Be confident and don’t be ripped off. Don’t give into the rush of everything or else you might agree to something in a panic that isn’t right for you. We nearly said yes to a property way out of London that was clean and new but a little small but actually ended up going to a newer and bigger place right in central London the following day that loved pets and didn’t charge crazy fees! It’s the perfect home for us and I’m glad we waited a little bit. The worst property we’ve ever lived in was a house of absolute disasters but we felt like we had to rush into saying yes because the estate agents had us believe we couldn’t get anything better than this for our price range. Spoiler alert: that’s not true!

 

What should people be looking for when they check places out?

ADAM:

Okay, first of all, check to see if the estate agent is standing in front of anything. Often they will direct your attention away from flaws in the property and the rushed sell often means that you miss key drawbacks to the property. Always check the paint on the walls and ceiling– if its bumpy then the property is likely to have been susceptible to mould. I would also suggest checking via a website like Rightmove the wifi speeds for the area and if they suit your needs. I would also check if the rent you’re paying covers certain utilities like water. I would also say to ask about washing machines and fridges and dishwater etc because ‘unfurnished’ isn’t always clear. I would take the time to find bus stops and stations and shops nearby and listen out when you’re in the property for any noise pollution whilst you’re there (you can never be totally sure though if the neighbour upstairs is keen on throwing parties).

HANNAH:

Pick many properties at once; I know it feels like juggling too many plates but the number you start out with will quickly diminish as estate agents ring you to tell you that they have gone off the market before your viewing slot or the price has changed and if neither of those things then you shall cross so many properties off at viewings when they don’t turn out to be what you expected. Estate agents are amazing con artists. I bet they go right in with a selfie stick and a contorted back in the very top corner of the room to make those images look like the property is spacious! At a viewing you want to be checking the floors for chips, the walls and ceilings for bumps, water stains and cracks. Is there mould? Are the windows and doors secure? Is it in a safe area? Breathe; does it smell? Can you sense damp at all? If the current tenants are kind of messy then check their habits in case their wet laundry or something is breeding mould. Check bathroom suites and any taps for dodgy plumbing– even if you have to fake a wee! If you can go all PI on a landlord’s ass then do because it might be enlightening!

 

Tips, tricks or final thoughts on renting in London

ADAM:

Ask questions. Don’t go for the first property you see, it’s often the twentieth that’s perfect for you. You can always do better but know how fierce your competition is. Never rush a decision yet be aware that the clock is ticking. London isn’t for everyone. I get that. Renting here is especially daunting yet I would always recommend the city regardless of the drawbacks. Finally, it’s easy to be enchanted by a nice property but sometimes it’s better to forgo a room for your Cabbage Patch Dolls if it means getting to Soho for that tasty tasty pizza from your favourite place in twenty minutes.

HANNAH:

Be smart about it, know what you can and can’t afford. Know what’s important to you in terms of what you can and can’t live in and where you can and can’t be located. Don’t give up. It is hard and it is scary but just use your intuition. If you don’t leave a place with THE feeling then don’t take it. When you find the one that’s right for you tell them immediately so that you don’t lose it! I don’t want to be one of those people but…good luck!

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