Moving to London; What to Consider

moving to london

Moving to London can be a daunting but very exciting time.  Last October I moved from Birmingham to London to take my dream job.  When researching the move, I couldn’t really find much info that I found helpful so I’ve decided to put a little cheat sheet together for anybody considering moving here.

Moving to London and what to consider

London is a huge city that can feel overwhelming. There’s so much on offer here in terms of shopping, bars, food, theatre – you name it, London has it (except for Miller & Carter it would seem…). There is a common misconception that to get the full benefit of living in London, that you’ve got to be in central London – wrong! London has little pockets that thrive in their own right. I live south of the river and there’s still lots going on. I live on a quiet residential street and sometimes I have to remind myself that I do actually live in London (it feels no different to the street I grew up on in Birmingham – except for the cost!)

Besides, central London is only a thirty-minute tube away and I’ll take that and my quiet street over hustle and bustle any day!

Picking where to live

With London being so big, it can be a bit daunting knowing where to live.  When I was first considering moving to London, I looked at areas around my friends but quickly worked out that it would leave me too far from work and in terms of priority, my daily commute won hands down when I was decided what I wanted to be easier – commuting or seeing my friends?

I was lucky in the fact that I knew a few people that currently or have lived in London and when I told them the area I would be working in, they advised me on some places to look. But if you’re not so lucky, consider spending a few weekends down here exploring some potential areas and ask on your Facebook or Twitter to see if anybody has any insight.

Places I considered before settling on Putney were Wandsworth, Fulham, Hammersmith, Finsbury Park and Bethnal Green.

moving to London: bedroom

Other things to consider:

  • What’s your budget? Your budget can have a huge implication on where you end up living when moving to London. I chose to be south of the river because it was slightly cheaper and because Wandsworth Council is NOTORIOUS for their cheap council tax – seriously, I paid more for a 2 bed flat in Birmingham than I do for a 5-bed house with a garden in Putney. Remember to ask how much bills are on top of your rent – don’t get caught out.
  • How many people do you want to live with? The more people you live with, the cheaper the bills are between you. I live with three others and for me, this is the perfect number. I looked at house’s with seven people in and honestly, I was just overwhelmed. I also looked at flats with just one other but I decided against that too – I wanted to meet people and wanted to live in a house with a garden.
  • Car Parking – Driving in London can seem like cost after cost with the congestion charge, clean air changes and yes in most cases, you’ll need to pay to park outside your own home. Research if a permit is required, how much it is and more importantly, how busy is your street – will you even be able to find a space? You may have to leave your car at home, while you get a proof of address that will be required to apply for a permit.

Where to find a Room/Flat

Private Rental

If you don’t have a money tree in your back garden and are considering a house share, is a great place to start.  The London rental market can move quite quickly so I recommend signing up for early bird access to make sure you can contact potential housemates as soon as they list a property on the website.

There’s honestly no point looking months in advance for ‘the room’ as the rental market moves so quickly. Just something to keep in mind as you research. You’ll need to be ready to move quite quickly so make sure you have your deposit ready way in advance of your move.

Another thing, don’t get disheartened if you’re turned down for that dream house share.  Like I said earlier, the London house share market is super competitive and the likelihood is, is that you’re not the only person looking at the room.  I was turned down twice before I found my current house and in all honesty, I think it was fate. I have dream housemates and a lovely place to live!

Through an Agency

If scouring SpareRoom and being interviewed by prospective housemates is not your thing, you can easily find somewhere to live through an agency. I looked at a few houseshares through an agency but decided not to go down this route purely because you get no say on who you live with and it seemed like housemates were more like passing ships.

In either scenario, you’ll need to be ready to move quickly and will likely need 6 weeks rent for a deposit. This seems to be pretty common in London. Bear in mind that were will also be agency fees to pay – up to £120, although some of these are being phased out.

If you’re not from London, consider booking in some viewing on a Saturday and spend the day down here viewing properties. I viewed six properties in one weekend and it made it less stressful that coming down for the one viewing here and there.

moving to london, dressing table

Consider your commute (and the cost)

As somebody who used to walk to work when I lived in Birmingham, commuting costs was never really something I had considered before.  I’d also never struggled to get a seat on public transport (as I didn’t really take it).  Public transport in London is busy and if you can avoid it, I’d recommend you live close by to your work in the first instance until you understand how that busy commute is going to affect your life.

In London, the buses have a flat rate of £1.50 and you can take as many journeys as you want within the first hour of tapping your Oyster/contactless card.  Besides walking or cycling, buses are the cheapest way to travel.  I also find that they are the most comfortable (depending on where on the route you live) and I always get a seat in the morning.  The tube – not so much – it’s already packed by the time I get on with not much room left and I stand all the way to work.

You’ll need to work out whether it’s better to get a travel pass or do pay as you go. As I live and work within the same zone and walk home when I can, I use the pay as you go option (plus it means I can use my railcard, more on that below!)

Get yourself a railcard

One thing I didn’t know before moving to London is that if you have a 16-25 or 26-30 railcard, you can get a discount on your tube travel after 10am on a weekday and all day at weekends.  The railcard was £30 for the year and once I got it added onto my Oyster (you have to go to a tube station and ask a member of staff to add it on for you), I noticed a significant reduction in the cost of my tube travel.  My tubes that were £2.50 were now £1.70 – not huge journey by journey but those 80p’s have soon added up.  It also makes it cheaper to get back to Birmingham as I save about a third on offpeak rail fare!

After 10 months, I’m starting to feel right at home and like I’ve been in London for much longer. I’m really glad I chose my first place down here where I did and while I moan it’s a little too far from the tube when I’m feeling lazy, it feels so homely and never overwhelms me. Central London and my friends are not too far away. So if you’re moving to London, I hope you’re ready for an adventure!

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