When I first moved to London five years ago, I knew a family friend who had a flat and I just moved there. It was an hour and a half away from my university, but it was cheap rent and I had a student travel card, so the costs were good. I never loved that flat, but it was on the cheap side again and every time I looked for an alternative I talk myself into staying in the same flat because of expenses.
In the end of 2018, four months before my annual contract ends, the landlord got in touch saying he wanted his flat back. That was kind of a shock for me to be honest because I assumed I will remain living there for a while! Not because I loved it, but because having a cheaper place meant I can spend all my extra pocket money on travelling. I emotionally paid for that flat though with the horror of spiders, maggots and mice there. I had serious nightmares there, but I told myself it was worth it to be able to see the world! I felt like my dreams shattered when I received the “leave request” because any other flat would be double the monthly amount and the search for a new reasonable place started.
How to find an apartment/flat in London?
First, I had to decided where I wanted to be in London. London is a huge place and every part of it gives you something different. For example, a lot of the Arab and Iranian Muslim communities are in North and West London. The hip street art cool vibe is mostly in East London and so on. London’s most expensive area is known as zone 1 and it’s basically the most exciting part of London and is referred to as central London. Then the areas expand in circle around London and with each expansion you are a zone further from the centre. Depending on where you are in that zone, it sometimes take an hour to travel from zone 4 to Central London. The further you are however the cheaper it becomes to rent, but with more expensive travel costs.
A lot of students a young professionals choose to live in Zone 2 to be close to the fun and to save up on transports, but those people are usually sharing a property with several housemates. Finding a shared property is the cheapest option in London and the easiest one to get into. It is also a good option when you are moving to London for the first time. After having my not very pleasant experience with a flatmate previously, I knew I was not ready to share my living space with friends or strangers again and that I prefer having my own space.
From my search South London -below the river- seemed like the most affordable to live although the public transport options are not the best. East London is popular because there are reasonably priced flats and good links to central London, where most people work.
After I determined the area I liked in terms of safety, public transportations and close by amenities I started the online search for a property. I looked on Zoopla, Rightmove and Movebubble. There are many more websites that always pop up in London, but these are the most common three.
How much does it cost to rent in London?
There is not actually a straight answer to that. If you are sharing in a house with four people, you can find a room for £300-600 per month, but if you want your own flat it will depend on the zone and the proximity to public transports and a studio or a one bed flat can be from £850 up to £1600. There are available two-bed flats for £1200-1600, but finding something you like on the price point you want is always a challenge,.
The problem is not only the actual rent that you have to pay every month, but you have to have some savings as well to start the process of moving to a new place and here are some of the costs:
You have to pay referencing fees and other admin fees and those depend on the renting agency that you choose to rent with and it can be from £100 up to £500, so read the fine print and ask upfront how much are the fees.
You have to pay a deposit before you move in and that will be a month or two of rent in advance, so if you are renting for £1400/month it can be up to £2000.
You usually pay the first month in advance.
If you are working, there is something called council tax, which is something you have to pay to the council quarterly and that is another fee on top of you rent.
Some new buildings, will require you to pay an additional maintenance fee and that is an additional pain.
Then of course there are bills on top of all of that like gas, electricity, water and internet.
Before you sign the contract you have to factor all of these costs as well. Besides, most renting agencies want you to make a certain amount of money before they rent you the property. A lot of the time the renting agencies do not accept students or none established freelancers and if you are the latter, then you might have to search harder to rent directly from private landlords or opt for the house shares.
Renting in London can get very expensive, but buying a property is another bag of worms that costs so much as well, but the mortgage monthly payments are not as bad as rent ironically.
If London is too much, which to be honest it is, you can choose one of the cities around London to live in instead and commute, but that can get expensive and exhausting as well. As much as I love London, it pains me to be paying ridiculous amount on rent and transports.
After three months of search and a lot of disappointing viewings, I found a suitable place to live and to work and I am now typing this from my new living room Praise God. Although finding a flat, packing all my life, paying more money to moving companies, I am very blessed to be able to live in this beautiful city -for now- and to finally get away from all the mice and spiders that were causing me some much trauma! Hoping for a content and peaceful life in this new place of mine and hopefully will do a mini tour for it once it’s tidy. I am surrounded by boxes still…