Friday, August 16, 2013

Home Sweet Home

We are flying out today to begin our Baltic Sea Cruise Holiday.
Copenhagen, Tallin, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm.  Pinch me, please!
We both love to cruise and we are so excited.  I can't wait to get back and tell you all about it.
(I just reluctantly removed about 12 exclamation points from this paragraph.)

You can follow along with the cruise on Instagram and Twitter,
but I can't promise that every photo won't be food, ocean or cobblestone.

You can also find me guest posting over on The Nectar Collective with Melyssa
where I'm sharing some travel tips.

I will be leaving you in good hands.  While I'm away I have some very special friends guest posting for me.
You're going to love them.  I certainly do.   
They are the people that have helped make London home for me.
I asked them to write about one simple question...
How has being an expat changed you?
You are going to love reading their responses! 

But, today I'm going to talk about the renting in London. Riveting stuff, I know.

During our moving process, I received several questions about the rental process in London.
Since we've been in London, we've had two short term lets and are now in our second long term lease. Today I'm sitting at my new desk and I'm going to share a bit about the process and share a few photos of our new place.   

Renting in London

Finding a place to live in London is a definite challenge.
And at times, the process completely sucks.  But it has to be done.  So here are some basics.  
It's kind of a long read and unless you are actually planning to rent in London
you may be bored to tears.  

Renting in London


The hardest part is deciding where in London you want to live.  Kensington, Notting Hill, Wapping.  North of the river or south?  Which zone do you want to live in?  There is so much to consider.

Each neighborhood has it's own personality.  If you have the time, it's best to spend a day or two exploring an area to get a feel for it.  If not, you will have to rely on personal recommendations and online research. 

Transportation links has to be a major concern.  Getting across London can be a challenge and you don't want to have 3 hours of commuting to work each day.  That gets old very quickly.
Renting in London

Renting in London is so expensive.  It's crazy.  Be prepared to pay 3 or 4 times more than you are used to if your from Texas like me.   Most listings are stated at  £ per calendar week (pcw) so you have to take that amount and plug it into a formula for £ per calendar month (pcm).

Utilities are usually extra, as well as the television fees and the council tax which can be very expensive.  Most rentals required a 6 week deposit and first months rent up front.  There will also be administrative fees and inventory charges which are typically several hundred pounds.    

It's also important to consider what your money will get you.  This can vary greatly across London.  £2,000 a month in Nottinghill will get you something completely different than £2,000 in Bermondsey. 

Renting in London 

Before you start looking, you should know exactly what you want.  How many rooms?  Outdoor space? Do they allow pets?

Most London rentals are furnished or semi-furnished.  Which can be a good thing or a bad thing.  Be sure you know exactly what will be included.  We had to make just a few Ikea purchases to fill in the gaps.  

It's sometimes difficult to live with other peoples stuff.  You may lose out in the couch or bed lottery.  And often smaller things like kitchen wares and appliances are second hand items that you may just want to box up and hide away.

Be very specific and know which requirements are must haves and which things are negotiable.   The reason this is so important is because of the next item.  

Renting in London

Estate Agents

We started our search online.  But things move so fast that by the time you see a place online it's probably no longer available.   I recommend starting online, because it gives you a feel for what is available in a certain area.  But you can't really find a rental without going through an Estate Agent.  They are the gatekeepers of rentals in London.  And you either love them or hate them, depending on the day.

We registered with about 5 different agencies during our last search.  We knew where we wanted to live, how much we wanted to pay and what we were looking for.  Often no matter how many times we gave them this information, they wasted our time.  Scheduled meetings that turned into no shows.  Three hours looking at 4 places, none of which matched our criteria.  Some of them won't even talk to you until you tell them your income.  
One agent told us that we really didn't have time to view any properties, because they were going so fast.  We should just make our decision based on the listing photographs.  (Don't ever do that if you can help it.  It's amazing how different the reality can be from the listing.)

Renting in London


This process is really not much fun.  I was so over it by the time it was done.  Millions of phone calls and emails.  Appointments.   The agents all seem to drive clown cars.  It's impossible to be graceful when getting in or out.  Not to mention their crazy driving.  Most agent's cars have all sorts of dings on them.  Wear your seatbelt.

Typically, landords are looking for someone to move in within the next month, so you can't really even start the process until you are about ready to go.  Then you have a limited time to find something.  It's stressful and frustrating.  (I'm painting such a nice picture for you, aren't I?) 

The places that you are looking at are typically occupied.  I'm amazed at how some people live.  We saw some pretty gross places.  Dirty undies on the floor.  Dirty dishes. Whenever our old place was being shown I always made sure it was presentable.  Many people don't make the effort.  So you have to look past that sometimes.  The places will usually get a good professional clean before you move in.  When we saw this place we wanted to just move right in.
It's also really important to pay a lot of attention to the surrounding area.  How far is the nearest bus stop, tube station, grocery store and pub?  You know.  The important stuff.  

Renting in London


Once you find the right place, you do have to move really quickly.  We spent about 8 minutes in this place.  Made an offer within the hour.  The next morning the offer was accepted and we had about 5 hours to get all of our ducks in a row.  References, employment confirmation, funds transferred, three months of bank statements, standing orders, contract reviewed and signed.  It was a mad scramble.  Most leases are 12 months and a six month break clause is also common.  
Renting in London

Then is was time for a huge sigh and a cocktail.  We moved in a few weeks later not really even sure about the details of the place, since we'd only spent a few minutes looking around.  But I think we did good and I'm thankful to our Estate Agent Kate at Foxton's Blackheath.   We are getting settled in and it's starting to feel like home. 

What is your best tip for renting in London?


  1. This is hilarious because you put into words my EXACT experience with flat-hunting! It was such a crazy experience. We only looked at flats on one day and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have survived a second. It was so odd choosing a place to live for a year after only spending 5 harried minutes in it. When we got home at the end of the day I couldn't even remember the most basic of things about the flat and just crossed my fingers that we'd love it! (Luckily we do!) I thought we just had an exceptionally rushed agent, but I guess they're all that way!

    P.S. I saw the beautiful map art on your wall on Groupon yesterday. I almost bought it and then realized that part of our rental agreement is no hanging pictures on the walls. :o( Boooo.

  2. As someone who lets property rather than rents herself, I guess I see things from a different perspective. I have the same love hate relationship with estate agents - they seem to leave things till the last minute before they 'show people' the property. I've learnt to be quite strict. One tenant wanted a new loo seat (the old one was less than a year old), others have asked me to remove beds, sofas etc. Which simply isn't feasible. I prefer to let directly (and do so sometimes), because it saves me the estate agent letting fees (11% +VAT) on the rental price (that's for an UNMANAGED property).

    Things like hanging pictures on walls are generally ok if my tenants ask and are willing to make good when they leave though (everything is deliberately painted white or magnolia to make it easy to do that).

    Have a wonderful holiday!

  3. Such a cute place! Love the built in bookshelves! And really interesting info on apartment hunting in London!

  4. Happyeverafter_BrideAugust 16, 2013 at 6:57 AM

    I gather its fairly similar to renting in Sydney then except, are you saying the Estate agents drive you to the rentals? Wow, if that is the case! I had always just met the agents at the property before.

  5. You have such a beautiful home! Wow, reading that story, your home is even more spectacular! I hope you have a wonderful cruise! :)

  6. Just found your blog (through The Nectar Collective)! I'm so excited I have another blog to read! :) Lots of posts to catch up on! My best friend lives in Austin,Texas. I loved the visits there! So fun!
    I'm new to the blogging world, so it's taking some getting used to. If you get a chance, follow my blog here:
    Have a great weekend!

  7. selena...your blog is gorgeous. i just found it through true colours, and i am following you now! your travels are inspiring, your blog design is stunning, and everything here is just calling to me! cant wait to catch up on your blog :)
    best to you!

  8. I love your new home, Selena! It's so cute and well put together. I love that map print! So amazing and colorful- I would love that in our apartment! Have fun on your cruise, I can't wait to hear/see all about it- sounds like an absolute dream come true!

  9. I love this home. It looks so put together but homey at the same time. I also like the 'travel' touches you have throughout.

  10. Just found your blog today. I LOVE the world map over your desk. I also love your apartment. It looks so cozy and bright.

  11. sounds like such a hassle! your home is beautiful though

  12. I'm a New York girl who dreams of seeing London in the near future, so this post was fascinating! It really does sound like a mad scramble to find a new home- and in such a short amount of time! You seem to have done well settling in so far, if your cozy photos are any indication :)

  13. I'll admit that I skimmed the post because I will not be renting in London (not anytime soon anyway) but I had to comment anyway to tell you that I LOVE the map photo and airmail pillow. Your home looks lovely x

  14. Great advice! I'd also add to see the neighborhood at night and during the day. It can be really...different. hehe. Anyway, we've been in our first London flat for a year and needed more room. Moving in a month (sigh). And where did you get that picture hanging over your desk? I want.


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