07 Nov 2019
Admittedly, this guide will be very tempered by how long you are in London and what you plan to do here. Every person will have unique needs, but this guide will give you a good foundation to base the rest of your research off.
If you’re moving to the UK from overseas, take a look at our general guide, and make sure that you have all your paperwork in order, this will make any conversations with landlords much easier. If you’re moving from within the UK, still make sure that your paperwork is in order, and be prepared for the increase in rent.
When moving to London, one of the first concerns is where in London will you be staying? If you’re here just for a few weeks, you can probably stay wherever is cheapest and easiest, but if you’re here for more than a month, then don’t compromise, as it will affect rent, transport, and general happiness.
Shoreditch may seem very cool, but it is a bit out, both in distance and in cost. Camberwell, Elephant and Castle and Walthamstow each have decent rent costs, around £500 per month. Consider transport (overground is much cheaper and not much slower than the Rube), crime rates, convenience, amenities, and how close you are to work.
If you are still stuck with all the choices, use SpareRoom’s Where to Live in London quiz.
Once you have a rough idea of where to live or what your essentials are, its time to go house shopping.
AirBnB is classic and has plenty of rooms available across the country. It’s cheaper, easier, and often guarantees more safety and nicer people. (If they don’t like meeting new people, they probably wouldn’t have offered their spare room) As a tip, look at places that offer a monthly price, as that will probably be cheaper (less cleaning and waiting for new bookings on the host’s end) and will allow you to relax for a while to get used to the city.
HomeStay is a popular alternative, and your host will also live there, so you will have a friendly face and starting point to introduce London to you. HomeStay also try to match you with landlords who share your interests, so you might make a good friend as well.
If you are in London for the holiday periods, look at university campus accommodation. LSE and UCL both offer student halls for a decent price, in prime locations, and often have a full list of amenities, though double-check.
Many people also sublet over the holidays, and those rooms are on offer at SpareRoom, MoveFlat, Ideal Flatmate, and more. If you are in London for work, consider Mondaytofriday.com, where you can rent a room just for the working week, potentially reducing your accommodation costs as well.
If you have a bit more money, you could consider a serviced apartment, such as the rooms that booking.com and Wotif offer.
However, you don’t have to go for the traditional accommodation. Consider staying at a hostel for a budget and to meet plenty of awesome people. Admittedly, some of them are aimed towards younger partying backpackers, but there are plenty with strong longer-term inhabitants and awesome offerings. London offers plenty of clean and interesting hostels, with free wifi, coworking spaces, bars, and more. Depending on how much you want to spend and what you’re willing to live with, you can share a room with others or get a single private room. Honestly, the latter choice can be better than a much more expensive hotel.
If you’re really on a budget, there are free accommodation options out there. These will come with more instability and may require more of your time to work or take care of the property, but could easily be worth it.
House sitting is one of the best options out there, and you can look for options at trustedhousesitters.com or housecarers.com, though you may have to pay a registration cost to get started.
Similarly, you could try a house swap, which comes with the benefit of your home also being cared for! Homeexchange.com or lovehomeswap.com are good options to provide you with all the amenities of a home for none of the cost.
If you have the time, consider work exchange, where you work for free board in the city. HelpStay, Workaway and Helpx provide options for five hours of work a week for lodging. You can also apply this to the hostel option above, where you offer to work the desk for a few hours in exchange for free board. However, you may need to have been at that particular hostel for a short time and met the people before they’ll accept you.
If you have more flexibility, consider becoming a property guardian. This may also require a small amount of work, and often only two-weeks of notice is given before you may have to move out, but you can get housing in an empty home for very cheap.
If you have even more flexibility and are much more social, consider CouchSurfing. This is often much more short term (only for a week or so), though hosts are generally flexible, but allows you to meet new people and make friends for free. Take a look at our guide to the concept for more information.
Whatever you decide to go with, and wherever you choose to live in London, there are a couple of things that you should keep in mind while looking.
Make sure that you do it fast. This can be rather stressful, but it is a byproduct of London’s ‘go go go’ attitude and the wealth of other people who are also searching for the same thing. Rooms go incredibly quickly, so you can’t take a week to look at a property, then another to consider whether or not you really want it. Do the research beforehand, then sign.
If forking over that amount of money for a deposit or initial payment is scary (and you should be cautious), make such that you are familiar with the Tenancy Deposit Protection laws, and that you negotiate when you’re there. If it’s a single, ask to reduce the rent, offer to do your own gardening, make sure that you check current damages, and go with your gut on the landlord or flatmates.
Try to negotiate directly with the landlord rather than any estate agents, as they will require a (rather high) fee for admin and their services.
Check whether your bills are included in the rent, as that can often be an unexpected cost that may shake your budget.
Check whether or not you can walk (or get the bus) to work. The closer to the centre, the higher the rent, but living further out can be incredibly expensive in transport fees and in time.
With all of that, hopefully, you’ll have found yourself a fantastic place to live in London. If you need any help moving all of your stuff to your new place, take a look at our moving and storage services.