Renting in London

When I first lived in London about four years ago, I lived with housemates. That was pretty fun: I was able to help my housemate who was learning programming and trying to find a job in tech and we often had long spirited discussions about politics and the economy. It also, however, meant less privacy and less of a place that really felt like my own.

When I moved to Amsterdam, I got an apartment of my own, and loved the space and freedom it gave me. When moving back to London I wanted to keep that, but also knew the rental market was even worse than Amsterdam, with weekly rent prices that are about equal to what my mom pays a month for an apartment at least three times the size (she lives in a relatively small city in the south of the Netherlands).

I was also very limited in the time I had available to do viewings in London. Every day away from Amsterdam was a day I couldn’t be spending on finishing projects at my Amsterdam company, and the weeks were counting down quickly.

My biggest lesson:

Find a letting agency you like, and build a relationship.

There’s no need to involve a relocation company or one of those agencies that you pay to actively search for places. Most letting agencies already offer that as a service for free! Find one or two agencies that look good to you and that operate in the areas of the city you want to live in, and give them a call to tell them about your preferences. They’ll usually email or Whatsapp you a few times per week if new properties come on the market that fit your budget and preferences.

I finally found my (awesome!) apartment via a letting agent that I had done a viewing with earlier, and who felt bad about me not ending up getting that place, although I really liked it. She then immediately scheduled a viewing for me when she came across a similar property. Within a few hours after that viewing my offer was accepted, and a week later I got the keys for my new apartment.

Other things to know when you’re looking to rent in London:

  • Rent prices are often listed per week, instead of per calendar month. To get the monthly price, you multiply by 52, then divide by 12.
  • A letting agency will usually ask you to place a bid. It’s common to outbid the listing price.
  • UK letting contracts usually have a finite duration. 12 or 24 month contracts are pretty standard. If you need to negotiate on price, you could try going for a lower price but a longer contract (e.g. 36 months). If a contract is longer than 24 months, it’s pretty usual to build in a break clause after 24 months, where both the tenant and landlord have the ability to get out of the agreement if they wish to.
  • The market moves very fast. If you see something you like, immediately call the agency to schedule a viewing!