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How to find Accommodation When you are New to London

No matter where you’re moving from or what your circumstances, the first task on your list is going to be finding somewhere to live. Unless you’re lucky enough to know someone who can offer you a place to stay, a house, flat or room hunt is going to be inevitable.

London is a big city, meaning there are loads of different options available to you when searching for accommodation. The following are things that need to be considered.

What type of accommodation are you looking for?

Hostels or hotels may well be the answer for a short duration when you immediately arrive in London.

Thanks to the Internet, searching for such accommodation in the area you need is now simple, with websites such as Trivago and Kayak allowing you to search by location, price and level of accommodation. You can pre-book before your arrival so you know you have a bed for the first few nights.

For hostels in particular, the websites Hostel World and Hostel Booker offer a similar service.

However, although this form of accommodation is great short term, longer stays will see you looking for something a little more permanent.

Finding a room in a shared house

Once again, your search is likely to begin online. Spare Room and Easy Room Mate are two excellent websites that put you directly in touch with people looking for someone like you! One thing to be aware of is that the best rooms are snapped up quickly, so if you see something you like the sound of, be sure to move fast. Another place to find such accommodation is on the website, Gumtree.

Renting a house or flat

The next option is to rent a house or flat. In general, you need to commit to a minimum of six months (although there are always exceptions) if you go down this route. But the advantage is that you get your own private space, and can make it somewhat more ‘homey’ than a room in a shared house. The websites Zoopla, Right Move and Prime Location all list rental properties, and you can narrow your search down by property size, cost and area.

London Property Watch is a good place to get a feel for average rental prices in the various different areas of London.

Other places to find house shares or rental properties include:

  • Word of mouth. Okay, if you’ve just arrived in London you might not know many people, but it’s still worth putting the word out with those you do. If you’re lucky enough to have a job to come to then be sure to let all your work colleagues know you’re in the market for a place to live. The office notice board is also worth checking out.

  • Local newspapers have a property section, and this can be a good place to look. However, as good properties are taken quickly, be sure to buy the paper on the day it’s published, and phone immediately that you see a potential place.

  • Register with letting agents in the area you’re looking to live. You can do this over the phone, online or by visiting the agent in person.

  • For students, you can register at the student accommodation office that you’ll find on campus.

When renting a property you’ll either do this privately, through personal contact with the landlord, or through a letting agency.

Whilst both are fine, renting through an agency sometimes gives you better protection, as they should be regulated. Not that we’re saying renting privately is a bad thing, but as in every walk of life, there are some rotten apples in the cart. If renting through an agent, ensure that they’re regulated by the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS).

Buying a property

If you’re looking to purchase a property then once again the websites Zoopla, Right Move and Prime Location list these. In addition to simply advertising properties, you can also look up the last price a certain house sold for and compare it to others in the area. This is a very useful tool when searching for a property to buy.

What area of London do you want to live in?

House prices, be they purchase, rental or a room in a shared house, vary widely in London depending on the area.

For instance, renting a one bedroom flat in Beckenham will cost on average £227 per week. However, a similar property in the smartest are of Central London will cost upwards of £587 per week (according to London Property Watch).

Some of the most expensive areas of London include Kensington and Chelsea, Notting Hill and Knightsbridge.

Areas a little less central offer far more bang for your buck. These include Peckham, Walthamstow, Willesden, Balham and Finsbury Park. And although these areas are slightly further away from the centre of town, they all offer easy access thanks to the wonderful London Transport system.

Don’t discount areas that you might think are too far out from Central London either. Areas such as Richmond Upon Thames and Crystal Palace offer delightful living in an almost countrified atmosphere, yet are still well connected to the centre by bus, train and tube.

Keep searching

Searching for the perfect place to live in London can, at times, be frustrating thanks to the thousands of other people who are also looking. But with a little tenacity, this wonderful city really can provide you with the accommodation you’re looking for. Be prepared to be flexible, and perhaps consider areas you might not have thought of when you first begin your search.

One tip is to note down the aspects that you simply cannot change: such as property size, must have a garden, parking etc, and then prepare to be a little flexible with everything else. London is such a great place with amazingly varied areas. And one of these will soon be your new home. Enjoy the search!