You’ve decided for definite – you want to live in London and your first step to becoming a fully paid up Londoner is finding your lodgings.
I don’t know about you, but maybe you started with a temporary trial period where you were staying with family or friends, house sitting or in a sublet.
However, you’ll want to feel at home if you’re staying for longer – working or studying; to live somewhere where you have your name on the letterbox, can get bank letters, sort out a GP etc.
This permanent post will also help you feel steadier and settled in a big city.
London has an amazing energy, a vibrant city, which is so alive and offering opportunities to so many different types of people calling themselves Londoners.
The area you choose to rent your London flat in is going to depend on your interests, what’s important to you: Convenience, History, Culture etc.
You may be dreaming of Georgian architecture, sash windows and those smart London facades…
Realistically, it’s also going to be decided to a greater extent by your budget and the Tube line that you need to get on for work or Uni every morning.
That said, here are a few neighbourhoods where I think it would be fun to rent your first flat in London.
Victoria Park is affectionately known as “the people’s park”. It serves as the beating heart and lungs of the East end. While some of the neighbourhoods surrounding it are on the overground, others have tube stations.
I think these neighbourhoods offer something for everyone.
Some of them, especially further out off the tube will be cheaper to rent in than very central London. If the majority of your social and work life is based out East and you’re happy on your bike this shouldn’t bother you too much.
Bethnal Green, Mile End and Bow Road
These are the stations you’ll want to search for in and around.
Cambridge Heath is a great overground just a little way down from Bethnal Green and Hackney Wick on the other side of the park.
This is a great area to move to once you’ve decided that East London’s where it’s at for you.
You’ll find markets like the Victoria Park Market, an intentionally temporary project popping up in the park, offering everything from fresh produce to beef bourguignon burgers to vegan tiramisu.
Come rain or shine, you’ll find plenty of pubs and cafes to shelter in nestled in this incredible park. It’s a great place to be young and carefree putting away the Sunday pints. It’s also a great place to come in your 30s for organic porridge and kids pasta portions served by one of our favourite cafes, the Hub.
Nearby Roman road is hipster paradise.
I feel like this is the place that everyone moves to when they first arrive in London.
This phenomena puzzles me somewhat. You have every sort of clan in the capital: Students, (or those who graduated from being ones five minutes ago), Sloanes (displaced from Chelsea over the river to Battersea and then up towards the park) as well as 20 something professionals with a commited interest in binge drinking, bar staff and Aussies, the list goes on.
There is a much more grown up side to Clapham just a little further away from the high street hustle and hailing distance of Infernos.
A huge advantage of living south of the river in Clapham is the access to green spaces, nice bright flats in converted homes and the northern line to whisk you swiftly into central.
Clapham dwellers are sociable and sometimes sporty. Often they enjoy heavy sessions at the weekend, with a bit of running round the common at other times to balance it out.
Last look on Spare.Room prices for single occupancy of a double room in a houseshare in the area start around £750. This is not always including bills and the dearer more luxurious flatshares, complete with cleaners and non student-y home finishings can go up to 950-1000+ per month all in.
This is one of my favourite areas of Central London.
You’re a stone’s throw away from the city, (very handy if your job is based there), you can also access East London easily, without being all the way out there.
If you choose somewhere seriously central, like Angel tube station for instance, as your base then you’ll be able to walk to countless bars, restaurants and theatres, as well as out along the canals and down to Columbia flower market.
This is a 35 minute walk from Angel, but on a weekend, stopping along the way for excellent artisanal coffee, that’s probably the right leg stretch (especially if you’ve enjoyed a generous Brunch at one of Upper Street’s hot spots).
The tube stations you’ll probably want to be based on in central Islington are the following:
Angel, Old Street, Farrington & Highbury and Islington
The area further up near Highbury and Islington backs on to the beautiful park; Highbury Fields.
So central, but with a relaxed residential feel, the further you push from the Old Street/ Farringdon city side. This area has much to recommend it.
This isn’t a cheap area, but it’s young, so you can still find house share options at the going market rate.
Looking on some of the likely London flat rental sites, there are rooms going for around £800, usually with more than one other housemate.
The Selective Search
I would really recommend trying your extended network of ‘soft contacts’ at the beginning of your search.
So now is the time to wrack your brains and think of anyone you may have been at school, college, on a course with who is living in London now. What about your older cousins? Friends’ siblings or family friends?
A few well targeted emails or messages telling people your looking and asking them to keep their ear to the ground won’t go amiss. Maybe they’ll think of you next time they see a post come up with a friend looking for a new flatmate.
Not only could this take weeks of stress off your search. You might also be lucky enough to get preferential treatment and peace of mind.
London is a big city and Landlords generally aren’t in the habit of freebies or favours.
As a rule of thumb, deposits are hefty and it will be up to you to prove and present yourself as a responsible professional, or similar to get your foot in the door.
Hence, if you can get a favourable entrée via a direct connection to the landlord, or even a current flatmate who knows you at one degree of separation and is willing to vouch for you, this changes everything.
You’re no longer just another in a long list of strangers from the internet but now ‘John’s friends little sister’, or similar.
Don’t panic however if you don’t have a single Londoner contact to your name.
Here are a few different resources which are going to help get your London rental flat search off the ground.
I vividly remember moving down to London in the noughties. My father dutifully instructed me to purchase a copy of the Evening Standard from a news kiosk, I’ve since forgotten which day’s edition, but let’s say Tuesday or something, as that was apparently when the property pages came out.
While I was highly doubtful that this plan, which had rather too much of eighties London, likely his last rental reference point, in the mix, I checked it out and while the listings may have fallen by the wayside the Evening Standard does do a Homes and Property News section of their site.
This is a pretty interesting resource for anyone looking to get some down and dirty details on the London property market.
You are sure to put down the paper feeling better informed about price crunching, gentrification, hassles and new builds around London.
Good old Gumtree
If you’re street savvy, this isn’t your first rodeo and you can use your nous, then I would strongly recommend humble, old, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin Gumtree.
Yes, you will be scrolling through scams, there was once a strange lonely hearts / hook-up section on this site, it might feel like an oddly smutty and not serious place to hunt for your home.
That said, in these days of astronomical estate agent fees, pretentious apps that never get off the ground, Gumtree still holds fast.
The website has also had a recent makeover giving it a cleaner, more modern look.
The toggles allow you to refine your search by budget (rent per week), area, agency or private landlords, number of bedrooms and ads with pictures or specific words in the title.
Here is the London property section of Gumtree.
This site is where you’re going to go if you want Housemates to share the flat you’re looking to rent in London.
If you’re single and in your twenties or early thirties, I would recommend sharing to cut costs, enjoy spacious living and kitchen areas and get some instant London company without having to leave your house.
This last bit is especially important in the winter months when you’re working full time and seasonal bugs are nipping at your toes, there is nothing nicer than arriving home after a hard week’s work and finding a Flatmate you like to share a couple of glasses of wine with on the sofa.
Many young Londoners are relaxed with pretty common lifestyle interests and want to live somewhere that bit nicer than their solo budget could afford them.
This isn’t something that I’d suggest as a long-term option, but if your work is helping with relocation costs and you’re in a bit of a rush, then your favourite property sharing platform might just be able to help you out.
Attractive aspects of Air BnB include the fact that we’ve all used it for our holidays. It’s success can be explained much like that other ubiquitous American giant Starbucks, whichever city you can find familiarity.
It’s nice to know the drill and find the Mocha Latte with soy milk you like, or easy check in on a trusted app to an apartment where you’ll be able to hang your hat and kick off your shoes straight away.
Different cities take different attitudes with regards to Air BnB. The last time I was in London things still seemed fairly flexible. We found plenty of offers and stayed in a sweet garden flat off a beautiful Victorian mansion in a walled garden, tucked away up the hill behind Saint Pancras.
Longer term options are sometimes available on Air BnB, but ultimately, it’s a great place to start to check out a new neighbourhood, try it on for size and see if you like it enough to make a more permanent commitment to living there.
If all other resources fail, cost isn’t too much of a deciding factor and you’d like to move in quickly with peace of mind, then it might make sense to contact an agency.
Note : This is probably the most expensive option. An agency isn’t going to find you House mates, they will take fees and you will likely have to cover bills, council tax and a hefty deposit on top of that.
The upside is that if your budget is on the higher end, you can look at some really nice places and feel secure than the contracts and money are all being handled in a professional setting, thus protecting you from any nasty surprises where you find out that your trust was misplaced.
As in many cities an Estate Agent is not going to trust you upfront and will require various guarantees and references.
This is understandable when you think that they are acting on behalf of a private landlord, who might understandably be nervous about strangers, bad tenants or even squatters getting into their flat.
So, on the most basic level you’ll need to prove who you are, hence ID will be required. They may also be interested in where you’re moving from, so if you had a few utilities bills in your name that probably wouldn’t hurt either.
If you have left a previous flat on good terms, hopefully, with your landlord then you could always ask for a character reference: Just a few lines outlining what a model tenant you were – clean, courteous, always paying on time and respecting the contract to the letter vis-a-vis your departure.
Honestly, an agency is only as good as the Estate Agent you get. I wholeheartedly wish you a good experience, but in London they can be a very mixed bag.
At the bottom of the ladder you can be an apprentice Estate Agent with next to no qualifications past GCSE, if you’re relatively sociable, well presented and willing to work Saturdays. It will be the less experienced members of staff who will be taking care of you as a renter.
So, what practical advice can I offer? Chase them up. Treat finding this flat for rent in London like your full time job for the next few weeks. Nobody will be as invested in finding you the perfect London flat as you are.
Be enthusiastic and flexible regarding visits and try to jump on things quickly, not leaving too much time before getting back to potential offers.
Wishing you all the Luck in London for finding your perfect rental flat!