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Choosing a Neighborhood & Finding a Flat in London 0

By Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Choosing the right neighborhood in and finding a flat in London are big decisions for newcomers. Article provides advice from expats who have already comfortably settled in London.

CHOOSING A NEIGHBORHOOD

To avoid making the tube your second home, take commute times into careful consideration. "Commuting from one side of central London to the other can take as much as an hour! If you have a stressful job look in neighborhoods nearer work," advises one member of ExpatExchange.com.

Proximity to schools is also another major consideration. If your children are pre-enrolled in an international school, you'll have the benefit of knowing where they will be situated. If you plan to send your kids to a British State School, your child must establish residency prior to being enrolled or put on a waiting list (see The British State system - A Catch 22 scenario).

Renting a serviced apartment for your first month in London is a great way to check out different neighborhoods before signing a lease or buying a flat. London Guest Suites offers corporate apartments throughout central London. You may view photos and search by neighborhood on their Web site.

FINDING A FLAT

According to the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), rents in London are higher than New York and comparable to Zurich and Geneva. "Expect to pay at least 1200 GPS for a nice 1 bed in a decent building (that's almost $2000), add on Council Tax "rates" and utilities and it's as much as NYC or more," a member explains.

Many expats use relocation companies to assist them in their search for the right neighborhood and flat. One London expat explains, "There are hundreds of Estate Agents and no multiple listing service. The Relocation Agency called around to all the Agents in my desired areas and set up all the appointments to see flats. This is a huge time saver!"

"Allow at least four to five days to find a place. Many estate agents do not work on weekends, so be sure to plan these days during the week," advises one member. And, keep in mind that flats in London come both furnished and unfurnished. If you're in need of rental furniture for your new flat, try Sterling Furniture Rental, Fully Furnished or The Furniture Rental Company.

LANDLORD & FLAT INSPECTION

Once you've found a flat, your new landlord will have an inspection conducted before you move in. "Be sure to attend this inspection and review the work being done. Generally, you will be held to maintain your flat in the same condition as when you moved in and many landlords are very particular about this," suggests one ExpatExchange.com member.

You can be charged for even the most minor damage and are responsible for reporting problems (leaks, cracks, etc...) to your letting agent. If you don't, you can be held financially responsible. So, if problems arise in your flat, don't be a fix-it-yourself renter!

WHAT TO BRING

You'll be able to find almost everything that you need in London. Sometimes you'll have to pay extra or use a substitute, but most expats don't recommend bringing a stockpile of food and toiletries. Sometimes it is nice to bring a few of your favorite candies or foods for special occasions or for when might feel a bit homesick.

Once you've found your flat and learned your way around your new neighborhood, we invite you to share your own advice and experiences with others. Click here to share your experiences moving to London.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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First Published: Jan 16, 2003

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