Set Your Budget
First things first, how much have you got to spend? Londoners spend an average of 40% to 50% of their wages on rent, so it’s crucial to know what you have coming in, and what you can reasonably put towards the roof over your head. Don’t forget to account for council tax!
Council tax varies across London boroughs. You’ll spend much more in Croydon than in Wandsworth, for example. You should also factor in amenities like gas, electricity, water and internet to your monthly budget so that you know how much you can really afford.
Be careful about overstretching yourself. A bad month or two could see you in arrears, assuming your landlord or agency is willing to take the gamble in the first place. In uncertain circumstances, it can be useful to have a guarantor, a third party who promises to put up for you should you find yourself short.
You’ll need to find cash for a deposit. This is normally about six weeks’ rent. Factor this in with estate agent fees and other moving costs before you commit to anything. Make sure you’ve got enough to get the place you want. Some of our partner agents at Ems have cut out fees entirely!
Find the Right Neighbourhood
Once you know the numbers, you’ll have a much better idea of which areas you can afford to live in. Commute is one of the most important things to factor in here. How long is the walk to the station or bus stop? How many changes will you have to make? What’s the Central Line like at 5:30pm in the middle of summer?
London is thriving with distinct and varied communities, from quiet suburbs to neighbourhoods that don’t sleep. Think about what’s important to you, and the kind of life you want to live. Are you staying up, or settling down? On a tight budget, cooking every night, or is a strong local restaurant game a must have? Our area guides at Ems have everything you’d want to know about some of the most popular areas of inner London.
Now that you’ve got a few possible areas down, it’s time to start looking at actual properties. Try to get out to some early, so that you can get a sense of what you’re willing to compromise on in advance. The market can move lightning fast, so you need to be able to make quick decisions without being pressured into anything by agents or landlords.
When you finally get into a property keep your game face on – you need to be checking the state of the place, keeping an eye out for mould, damp, paintwork, any discrepancies between what was advertised and what you’re being shown. Don’t be afraid to snoop around a bit – you wouldn’t want to discover any dirty secrets after a move!
Go in with questions for whoever’s showing you around. What are monthly amenities like, and who covers what between you and the landlord? What’s the repair history of the property? Does it have white goods (fridge, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer), and what condition are they in? How long is the lease? Do they allow pets, children, or barbecues? Have there been any problems with neighbours, in the building, or in the area. Ems lists over 40,000 properties and makes recommendations by getting to know what you really want.
Making an Offer
Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Even in London’s tough market, there are properties that are overvalued (and some that are under). If a property has been on the market for a while and still isn’t taken, there’s a good chance you can underbid what they’re asking for. Be sure to ask all the necessary questions, however, until you’re satisfied it’s the price putting people off, rather than a problem with the property.
Examine the rental agreement thoroughly. Make sure you’re happy with it, and that it matches what was agreed or advertised, especially if you negotiated any extra clauses regarding pets or what you can and can’t do with the property. If you get all of this sorted you might not only be a haggling master, but you can look forward to really enjoying where you live!