Back in 2021, the UK recorded around 58,000 people flocking to its shores. The majority of these singled out London as their destination of choice for making a new home.
When relocating to London there are plenty of things you’ll want to think about to make the move as stress-free as possible. With any relocation, there will always be worries and concerns.
We’ve created this ‘Complete Guide to Moving to London’ to help answer any burning questions you may have about moving to the big city.
With the correct information, moving and settling in London is one of the best decisions you can ever make.
Should I move to London?
Uprooting your life is always going to be a hard decision to make. You may even be questioning whether London really is the right place to settle down.
London is one of the most populated cities in the UK, being England’s capital and hub of British culture and tourism. As of 2020, there are over 9 million people living in London and its many boroughs and this number continues to grow year on year. Around 37% of those living in the city are not UK natives and 40% of that 9 million are Black and Minority Ethnic.
This melting pot of cultures has given London its vibrant personality and it’s easy to feel the buzz of the community as soon as you step into the city.
London covers around 607 square miles and is divided into 32 boroughs. Each area of London is unique, with many neighbourhoods and villages offering something different. For example, taking a trip to Camden offers indie shops and vintage clothing boutiques, but walking around SoHo you’re greeted by theatre enthusiasts and professional creatives.
When choosing where to live in London, it's best to think about what kind of people and places you want to surround yourself with. This will help you to pick the borough that best suits your personality. It also ensures that you always have access to the type of London lifestyle you’ve been dreaming of.
Getting around London
Each area of London is easily accessible through the city’s reliable public transport network. This includes regular tube services, buses, overground railways and plenty of taxi options.
To make public transport accessible and affordable for all the city’s residents, the transport system is split into six zones. Zone 1 marks Central London where the majority of tourist attractions and major shopping districts are situated. Zone 6 marks the very outer regions of the city, which includes:
- Heathrow Airport
These zones make it much easier to understand transport charges and ticketing. For visitors, a Zone 1 ticket can be great for visiting tourist attractions in central London. If you're planning to commute, you'll likely need a ticket that includes multiple zones.
You can pay for transport either at the designated ticket machines or at the turnstiles with a valid debit or credit card. If you’re moving to London we highly recommend getting an Oyster Card which is a pre-paid card you can use on the following modes of transport:
- Dockland Light Railway (The DLR)
- London Overground
- Most TfL Rail
- Emirates Air Line
- Thames Clippers River Bus Service
- Most National Rail Services in London
Alternatively, if your bank card shows the contactless payment symbol, you can use it to pay as you go straight away.
If you’ll need regular public transport for commuting, you can also save money by purchasing an annual pass. Transport around the city is relatively cheap depending on how many of its zones you travel through. The more zones you go through the more costly your fare will be.
There is a fare cap on London transport, which means how much you pay for all your journeys in a day or week is capped at a certain amount. This is extremely helpful if you find yourself travelling a lot. Keep in mind that there are different caps for different times of the day. For example, during peak times the cap will be higher than off-peak travel.
Don’t forget to tap in and out when catching any of London’s transport services. You’ll see these yellow circular points at stations and on buses across the city. This keeps track of all the zones you move through along your journey and whether it’s off-peak or peak hours. Your payment card will then be charged accordingly once your journey is complete. Remember that you have to use the same card to touch in and out otherwise you may be charged the maximum fare and spend more than you need to!
As well as London’s public transport, you’ll also find many Hackney Carriages, or black cabs, around the city. These can be more expensive than the public transport options, but great if you need to travel greater distances in a shorter amount of time. Keep in mind that for black cabss there is a minimum fare of £3.80. All black cabs should be fitted with an approved TfL payment device so you can pay contactless.
Cost of Living in London
There’s no denying that London – like most capital cities, can be an expensive place to live. However, there are lots of ways to keep costs down where needed.
Based on 2021 statistics, a single resident's average monthly living cost was at least £2,000. But, this monthly spending rises almost two-fold for a household with four, where the average expenditure was around £3,500. It’s essential to note though that this spending may be lower or higher depending on your lifestyle.
The area you live in also directly impacts the cost of living with places within Zone 1 often being much pricier than areas further out such as Zones 5 & 6. When you’ve decided on your budget, be sure to check out our list of the best places to live in London.
It can be tricky to find the perfect balance, but if you choose one of the outer zones to save money on rent or your mortgage, you may end up paying more for travel. This is especially true if you’ll be working or commuting to the innermost zones of the city.
Generally compared to other major cities such as New York, Milan, Sydney and Tokyo, London has a moderate cost of living. The only variances come within areas such as housing. The kind of house you settle for, the neighbourhood it's in and whether you're renting or buying, all impact the cost of living. In 2021, the average rent across London was around £2,219 per month. If you are moving to London with your family, this cost may be higher if you require multiple bedrooms.
As well as rent, council tax needs to taken into consideration. Each borough of London will have up to eight different council tax brackets. Once you've decided on an area to live, you can use the government website to enter the postcode of the area to understand costs.
Council tax brackets range from A-H with A being the most affordable and H being the most expensive. The council tax rate is calculated based on the property's capital value.
The Cost of Socialising
One of the complaints you’ll hear most often from people visiting or socialising in London is the cost of a night out in London. Although it can vary from place to place, an average pint of beer will cost £5.00 according to money.co.uk’s Global Beer Lover’s City Index. If you prefer spirits, be prepared to pay up to £10 a drink.
Again, the location will play a big part in the cost of socialising. If you choose to head out within the City of London you’ll find prices much higher than that further afield. Areas within Zone 1 tend to be catered toward heavy tourism traffic and you’ll find the prices in bars, restaurants and clubs reflect this.
To beat the tourist traps you can find plenty of cool bars and clubs in Zone 2 areas such as Camden, Brixton and Dalston.
Opting for smaller independent restaurants, bars, cafes and even shops can help you spend a little less than you would in the larger chains. Keep an eye out for events or special offers which can help keep costs down even further when heading out to socialise with friends.
The Cost of Utilities
The monthly utilities are another vital factor to consider when moving to London. Here, electricity, heating, water, and waste disposal may be determined based on the size of the apartment and location.
For instance, for a house with 85m2, the average monthly utilities are around £246.80 PCM. This can change dramatically depending on how many people live in your household and how much time you spend at home.
A great option is to choose a build-to-rent landlord such as Essential Living. Our studio and 1-3 bed apartments come with free WiFi. This can help ease the stress of having to budget separately for utilities because everything is included in a set monthly price. Access to fantastic communal amenities such as a roof terrace, games room, gym and BBQ help keep social costs low.
Other utilities to consider and include in your monthly budget are:
- Mobile phone
- Cable/Satellite TV
- Streaming Subscriptions
All these expenses make up the real cost of living in London. It's important to consider how these costs will likely affect you before making the ultimate decision to move.
The Best Places to Live in London
When preparing for your move you’ll want to choose a location that has everything you want, both for work and life. As previously stated, each borough of London has something different to offer.
The boroughs within London fall into five primary regions, which are:
- West London
- East London
- South London
- North London
- Central London
Within these regions are various boroughs and neighbourhoods to choose from. Some will be ideal for the young professional looking for a vibrant social life close to work. Others will appeal more to families who want a home close to good schools and green open spaces.
Below is a summary of our favourite places to live in London, but be sure to check out our comprehensive guide.
Best for Families - Greenwich
A great place to live for families, Greenwich has everything you could need for the perfect family life. With the large Greenwich Park in the heart of this neighbourhood, there is plenty to keep kids and adults of all ages entertained.
This area of London is best known for its maritime history and is adorned with plenty of museums, monuments and galleries to explore. Situated in southeast London, Greenwich is right next to the river Thames and the O2 arena. There’s plenty of public transport getting you in, out and around London. Plus, this is one of the best areas in London for commuting to Canary Wharf. For those working or looking to work in the financial services district, this is the ideal neighbourhood for you.
The average rental price for a 2 bed in Greenwich is around £543pw and if you’re looking to buy in the area, you can expect to pay an average of £509,097 for a 2 bed.
If you’re interested in moving to the Greenwich area, our Union Wharf building is ideal for families looking for a slice of London life. Union Wharf also has an on-site nursery and green areas to keep kids and parents happy and taken care of.
Best for Young Professionals - Bethnal Green
If you’re a young professional looking for an area that’s well connected and has a lot to offer socially, then Bethnal Green is a great place to settle.
Here you're situated right next door to the stunning Victoria Park as well as Bethnal Green Gardens and Mile End Park. There are plenty of nearby green spaces to relax and switch off. This part of the city also has great transport links. Bethnal Green tube station is on your doorstep and Whitechapel and Cambridge Heath walking distance away.
This neighbourhood is very popular with young professionals. It's a great community to be part of if you’re looking for like-minded people. With lots of cafes and bars, you’ll always have somewhere to meet friends old and new.
House prices in Bethnal Green range from around £595pw for a 1 bed or £870,047 if you’re looking to buy a 1-bed house. You can also take a look at our very own Bethnal Green apartments at Dressage Court. Our apartments offer great social spaces including a roof terrace, work from home space and a games room to enjoy with your neighbours.
Best for Students - Brixton
Brixton is a great place for those looking to study and work in London. It's filled with the vibrant nightlife and sociable atmosphere that all students crave. Ideal for music lovers and those in search of the sights, sounds and smells of Caribbean culture, Brixton has proven popular with young people over the years.
Brixton tube station has great links to central London. You can choose from the Victoria tube line or Souteastern rail services from Brixton Station. There are also plenty of bus routes to get you to around south London.
There are plenty of green spaces to enjoy when you’re not studying, including Ruskin Park and Brockwell Park. Perfect for taking a break from being in lectures or in classrooms. With everything from delicious artisan coffee shops to traditional Caribbean eateries, It’s both a great place to live and study.
For those looking to rent in Brixton, the average rent falls at around £401pw for a 1-bed. If you wan to buy in the area, a 1-bed will typically cost around £398,750.
Commuting into London
If you’re going to be working in London but want to be able to escape the city after work and on weekends, then you may be looking for the perfect commuting towns instead of a place within Greater London.
There are some very popular towns that offer great transport links to and from London. Maidenhead is where you'll find out Berkshire House development, and it's just 40 minutes from central London. Other areas to consider for commuting are:
- Luton in Bedfordshire
- Three Bridges in West Sussex
- Epping in Essex
- Amersham in Buckinghamshire
Some things to keep in mind when looking for the best towns for commuting to London are the cost of travel and the time it takes to get in and out of the city.
If you're looking for more great places to live near London, we've got you covered.
Why Renting is the Best Option in London
When first moving to London, it’s best to start by renting a property rather than buying one. With every area of London so different, renting offers you the chance to explore different parts of the city.
Buying a home is said to be as one of the most stressful activities we go through in life. You'll want to be 100% certain that you’ve chosen the perfect location before putting a deposit down. Renting allows you to explore all your options and enjoy freedom with shorter commitment times than getting a mortgage.
The Cost of Renting vs. Buying
Although rental prices are increasing year-on-year across the UK, London rental prices can often be much less than monthly mortgage repayments. With house prices so high in all parts of London, renting can be a great affordable way to enjoy London life.
Renting also requires a much lower upfront cost, so you can move around much more quickly without having to save up a huge amount for a deposit. When buying, you can expect to have to pay from 5% to 10% upfront as a deposit. Compared to rental properties where you only have to pay a maximum of 5 weeks as a deposit on properties where the rent is under £50,000 per annum or 6 weeks where the rent is over £50,000.
The Cost of Maintenance
On top of large mortgage deposits, you’ll also have to consider the maintenance of your new home. When you buy a property you are solely responsible for its upkeep. This means if anything goes wrong such as a plumbing or electrical emergency, you are responsible for rectifying it.
With rental properties, it will usually be up to your landlord to fix any issues or at least support you to get the problems fixed. Any costs that add up for the maintenance of the property will usually be covered by your landlord so it becomes one less thing to worry about.
In a build-to-rent development like our properties, the 24hr on-site residents’ team are always on hand to help you with any emergency or maintenance issue you have. With all utilities included in the price of the rent, all you have to worry about is paying your set monthly rent each month.
Buying a home is not only a big financial commitment, it’s also a big lifestyle commitment. Renting a property can give you more flexibility. Whether it’s upgrading your property for something more luxurious when that big pay rise comes in or downgrading to a smaller place when current rental prices get too much. You’ll have much more financial freedom with renting if you are currently moving through jobs, trying out a location or just trying to figure things out.
Tenancy agreements can range from rolling monthly contracts to more secure 12-month contracts, so you can commit to as much time as you like. The average tenancy agreement is around 12-months however you can also get 6-week agreements if you want more freedom or if you know you may need to move at short notice.
Moving to London Alone
If you’re looking to move to London alone and are worried about going solo then renting will be a fantastic option for you. If you want to have your own space you can look at renting a 1-bed or if you’d like to make some new friends and have a little more company at home. You can then also look for housemates to share the costs of things like rent and utilities.
Essential Living’s studio and 1-bed apartments are perfect for solo Londoners, with plenty of communal spaces and events to allow you to meet other residents. Not only are our locations secure but they can also offer opportunities to meet new people, something that is often tricky to do in a very big city.
How to Choose a Reliable Estate Agent in London
When moving to a new neighbourhood, the fear of dealing with unscrupulous estate agents and property developers is real. However, there are ways you can make sure to find the best estate agents for you and your needs.
Always Insist on Seeing the Property First
If you can, always insist on seeing a property before you make a financial commitment. This is especially true for rental properties. If this isn’t available – which often is the case in such a fast-paced property market like London – then ask if they have virtual viewing available.
Often people will rush into putting a deposit down on a property in order to secure somewhere. Some people even do this without viewing the property first! Although this can be a good way of finding somewhere to live at short notice, it also runs the risk of you tying yourself with poor quality landlords or uncomfortable living environments. Try and check a property out first so you can assess the neighbourhood and neighbours and get a feel of what it would be like to live there.
You may be preoccupied with deposits and monthly payments and forget that estate agent fees also need to be considered. Many people are caught out by hefty fees when they finally get the bill from their agent. To avoid that, make sure you’re fully aware of their fees and how/when they’ll be charged.
Due to the Tenant Fees Act of 2019, letting agencies are not allowed to charge for a lot of the previously hidden fees, particularly for things like administration or references. However, your letting agent may charge you fees associated with the following:
- Early termination of tenancy
- Communication services
- Council tax
- Late rent payment charges
- Replacement keys or security features
If you’re buying a property in London then you may be subject to costs from estate agents, brokers or mortgage providers which include but are not limited to:
- Valuation fee
- Surveyors fee
- Legal fees
- Transfer fees for electrics etc.
- Removal costs
Pay Attention to Reviews and Referrals
It can be tricky to choose the best estate or letting agent based on face value. Looking at their website or social media will only show you what they want you to see and not the reality of their service.
When you find an agency you like the look of, it’s best to do a few quick Google searches to see if there are any reviews. You may find comments from previous clients or regulatory boards that provide a more authentic picture of what the agency is really like to work with.
If you’re looking for a reputable landlord, HomeViews offers insight into how residents rate various developments across the capital.
Word of mouth referral is always best because you’re getting a positive review straight from the source. Ask around any of your family or friends to see if they have any recommendations or know someone that can point you in the right direction.
Moving to London Doesn't Have to be a Daunting Task
Moving to London should be an exciting and enjoyable experience but when you start thinking about all the finer details things can start to become overwhelming quickly.
Remember to give yourself as much time to plan as possible and don’t feel rushed into making a decision. Make a list of all the things that are a top priority and also things that you’re not overly concerned about. This can help you narrow down which locations to add to your list and which ones to rule out. Your budget will also be a big factor in your decision-making process, so make sure you’re clear on how much you’re willing to spend to make the move.
If you’re looking to make moving as stress-free as possible, take a look at our four properties across London and we can help you create a lifestyle you love in the city.