I've had a lot of experience moving house in London— I've lived in almost 10 places since I moved here (I moved around a LOT the first few months I moved here until I found a permanent place). I've made my fair share of mistakes in the process. In this article, I'll share the top mistakes people make moving to London and moving house in London that I've made (or have seen my friends make) so you can avoid them when you move!
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The #1 mistake I see people make moving house in London is underestimating the amount of stuff they actually have to move. I am SUPER guilty of this. Especially if you're moving within London, it's amazing just how much stuff you can accumulate in a year or two.
Pack EARLY. Like a couple of weeks before you move. Even if you have to take stuff out of the box to use it in your final weeks, it's better to know you have space than to do what I had to do and panic-buy boxes and packing tape from Amazon.
I've talked about this before, but Foxton's is THE WORST estate agent. They're super pushy and scammy and just do NOT have your best interests in mind (this article explains why).
Often, if you're looking on sites like Zoopla or RightMove you'll end up contacting an estate agent about a nice place you found and suddenly you've gotten roped into working with them for your entire move.
Take the time to research estate agents and don't feel like you have to go with the first one you find. It's okay to also use more than one at a time as well.
Estate agents will tell you you need to offer full asking price and to stay for 2 years just so they make a bigger commission. This is often not the case. Don't fall for their, shall we say, overzealous sales tactics.
Be firm with them and tell them they need to respect your budget. It can feel SUPER uncomfortable, but, unfortunately, it's the only way to survive.
I struggle with this one a lot as I'm not particularly confrontational. Luckily, my partner handled most of the most difficult conversations with our recent estate agent (to the point where she stopped talking to him unless she had to because I was easier to manipulate. Ugh.).
You need to start your flat hunt about 2 months before you're slated to move if you're looking for a full place. That's when rentals are allowed to come on the market when someone is coming to the end of their tenancy. Anything before that is probably too early. If you wait any longer, you're likely to miss some of the best places.
If you're looking for a flatshare on SpareRoom, you can get away with starting later, but it's still better to start looking sooner.
Start 2 months in advance!
If you see a place and you like it, YOU NEED TO MAKE AN OFFER THEN AND THERE. I can't tell you how many people I've seen lose out on places because someone else got there first. The London rental market is COMPETITIVE.
This one applies to SpareRoom AND full flats and houses.
Do your research before and request a video tour if possible before you view it. Know more or less before you go in whether, if everything is as it is in the pictures, you're going to make an offer.
Also, consider the terms of your potential offer before you view it. How much are you willing to pay? How long are you willing to sign a contract for? This will also help you avoid being pressured into a higher price or longer tenancy by your estate agent.
If you're renting with others, be sure to discuss these things before you view the flat together and come to an agreement. If you don't present a united front to the estate agent, they WILL pressure you to pay more (this happened to me with my current place).
This happened with my first flat I rented on my own in London through SpareRoom. I basically just took the first place I could find and, while the flat itself was great, it ended up being in a pretty dodgy part of southeast London. I hadn't heard of it before (and neither had my friends), so I just went with it. And then someone got stabbed in the park across the street from me and someone attacked the Uber I was in when I was coming home from work late one night 😔.
That being said, my house also got robbed in a SUPER nice area of northwest London so it can happen anywhere, but still.
I know this is kind of dumb on my part, but, until embarrassingly recently, I didn't really realise you could offer much lower than the asking price and still get a place in London. I had always assumed it was just too competitive for that slash didn't want to lose out on a place because of it.
Stay firm with your estate agent and be willing to go back and forth with the landlord a few times to negotiate the terms of your tenancy. You might be able to offer to stay longer at a lower price (to save them money on agency fees), or offer to pay a few months' worth of rent up front in order to get a better deal.
This is another one. I always thought that what your internet service provider offered you, for example, was just the price. You CAN negotiate. Not with everything (i.e., you can't negotiate your council tax), but it's possible in some cases.
Do some research online to see if you can negotiate a particular bill. Also, check out places like USwitch to make sure you're getting the best deal in general.
Luckily, I've avoided this mistake, but I've seen people make it a lot. A lot of times, if you're in a flatshare and a flatmate doesn't pay the rent or moves out, the rest of you are liable for their share of the rent.
Look out for things like this in your contract and negotiate with your landlord or estate agent accordingly if you're not comfortable with them. Sometimes they can't be avoided (some estate agents do have standard contracts they won't let you change), but it's worth a shot.
If you have any friends who are lawyers, they also may be willing to read over your contract quickly for you just as a sanity check.
I've talked about this before, but there are lots of rules to protect renters in the UK. For example, your landlord has to protect your deposit in an official deposit scheme and they have 10 days to return your deposit once you request it back at the end of your tenancy. They're also only allowed to charge a maximum deposit of 5 weeks' rent now and cannot charge end of tenancy, check-in, or agency fees.
My partner made this mistake in his first flat in London. He'd only lived in student flats before, so he assumed everyone in his new flatshare would be just as friendly. WRONG. He ended up with some pretty awful flatmates.
I've always been lucky, but I attribute this, in part, to asking my potential new flatmates what the flat culture is like. Do they hang out together or just independently coexist? Make sure you find a place that gels with what you're looking for.
ASK QUESTIONS when you're viewing a flat.
Not sure what to ask? I've got 15 key questions you need to ask when you're on a house viewing in my FREE moving to London checklist.
This is another one my partner made. He has always lived in places where bills were included so he has virtually NO credit history. This meant he was denied when he tried to apply for a credit card.
If you pay bills, ask your flatmates if you can put at least one of them in your name. If not, try to put SOME kind of bill in your name to start building credit history.
This is a big one that I made. My friend rented a Zipcar to help me move. He got into a minor accident while we were driving to my new place. Long story short, he spent the entire time I was unloading the car (to move into my third-floor walk-up flat) on the phone with Zipcar, and the whole thing cost me hundreds of pounds more that I bargained for.
Just hire a man with a van to help you move. The guy who moved me last time charged just £60 and he loaded everything into his van (from that third-floor flat) and unloaded it in my new flat. He did it all in just one trip too. And I had a LOT of stuff (more than 10 boxes plus a LOT of miscellaneous items). Trust me, it's way cheaper and easier to do it this way.
The same time moving as Zipcar-moving-gate occurred, I had a couple weeks of overlap between my old flat tenancy ending and my new one beginning. So, I left some stuff at my old place and figured I'd just take a couple of Uber or tube trips to move the rest. Fast forward to MANY Uber trips and tube trips later (at about 45 minutes + each way and lots of money) and I STILL hadn't gotten everything. Don't be like me.
If you can avoid it, it's obviously cheaper to have a smaller gap of time in between your tenancies. Once you decide to move, just MOVE. Don't try to live in two places at once for convenience.
This is another moving house in London mistake of which I am guilty. In my last place, I had a GOD-AWFUL property manager. Like one who regularly insulted us on the phone and literally forgot I was living in my flat and told builders they could REMOVE MY WINDOWS FOR TWO WEEKS WITHOUT TELLING ME IN THE MIDDLE OF FEBRUARY.
Do your research! Read reviews! Look at Trust Pilot!
Phew! So, that's my list of common mistakes people make moving to London or moving house in London. What're your top things to avoid when moving in London? Comment down below to let me know!
And, don't forget to snag your free moving to London checklist here if you're moving to London or moving house in London soon!