In Part I of this series, I discussed the efforts involved in finding a London job and getting your UK visa. Once that stage is surpassed, the next major obstacle to moving to London is finding a place to live. This aspect trips up expats every time. Sticker-shock is one inevitability of a high-demand city that enables landlords to keep their rent prices high no matter how the economy and property values are otherwise faring. Compromise in space can be another blow to expectations, especially relative to the abovementioned rent prices. Needless to say, managing your outlook on what you can realistically expect in a new and different environment is critical to a successful international relocation.
But perhaps the biggest challenge for UK expats to wrap their minds around—particularly Americans—is the fact that there is no MLS (multiple listing service) in London. Whereas realtors in other property markets like that in North America collaborate through such a system to offer prospective tenants all available properties meeting their criteria, flat-searching in London entails pounding the pavement to lettings agency after lettings agency. This can take weeks. You see, London lettings agents only hold private stock in their immediate vicinity, and even that stock isn’t exhaustive—for any given area, flats are divvied up across a number of separate agencies. Which leaves you to pop into each and every one if you want to see all your options. This not only requires a lot of time, but also much research into what particular neighborhood you want; these agencies are localized, so you’ll need to target them accordingly.
Such is the primary reason why working with a London relocation agent is desirable. Relocation agencies can cover a broader area and will work for you, whereas the lettings agency works for the landlord. The award-winning, American-owned London Relocation agency, for instance, serves as your personal MLS (showing 18 to 25 flats in one day) and negotiates rent and lease terms on your behalf. They will also educate you on specific neighbourhoods and the local property market, set you up with a UK bank account, and hold your hand through any other London-related questions you may have, from how to set up your utilities to where to buy your groceries.
And whereas many relocation agencies are compensated on a daily basis—which can incentivize them to draw out the flat-search process in their best interest—London Relocation specializes in one-day flat placement to best suit your needs. Placing 100% of its clients (98% of which in one day), it’s no wonder London Relocation won Re:locate Magazine’s “Rising Star in Relocation” award last year and has just been shortlisted for TWO of its top award categories in 2012: “Relocation Service Provider or Team of the Year” and “Best Property Provider or Solution.”
The choices are ultimately yours. If you want to move to London, you must choose to do so—commit to making it happen by proactively lining up employment or overseas studies to secure your UK visa. And when you do move to London, you can choose whether to use a relocation agency or not—it depends on how much you prioritize your time, money, and peace of mind.
Either way, the flat you then choose to move into should meet both your budget and lifestyle needs. So be thorough, be selective, and, most importantly, be realistic: do your research and consult those with expertise. Relocation agencies will be happy to answer your questions regardless of whether you hire their services—and London Relocation’s staff is full of expats who have been-there-done-that themselves. They relocated to London the hard way, so their personal experience will ensure you won’t have to!