London Loner
February 6, 2010 2:18 PM   Subscribe

London, UK living arrangements. Help me sort out the options and get settled!

I've just gone through most of the old London questions, but I'm looking for more specific advice, and a game plan. I will be moving to London later this month to teach. I have my visa sorted out, and I am just tying up loose ends before I go. I hope to fly out the last week of February.

My main question is: can I afford to live alone in London on a teacher's salary?
(Average teacher's salary - I'll probably do supply to start, then do full-time once I'm more settled and find an area/school I like)

After living with roommates and friends for 5 years, I'm in dire need of my own space. I want to live alone. But I'm not sure whether or not I can afford it. Friends who are teaching in London right now are averaging about £500 a week in pay. I've been browsing Gumtree, Craigslist, and other sites recommended on AskMe, and I know that on top of the rent there's council tax and utilities, and transportation too. I know London is expensive, but is it possible to find a decent place for one person on that kind of salary? I don't need a large place, and I don't need to be in a high-class neighbourhood either (nor could I afford it).

If not, what sorts of things should I be looking for when I look at listings for shared spaces?

Also, regarding a game plan - if I fly to London and book a hostel for a week, is that a reasonable amount of time to find a place?

Thanks for your help. I'm a bit flustered and spending hours on the internet trying to plan everything isn't doing much good for my brain.
If it matters, I'm a 23 year old female, departing from Toronto.

Anonymous because I've not yet told some people that I'm moving there.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Answer quite possibly depends on the proximity of your workplace to an affordable area to live (public transport is horrifically expensive, and Greater London is huge). Transport could quite conceivably eat almost 10% of your weekly salary on its own.

You ought to be able to find a studio that's just about affordable in many areas of London, but if you need to travel across town for work, then you may have a problem.

A week to find a place is fine IMO (although I've been out of the game for a while). Always used to be the case that you needed to be prepared to lay down a deposit and sign a contract pretty much as soon as you saw somewhere you wanted - stuff moves fast, so there isn't generally much opportunity to sleep on the decision.

However, I would definitely want to be sure of where I was working, before making a long term decision on living location. That seems to me to be the real weak spot in your plan.
posted by bifter at 2:33 PM on February 6, 2010

I came to London from Toronto five years ago with one suitcase, one 8-week teaching contract and nowhere to live -- MeMail me if you'd like a rundown of what I learned. Short version: it's not easy, but if you survived renting in Toronto, London will seem like a cakewalk!
posted by stuck on an island at 3:52 PM on February 6, 2010

I would advise looking for a house share initially to gauge whether your salary will support the costs of a studio plus covering all the bills alone. London is considerably more expensive than Tunbridge Wells, MeMail if you want some more specific answers.
posted by ellieBOA at 4:16 PM on February 6, 2010

The answer to your main question is yes. I've managed this year on about £12,000 (although I am sharing with one other person) - it's doable, if you're willing to live somewhere small and not have much spare cash. Transport will cost you a lot, but riding a bike helps (should you be possessed of near-suicidal bravery). A week should be plenty of time, although you will (as mentioned above) need to be ready to sign a contract and hand over a deposit pretty sharpish.
posted by inire at 4:25 PM on February 6, 2010

I would definitely recommend that you find a sublet through craigslist (though be wary of scams) for your first few months.

Once you are ready to find a permanent place, you can try to use craigslist, or go through the myriad of leasing agents. These tend to be specific to areas of London. Our experience so far has been that anything you see online is gone. You need to work with agents (I would use several agencies) to find something and then be prepared to make a deal that day. You'll need a UK bank account. Some landlords require a rental history or a very large security deposit (think 3 to 6 months).

It's typical to negotiate the weekly rent (rent here is quoted by week, but paid as an avg. month), but if you find the perfect place, you should perhaps offer more to get the lease signed that day.

Don't forget that in the UK there is a Council tax that is paid by the renter. This is determined by the Council and the category the building is in. Budget at least another £1,000 a year for this. It is paid quarterly or monthly.

I think you can definitely find something. I think finding something in a week is unrealistic, but that's based on my own recent experience. We found lots of places, but not lots of places we'd want to live in.
posted by qwip at 1:59 AM on February 7, 2010

I'd suggest Gumtree rather than Craigslist. For some reason, Craigslist hasn't really taken off here.
posted by essexjan at 2:51 AM on February 7, 2010

I think you may find it easier to flat-share to begin with. It will be easier to get the sorted with UK bank accounts, name on utilities bills etc which are all so vital for renting in the UK. Affordability will depend where you are working as travel is likely to be a major factor. You may also find that the trade off of sharing with people in a more salubrious area is worth it in the long term vs having a place of your own somewhere grim.
posted by zemblamatic at 2:57 AM on February 7, 2010

You'll be able to do it comfortably. Small studio apartments in Zone 2 start from about £550/month - you can get a lot more or pay less if you're willing to travel from further out. Of course, don't forget to factor in the cost of a Oyster season ticket, but you'll still have plenty of cash left over. I do agree that you would be much better off sharing with other young professionals though.
posted by turkeyphant at 3:36 AM on February 7, 2010

I'd suggest Gumtree rather than Craigslist. For some reason, Craigslist hasn't really taken off here.

essexjan is correct in that Craigslist isn't as popular in the UK. That being said, we were finding Gumtree a bit more scammy than Craigslist. Just be prudent.
posted by qwip at 3:50 AM on February 7, 2010

You may be interested in doing some research on Key Worker Living allowance which IIRR supplements the rent or mortgage of London teachers.
posted by Dr.Pill at 10:56 AM on February 7, 2010

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