Expat House Hunting in UK

One of the main issues to sort out during relocation is finding a new home. House hunting – as exciting as it is stressful. From the moment we received news about our relocation to UK (about two months ago), we started researching house market in Warwickshire and today, after a lot of searching, negotiating and worrying, we finally got a confirmation that our offer was accepted and we can sign a letting agreement for a beautiful house in Royal Leamington Spa (yes, it is the actual name of the town).

Letting procedures in UK have changed so much during the years that we’ve been gone (we left in 2007). I decided to post here about some problems we had to deal with, in case some of you are planning a relocation to UK.

Are you planning a relocation to UK? Check out our house hunting experience on TinyExpats.com!

Coming from outside the UK? Might be a problem..

We were going to get help from a relocation company, but relocation approval was taking longer than it was supposed to due to lots of people being on holidays (summer – not the best time to get things done fast). We started contacting letting agencies on our own and found out that some of them refuse to work with us, as we’re relocating from outside of the UK. Never mind that my husband is British, we’re relocating from EU and have a confirmed employment contract with the local company – we did not live in UK during the last 3 years and that would mean a problem with referencing. You should also be prepared that many letting agencies would ask you to pay 6 months in advance exactly for this reason.

Kids vs Childless 

This is a common one anywhere, I guess. One of the flats that we liked, and received an initial agreement from an owner to rent, went to a single gentleman in the end. State that you have kids straight away – some letting agents will not even arrange a viewing.

How many real bedrooms are there?

“Two bedrooms” in  UK do not always mean “two bedrooms” in real life. Quite often you would find that the second bedroom (or the third, if you’re looking for a three bedroom property) should better be called “a study” or “a closet” as it would only snugly fit a single bed and nothing else. Claustrophobia , here I come.

Fixtures and fittings

Check out the windows – there’re plenty of flats and houses out there with old windows, the ones where you would have to slide the lower half upwards to open it. They’re old, wooden and quite often provide extra, unexpected, ventilation. I won’t even go into describing my feelings about two taps – it might be pretty and authentic, but I do like the feeling of warm water, instead of freezing cold and scorching hot.

School catchment area

Do you have school age children? Then add an extra requirement to your house hunt – school catchment areas, as they might be pretty tight. Research the schools, find the ones you like, check, which ones still have free places and then try hard to find a property in the finely drafted areas you just set out for yourself.

Long process and uncertainty

Now that you found a place that you like, you would need to make an offer. If it’s accepted by a landlord, pay a referencing fee and then a referencing company would carry out referencing check (contacting your previous landlords, current employer, etc). After the referencing check, you would have to agree on the terms of a letting agreement. All the way during this time, the owner can change his/her mind and say ‘hey, thanks for going through all this trouble, but I like another guy better!”. Only after you sign the contract and pay a deposit and rent, you can feel completely safe in the knowledge that you found yourself a home.

Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? My main advice – if possible, always use the services of a relocation company, they will make your life so much easier. It’s also possible to do everything on your own. You’ll just have to stock up on patience. And resilience. And some wine.

17 comments

  1. Kingsley for the girls, by any chance? We went through the exact same! Love Leamingtom. You should be very happy there. In the end, we found Abbotsford school for our girls (were about the same ages as yours) in Kenilworth was a better fit for us. The school closed a few years back. We are leaving on Saturday for our house hunting trip in China! Enjoy the experience. Priceless!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for advice! We were looking for a property in Warwick, Leamington and Kenilworth, but were finally able to find what we like in Leamington. So far we applied for a number of schools and waiting for reply, many of them have closed admissions already.
      Wishing you all the best in China – a totally different experience :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Renting in the UK is awful. Letting agents there are the lowest of the low, and there are so many extra charges – for landlords as well as those who are renting. It was such a nice experience renting in the US after having to rent in London for seven years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How does it work there then? Much more straight forward? I think, letting agencies are pretty spoiled in UK as there’s always high demand for properties.

      Like

    • That’s true – in DC there are many empty apartments, and the apartment buildings are always trying to get new tenants. We had the same issue with no references but we only had to pay one month’s rent – normally the deposit is smaller than that. You also don’t have to go through letting agents. We did, but kind of by accident as the letting agency had advertised on Craig’s List along with all the privately owned and rented condos. It turned out our letting agent was a really great guy and at no point did we feel we were being ripped off.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed your post and felt for you all the way. The bit of advice about researching schools and getting a place within the catchment area is particularly vital advice. Loved the reference to wine! Best of luck in the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s