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.
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.