Moving to London with small children – where to live

Moving to London with small children – where to liveThis article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info

Are you thinking of taking the plunge and moving to London with your young family?

We were incredibly fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive friend (thanks Kirsten!) assist us with so much practical advice and answer hundreds of questions when we were making the decision to move. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have this type of support so I thought I’d share the things we discovered that really made a difference for our family. In the next few posts I will document what we have learnt over the past 12 months about settling into one of the world’s greatest cities with toddlers in tow.  First up.. where to live – the focus is on renting as that has been our experience.

South London street scape

Set your criteria

This won’t surprise you but London is huge and expensive. You can get an idea of how much more expensive than where you are currently looking by checking this link. To narrow down your search to areas that are suitable for your move have a think about your top three criteria. For us they were:

1. Proximity to my partner’s office. We have no other support in London so he needed to be able to get home quickly i.e. within 30 minutes. Check the door to door travel time rather than the main train or bus journey i.e. factor in walking or other modes of transport. The best way to do this is using  CityMapper where you can plot your commute via a number of transport methods. Update – I just found this ingenious website that helps identify areas to live in your preferred commute time and general area of London/commuter towns –

2. Budget. Rents and property prices are eyewateringly high. If anyone ever says to me again it’s as expensive to live in Melbourne as in London I will ask them to check their rent/mortgage situation and this comparison site. My advice is to choose a realistic budget (i.e. more than you are paying at home) that takes into account your financial situation and other costs specific to London such as travel, childcare and council tax. Unlike in Australia where council rates are paid by the property owner, in the UK council tax is  which is payable by whoever is living in the property and can vary considerably.

3. Close to the Thames and London landmarks. This was really important to me, though less so my partner. I’d lived in London as a student in a very dull suburb and knew that to continue to feel excited about our move I wanted to feel like I was in London proper.

Other criteria to consider:

  • overall access to transport
  • close to large supermarket (although less of an issue with online shopping)
  • close to friends/family
  • close to large parks and gardens
  • within/outside the congestion zone (if you plan on having a car)
  • old or new property – older properties can involve a lot of maintenance and mean you are at the mercy of your landlord if renting
  • steps – we ideally needed a no step entry if I was going to manage 2 babies on my own!

Things you may need to compromise on: extra bedrooms and bathrooms, outside area/garden, separate laundry room.

Climbing wisteria is pretty but will it define where to live in London for your expat move

Research online before you arrive

I spent a lot of time doing research online before arriving in London and I really believe this paid off for us in the long term. We were able to understand the rental market a little better and what we could expect within our budget. Use these sites for the easiest way to search for properties to rent or buy: Zoopla and Rightmove. Try to find some areas you would like to live in before you arrive so you are not starting from scratch completely. Note – the real estate industry is quite deregulated so it is also advisable once you have selected your preferred area to research local estate agents as many properties are not listed on Zoopla and Rightmove.

Relocation package

Part of our relocation package was several weeks in a serviced apartment. This bought us some time to find the right place to rent and we didn’t feel (too) rushed in the process. Try to negotiate this upfront if you can or find an AirBnB apartment to stay in while you research your permanent accommodation.

We were also allocated a relocation consultant by my husband’s company though honestly we had to do a lot of research ourselves and drive the process to get the outcomes we were looking for. The best advice they gave us however was to pick 2-3 areas and do some deeper research and visit them when you arrive to see if you like the overall atmosphere and services. We ruled out Islington and Bermondsey this way. I am still sad about that (mainly because there are many more coffee options than where we are now) but I was never going to feel comfortable pushing our big pram down those narrow footpaths.

Book appointments

This is where things start to get a little crazy. Now you have your preferred areas determined and have decided on your criteria then you can start making appointments with estate agents. I think we looked at over 20 places before making a final decision on the house we live in now.

There is a housing shortage in London so competition can be pretty fierce and the best properties go off the market quickly so set up some alerts on Zoopla and RightMove so you are notified as soon as they go on line. Via your research you may also discover real estate agents in the areas you like that hold and turnover a large amount of stock and contacting them directly may help gain access to properties before they hit the internet.

Negotiate contracts

Hopefully you find the property of your dreams quickly. It’s then time to negotiate contracts. This warrants a whole blog post in itself so instead I found a great summary on things to consider when negotiating your rental contract.  With any luck you will be moving in to your new London home with minimum fuss and settling into your new lifestyle shortly after.

I hope this post was helpful. My next expat post will be on healthcare, something you will want to get familiar with quickly when moving to London with small children.

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Relocating to London with your young family - tips on where to live










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  1. 17th April 2016 / 2:46 AM

    Great advice – I think a lot of this is excellent, practical advice for moving to most big cities. Preparation is definitely at least half the battle!

    • 17th April 2016 / 4:10 PM

      Thanks Cristin! Question is.. Can you over prepare? I say NO! But I research to the hilt x

  2. 17th April 2016 / 11:24 AM

    Great post – I think the more you prepare beforehand the better.

    • 17th April 2016 / 4:08 PM

      Thanks Cathy. I wonder if a type A personality and a tendency to be super organised is a pre-requisite for being an expat mum?!

  3. 17th April 2016 / 1:11 PM

    Loads of great tips here. Im sure loads of people will find this really useful whether they are relocating within the UK or from outside! Thanks so much for sharing this with #myexpatfamily great to have you join in and I hope you enjoy the other posts too!

    Ps your blog is SO pretty!!!

    • 19th April 2016 / 8:55 AM

      Thanks so much for your kind words Chantelle. Love the diversity of experience on #myexpatfamily

  4. 18th April 2016 / 10:34 AM

    Great advice! Sounds extremely similar to our housing hunt in Dublin. It’s become so overpriced and competitive here, 15 open house showings are arranged, a swarm arrives, and a rent bidding war follows. We were extremely fortunate we found our property online, represented by an owner who couldn’t be fussed to wait around and let the home to us immediately.

    • 19th April 2016 / 8:52 AM

      Lucky you Megan. It’s stressful enough without all the negotiations. We are looking to extend our lease soon and I’m expecting the negotiations to be tough. Boo!

  5. 18th April 2016 / 11:32 AM

    Great advice – I think the more you prepare beforehand the better. Preparation is definitely at least half the battle! It’s become so overpriced and competitive in London the last several years.

    • 19th April 2016 / 8:54 AM

      Thanks Lucy. In our area rents have been put up by over 20% in some cases. I think there’s a fair bit of luck involved in finding a reasonable landlord too

  6. 22nd June 2016 / 4:53 AM

    Great advice – we did it the other way around (Hampshire to Brisbane in 2014) so can totally appreciate how challenging and exhausting the whole process is! A few people have mentioned to me that they wanted advice on moving from Aus to the UK so I’ll point them in your direction.

    • 22nd June 2016 / 9:07 AM

      Thanks Karen, not sure why our paths haven’t crossed before! Happy to assist anyone who needs advice on moving to the UK. Especially the twin mum sisterhood. Hope you are enjoying life in Brisvegas!

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