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Don't underestimate the actual cost of moving. As well as rent, deposit and agency fees, there are plenty of hidden costs to consider.
Every year thousands of people take the plunge and decide to move to London, whether from a nearby town a few miles away, or from as far as Australia. Records from 2012 show that on average around 200,000 people move to London from elsewhere in the UK every year, while a staggering 175,000 arrive from abroad. So, how much does it cost to move to London?
Everyone who has moved house before knows that various costs are incurred in the process, but due to the rise in living costs in London, this can often end up being more than you expect when moving to the capital. The general price of moving has also risen significantly in the last decade, particularly when it comes to removals and fees. Fortunately, once you've found a property you're happy with you should be able to avoid the rigmarole of the moving process again for at least a few years!
We look at the cost to move to London from every angle; from the administrative costs of coming from abroad, to the day-to-day expenses you'll need to budget for once you get here. Be realistic about how much it will cost you to move to London, and make a budget with a decent contingency amount built in for any problems. Finally, as with most things in life, it pays to shop around - for removal companies to utility bills, get various quotes from different companies to ensure you're only paying the best price.
With most renters focusing on the actual property costs, as we'll see below, they often grossly underestimate the actual moving costs, from renting a van to putting excess items in storage. If you’re coming from abroad these costs are even higher, especially with the addition of potential visas and shipping costs. These costs are painful, but occur only once per move - and scrimping on them can lead to more hassle and the possibility of having to pay out even more later on. Make a budget, save far in advance, and you’ll be able to deal with your move swiftly and soundly!
It's also recommended to be realistic about the cost of leaving your previous property and including that in your moving costs. Are you likely to get your whole deposit back? Do you need to pay for an end-of-tenancy professional clean? Keep this in mind so you don't get stung with an unexpected cost while leaving your old home.
From Within The UK
Are you planning to hire a van and move things yourself, or go for a removals firm? The former is cheaper and makes more sense if you don’t have much to move, but the latter is recommended if there is a significant amount of furniture or heavy items. For quotes on removals firms, have a look at the British Association of Removers for trusted, quality firms. Once you've chosen a firm make sure to check if they are insured too, in case something should happen to your belongings during the move.
Most removal companies also offer a packing option, where they will come to you with all the packing equipment required such as boxes and bubblewrap before filling the van and transporting your things to your new home. This costs more, but if you're time-poor or unable to be there it's a great way to avoid the hassle of packing up your house.
Example cost: £300 - £1500 depending on distance of move and size of property
Although it depends where you’re moving from, as a rule you tend to get less space for your money in London, especially when compared to other parts of the UK. As a result, you may need to put some items in storage until you decide what to do with them. There are various companies which offer this service, such as Big Yellow Storage, as well as other smaller, London-based firms. Call around for quotes, and be realistic about how long you expect your items to be in storage - many offer deals for a certain period of time. Ask around in case friends or relatives have spare garage space too!
Example cost: 30 square feet for £17.10 per week for 8 weeks
From Outside The UK
Depending on the time you plan to spend in the UK and the kind of visa you have applied for, this can cost between £85 and £1,700, with additional administration fees on top. Check out our article on how to get a UK Visa for more information.
Example cost: £85 to £1,700, plus fees
The cost of this will vary wildly from country to country, largely dependent upon your distance form the UK. Again, make sure to get a number of quotes to ensure you’re not being taken advantage of, but expect to pay at least £1000 from the EU to potentially almost £10,000 if you’re shipping the contents of a large house to London from Australia using a professional firm. For within Europe, it might also be possible to rent a van and drive between properties, particularly if you are moving from somewhere relatively close with good transport links, such as Paris.
Example cost: £1,000 from Europe to £10,000+ from Australia
If you have a furry friend who is moving with you this will most likely incur extra costs, as well as some bureaucracy. Within the EU you will need to arrange a Pet Passport before you travel (to include up-to-date medical information), while for any air travel you must contact the airline to confirm their policy on animals before reserving a place for your pet. Small pets can often travel in the cabin with you, while larger animals will have to be held in the livestock hold. An administration fee will apply, which varies by animal, airline and distance.
Example cost: £100+ on British Airways
Once you've made it to London, finding somewhere to rent with pets can be problematic as not all landlords will accept tenants with pets. Be sure to read up ahead of time, so you're well prepared and can give yourself the best chance of finding a home.
During the property hunt
Most people forget this step, but it's important to think about where you'll be staying while you find somewhere to rent. The London rental market moves incredibly quickly, so it's generally easier to find somewhere once you're already in London and can attend viewings. If you're lucky enough to have friends or family already living in London where you can stay for a while that will save you some money. If not, you should factor the cost of staying in a hotel or Airbnb apartment into your move budget. All being well, you should be able to find somewhere within a month.
Once you've found somewhere
While renters are fortunate enough to avoid steep Stamp Duty and legal fees involved in purchasing a house in London, there are a number of costs incurred in securing a property, aside from paying rent. If you are renting through an agency, the minimum initial costs you can expect are:
Letting Agency Fees: £350 on average
A Deposit (to be refunded at the end of tenancy) of four to six weeks rent: £2,500 for a monthly rental of around £1,800
First Month’s Rent (to be paid upfront): £1,800
In addition, keep in mind the possibility of extra costs including referencing fees, occasionally charged per applicant by agencies for verifying a tenant’s references, and service charge costs in a shared building.
We've said it before, and we'll say it again - London is an expensive city to live in. If you're planning to move here, make sure you are being completely realistic about how much day-to-day living is going to cost you, and factor this into your budget. For a good indication of the price difference between London and where you currently live try the Numbeo and Expatistan comparison calculators, which give both a contrasting percentage, as well as comparisons of food, rent, travel and other costs. For example, this shows that living in London is more than 50% more expensive on average than living in Leeds, while rental costs in somewhere such as Singapore are around 25% less than in London. It can make for rather sobering reading, but will be hugely helpful in giving you an indication of how much your living costs are going to change.
Rent is going to be your most substantial monthly cost, with recent data suggesting that the average London rental price is now £1,561. If you're willing to take a room in a shared house, you can expect to pay less than this. Rental rates also decrease the further away you go from Central London - but don't forget to factor in the cost of transport from these locations.
Here's a handy map produced by Thrillist that shows the average rental prices using the nearest tube stations as an indicator.
London renters also have to pay Council Tax every month, the cost of which depends upon the value of the property and the area you live in. Very few rentals include utilities costs in the rent, which generally comprises of gas, electricity and water, and you'll also need to pay for a TV Licence if you plan on watching any TV (including on a laptop) at home. Meanwhile if you're travelling to work on public transport, the most cost-effective way is to buy a monthly (or annual) Oyster Card which includes the Zone you live in and the Zone you work in.
Finally, it's worth investing in Contents Insurance (or checking if this is covered by your bank, as it is in some cases) for peace of mind when you're away from home.
Average Monthly London Rent (as of June 2015): £1,561 per person.
Average Annual Council Tax: £1,295
Monthly Oyster Card (Zone 1-3): £144.80
Average Monthly Utilities (Gas, Electricity & Water): £80
Average Monthly Internet Bill: £20
Annual TV Licence: £145.50
Monthly Contents Insurance: £20
You can also read our blog about 20 things you should know before moving to London.
Feature image credit: Brian Smithson