Welcome back, Weekend Warriors planning to move to London! Several weeks ago I discussed the international relocation issue of deciding whether to rent or sell your house in your city of origination before moving to London. Well, likewise you’ll face the decision of whether to rent or buy a house in your destination city—in this case, London.
I’d venture to say that most expats relocating to London rent first when coming over here. The reasons for renting are numerous. It gives you the opportunity to test out a neighborhood or a few before deciding where to make such a commitment as investing in property and settling there. Many expats that are transferred to London on work assignments have a finite timeframe they’re working within, which may relegate them to corporate housing or make it far more practical to just rent for the shorter term if it’s only a matter of months to a few years. Also, London is expensive (surprise, surprise). A two-bedroom flat could easily cost half a million pounds (and bear in mind the exchange rate with your home currency), so the average expat doesn’t necessarily have the capital to make a down payment and meet mortgage payments, especially if you do still have money tied up in a house you own back home.
It is certainly possible for expats to obtain a mortgage in the UK; however, there could be additional obstacles to this. A disadvantage of first moving to the UK is that you have no credit history here, so will require some time to build one up. Also, lenders might want to see at least a few months’ of UK payslips to guarantee your salary, which could delay your ability to purchase.
If you’re seriously considering buying a home, however, you might do well with initially renting apartment for one year with a six-month break clause. As this would imply, the break clause will give you the ability to get out of your rental lease agreement after only six months, so could buy you some time to research neighborhoods and houses and apply for a mortgage without committing yourself to a full year of paying rent elsewhere. You might also need the time to gauge how you and/or your family are settling in here and whether you’ll indeed be committed to London itself for the longer term. Not an easy decision to make, so make the most of this weekend and research your options thoroughly to make your London move an affordable and smooth one.