Lots of boxes need to be ticked to find the best area to live in London. But it doesn’t have to be like finding a needle in a haystack. You just need to get pragmatic and research the stuff that matters.
Our guide to identifying the best neighbourhood to live in London will set you on the right path.
Your guide to identifying the best area to live in London
Figuring out where to live in London can create a paradox of choice. If deciding whether to hang your hat in the bustling north, leafy south, edgy east or salubrious west wasn’t hard enough, there are the different boroughs to consider – a tapestry of 33 mini-cities within a city: each with its own collection of neighbourhoods and sense of identity.
This head-scratching – yet exciting – process doesn’t need to become an anxiety-inducing chore. Park your sense of adventure temporarily and get pragmatic.
Take the time to research these three key considerations – and your perfect corner of London will become apparent.
1 Rental prices
London is famous for many iconic things: red buses, black taxis, royal palaces, bridges. But there’s something else it’s well known for that you won’t be quite as keen to experience: high rental prices – the capital’s average monthly rental price (£1,435) is nearly double that of England’s average.
You can only live somewhere you can afford. Therefore, the first step on your journey to finding your home sweet home should be establishing a realistic budget by reviewing your finances and sticking to it – don’t forget to factor in the deposit. Prices vary greatly from area to area, so make a shortlist of potential neighbourhoods by researching the local rental prices using reputable sites like Foxtons.
2 School catchment areas
There’s a very middle-class battle happening on the streets of London – and you could find yourself on the front line. The school catchment area system has triggered a fight for properties within these sought-after boundaries. And the prize? A place for your child at an Ofsted rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ state school – if you’re lucky!
To be clear, your child won’t be guaranteed a place at a particular school because you live within its catchment area. Plus, the area a school admits children from often changes from year to year, getting smaller or bigger based on who applies. What living within a catchment area does is vastly improve your child’s chances of gaining a place. When a school decides who to admit, they will typically select siblings of existing pupils first, before filling the remaining places based on who lives within the catchment area.
The whole process can feel like the wild west sometimes, with some families attempting to bend the rules by renting an empty property in the local area or even changing religion to gain access to a faith school. You can stay one step ahead of the competition by visiting websites like primaryschoolcatchment.co.uk.
Zoom meetings from the comfort of your sofa might be the new normal, but the commute will still be a major consideration when choosing where to live. Londoners have the longest average commute (74 minutes) in the country, according to a new study – that’s a lot of time standing or sitting on public transport each day.
So, research how frequent (and crowded) buses or trains are on potential routes from your shortlist of neighbourhoods, and how much fares cost – especially if you’re planning on travelling into London from the commuter belt each day. In that case, you will have to take several different forms of transport, and pay for an annual train ticket alongside your Oyster travel card.
4 Get help from the experts (optional)
Simply London’s housing experts will work with you to define and understand your specific search criteria – from budget and schools to the commute and access to amenities – before selecting suitable areas for you to choose from.
This will focus your search – giving you the best chance of laying your hat somewhere that’s right for you.