Transferred to London - Let's Hear the Latest on Where to Live

Hello to all the London colleagues. Slapped with an expat transfer earlier this month and although I've already been onboarded by some company-sponsored relocation people it's quickly become apparent I'll have to do this myself.

Need the latest 2020 advice for where to go; here's my situation: office is basically Victoria station, 27 y/o, looking for a "full-service" type apartment complex (gym, pool, concierge, ideally some commercial on 1st floor, etc.), 2.5-3.1K GBP budget, looking for a young professionals neighborhood (25+) up and coming or not doesn't matter, lots of dining and bar/nightlife walking distance, decently close to a relevant tube line OR sub 30min walkable.

My notes thus far: Shoreditch, Clapham (do newbuild complexes exist here?), Battersea between park and power station and Brixton. Where am I wrong? And right?

Let's hear it gents - what do you got? Also, what's the latest on incentives or lack thereof considering the market? What am I not thinking about expenses wise besides the deposit? Is the market getting tighter or looser lately?

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Comments (29)

Oct 23, 2020 - 4:24am

Just switched flats and prices are really down since Covid started. Hard to tell where prices will be in the future though. You haven't really missed any other expenses, just familiarize yourself with council taxes (by no means an upfront cost). 

I am not a fan of shoreditch - it's a 'too young' crowd for me, it's noisy and dirty. Clapham is nice and Battersea (quite a few buildings would fit your description) as well.  

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Oct 23, 2020 - 5:31am

Oh, I thought I was the only one thinking that Shoreditch is noisy and dirty. There are fucking traffic jams at 3am

Oct 23, 2020 - 9:31am

Yes - DM me if you want, would not recomend if you are in your late 20's. Friends lived in shoreditch for a year and tried to move out as soon as their lease expired. 

Would not recomment to go deposit free if you can deal with the upfront costs. Focus on pushing rent down / other clauses more flexible (ie 1 year contract that then renews without pay bump for another year, break the lease after 12 months at no costs)

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Oct 23, 2020 - 4:44am

South Kensington is the first place I'd look at. Ticks all the checkboxes, very few areas are comparable. 

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

Oct 23, 2020 - 7:23am

Without getting into personal details, why are you transferring from Houston to London? That's a pretty big change, just curious to hear.

Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

  • Associate 2 in Consulting
Oct 23, 2020 - 8:05am

Out of interest is the company paying rent? 2.5-3k is like 50k pre tax isn't it? Are you on around 150-170 pre tax and footing this yourself? 

Quick zoopla shows that you can get v nice 2-3 bedroom places for that amount but I don't think they'll have all those self contained options

Oct 23, 2020 - 8:39am

It's an expat package so I've been given allowances essentially, and I live entirely on a post-tax basis while over there. The idea at least in principle is I don't lean on my US income for anything (although I fully intend to).

See above though; I don't work at a bank or consulting firm. Wouldn't describe this package as a norm you'd expect at large firms.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Oct 23, 2020 - 9:35am

Well, welcome to the expat life - if you can get your way onto expat contracts (U balance style - aka they pay for housing/kids schools and your salary is adjusted in Local currrency based on home currency) it's a pretty good life, but you have to be open to moving quite frequently. And these contracts are becoming rarer and rarer but if you are a top performer and they are desperate to move someone qualified to a geography to boost the local business line they will.

My dad had a 10-12k p.m. allowance for housing (yes that is ridiculous), corporate car allowance for low triple digits, didn't have to pay any school fees regardless of where we wanted to go and company had good ties to elite high schools.

Oct 23, 2020 - 8:11am

If you're near Victoria, the closest nice places to live would be Pimlico, Mayfair, Belgravia or Fitzrovia 

Battersea is really nice, but isn't that convenient with tubes unless you live nearer to Vauxhall. That said, I would definitely consider Vauxhall as there are plenty of nice full service type places there, such as Nine Elms (next to the US Embassy in case you miss home).

Clapham is a bit far out plus it's full of fresh graduates so may not be what you're looking for. Don't go to Brixton unless you want to get stabbed.

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Oct 23, 2020 - 11:16am

Shoreditch is really binary (either you hate it or love it), but I personally would hate living there, Mayfair is poser, Westminster too touristy. 

Since you're on an allowance, I guess value for money isn't really the priority. My recommendation would be either South Kensington or Marylebone, as the classic good neighborhoods of London, but I would also add Waterloo which has, to me, the best mix of transport connection / quality of housing / stuff to do. There are other good residential neighborhoods but very boring tbh

Most Helpful
Oct 23, 2020 - 12:43pm

Firstly, you need to understand that London doesn't have nearly the same 'full-service' building scene that you'd find in major US cities. They exist, but they're either new builds in parts of the city that have been majorly redeveloped in the past decade or two or they're way out of your price range in the West End. 3K in Mayfair won't get you any of the amenities you're looking for. English people don't really live in Mayfair anyway. They don't live in Knightsbridge either. That's for foreign money (not expat packages--more like oligarch money). There are some  nice flats around St. James's and Marylebone. Pimlico has a nice private square or two (Vincent Square is one of the larger green spaces in that part of the city, but it's not accessible even to residents as it's owned by the Westminster School). 

Clapham is for poor people. So is Shoreditch. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. They've both become a lot more expensive in the past decade, but even when I was a poor grad student, I thought going out in Clapham was shitty. When I lived near Liverpool Street Station, Shoreditch was still up and coming. Now, it's basically London's version of Williamsburg. For me, it sucks.

If you could afford something in Belgravia, St. James's or Pimlico, that would be ideal since you could easily walk to Victoria. Victoria isn't that nice, though it's a hell of a lot nicer than it used to be. There has been a lot of renovation works around Victoria for the past 10 years or so, but it's still not great. The bus station and train station attract a lot of people I would rather not have to deal with on a daily basis. If you don't mind riding the tube daily, you can live further west/southwest which is decidedly more civilized than anything in the east.

I wouldn't be wedded to the idea of a full-service building. It really limits your options. South Kensington and Chelsea are nice. Anything on the King's Road is pretty nice, but even the largest buildings around there don't have the amenities you're talking about. For reference, I used to live right behind Partridges on the King's Road in one of the largest buildings in the area, and we certainly didn't have a pool. 

To be clear, flats in your price range will have in-unit washers and dryers. It's not uncommon in England to have a combination washer/drier. Honestly, I only ever used that for my underwear and socks. Just get your shirts dry-cleaned. England doesn't really have a full-service culture in the way the US does, so you're just going to have to get used to that. Try to avoid being an 'ugly American' by lowering your expectations ahead of time. You would think that in a city like London, you could just pay more for something and get a better service. You'd be wrong.

You could ask your firm to float you a corporate flat for a few months, but those tend to be above the prices you listed. They come with internet, cable and the other basic things you need to be able to just pack some bags and move in straight away. If you work with an estate agent (what English people call brokers), you can almost definitely get a better deal than what your in-house corporate relocation team will get you. I've moved several times to England from abroad and it's always a shit show dealing with the corporate relo people. Everything seems to be a mystery to them.

Also, make sure to get your firm to pay for an accountancy to do your taxes. It's not cheap and it's a real bitch to do on your own. You'll still need to file US taxes in addition to UK taxes and the US and UK tax years are shifted, so things tend to get fucked up. Tax software won't help you much because it simply isn't designed for expats, so even if you like to do your own taxes, just get someone else to do it. Also, save your travel calendar. In your first year, you won't be a 'resident' for tax purposes, but in your second year, you will be. In that year, if you travel a lot and are outside the UK for more than half the year, you get taxed on a remittance basis. In any case, your accountants will want your travel calendar, so don't get trigger happy on deleting old entries to free up space on your work email.

Best of luck with the move!

Oct 23, 2020 - 2:47pm

Appreciate all the feedback, great post. You're the third now pushing South Kensington and I hadn't even browsed there yet so I'll look into that.

I'm actually a French citizen (dual, with US passport) so I'm absolutely familiar with what you're talking about re expectations, Paris isn't so far different as a city residential infrastructure wise. I'll be in a corporate flat for 60 days to give time to find a place, intending to use the full 2 months for the sake of it. Taxes in US and UK are being handled by an PWC / EY type, granted wasn't very impressed by initial consultancy calls.

Thanks again - hope you don't mind a PM later on if something else comes up.

Oct 23, 2020 - 9:17pm

Also, EY used to do my taxes. The process is more labor intensive from your end than you might ideally like, but you'd be surprised how much paperwork they end up doing especially if you have to file multiple state/local taxes in the US in addition to your UK taxes. The UK tax system is SO much simpler than the US system, but as an American, you have to deal with both HMRC and the IRS. I'm sure it's not top of your priority list right now, but on the back end, taxes can be a real pain in the ass. EY will make you fill out a travel calendar, so just keep calendar so you don't have to make stuff up/guess when you were in the country.

Oct 23, 2020 - 9:24pm

Also, try to have just one foreign bank account.  You have to report all your foreign account holdings if the accounts have more than $10K in them, and that is also a bit of a pain because you don't get reminders about that stuff and EY sometimes drops the ball.

I like HSBC Premier if you qualify for an account. As long as you're a 'premier' customer in one country, you can very easily open an account in another country without issue and you can do instant transfers between your linked foreign accounts. It's by far the easiest way to move money around without paying ludicrous conversion rates and it greatly expedites opening an account in, say, France if you want/need a Euro account. Like everything else in Europe, it's not a same-day thing, but opening an account without being resident in the country is unreasonably difficult otherwise.

Oct 27, 2020 - 3:35pm

Seconded re: full service buildings not being a thing in London. 

I think the neighborhood suggestions being thrown out are crazy though... He's 27, not 35, and he doesn't say he has a family. I agree that shoreditch is shitty and Clapham is on the low end compared to the price range hes listed, but Kensington is pretty far out of the actual city and is definitely not somewhere with "lots of dining and nightlife". He works in Victoria, he's gonna be getting drinks/dinner in Mayfair/Covent Garden/taking the tube to shoreditch. Marylebone is a decent suggestion imo.

You will find other people (i.e. girls) that are 27 in London are going to be very, very far below you in income/lifestyle, as salaries are much lower there vs the US. This is good, but many in this age bracket are going to be living in Clapham/Shoreditch/Brixton type areas and going out at somewhat cheaper places. If you go somewhere super fancy like Kensington the crowd is going to be much older than you.

Oct 26, 2020 - 3:35am

Embassy Gardens development in Nine Elms. Only a few miles away from Victoria. New build so units in great condition.  Gym, sauna, meeting rooms, on-site Waitrose, cinema, concierge all the usual facilities and a swimming pool in the sky =) you are also next door to the US embassy so lots of ex-pats around. .  pls stay away from Shoreditch and definitely keep away from Brixton. 

Oct 26, 2020 - 8:01am

Try Goodman Fields. New build in Aldgate (close to Shoreditch / Old Spitalfields Market etc and the "young" area) but still far away.

There are some panhandler's / hobos around (near the station) but you get used to them.

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