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London - Accommodation and Property
Some of the questions to consider:
1. Do I want to live in an apartment, a serviced-apartment, or a house?
2. Do I want to live close to restaurants, nightlife, shopping and entertainment?
3. Do I need to live close to a good school?
4. Do I need parking or access to public transport?
Some of the more affluent districts for the fashionable singles include Bloomsbury, Canary Wharf, Chelsea, City, Docklands, Knightsbridge, Marble Arch, Notting Hill, Soho, and South Kensington. A little less central, yet more affordable are Battersea, Bayswater, Camden, Clapham, Fulham, Islington and Maida Vale.
Family favourites offering the best of London include Chelsea, Fulham, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Mayfair, and South Kensington. Further away, Chiswick, Clapham, Hampstead, Maida Vale, Marylebone, Wandsworth, and Wimbledon offer larger properties, outdoor space, good schools, and are close to transport hubs.
Private letting or real estate agents are a good place to start searching for homes. You can find a list of accredited agents at http://www.nalscheme.co.uk/. Alternatively, some owners now advertise properties directly on the Internet and in local newspapers and magazines. There are also relocation specialists who offer complete housing, removal, packaging and storage services. First hand experience is invaluable, so read tips and post questions to expat's in London on the expatfocus.com forums. Up My Street (www.upmystreet.com) provides helpful information on neighbourhood property prices, population profiles, crime figures and more.
Most rental contracts are for a minimum six months to a year, with the option to renew. You will be required to pay a month's rent in advance, a finder's fee if using an agent, and a returnable bond, usually equivalent to one to two months rent, against possible property damage. Be sure to have reference from your employer, a bank, and any current landlord or agent.
Before you sign a contract, check on inventory and test utilities such as water, electricity, and gas. Be sure it clearly states your responsibilities and those of the landlord or agent. If there is a possibility that you may be suddenly relocated again before the contract ends, ask for a clause allowing you to vacate the property within a month.
Keep in mind that you may spend some time in temporary accommodation whilst looking for permanent housing and waiting for your shipped belongings to arrive. Instead of staying in a hotel, consider a more homely furnished service apartment or house.
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