How to buy a house in London: Your ultimate guide

How to buy a house in London: Your ultimate guide
Is there a more daunting task in property than buying a home in London?

After all, you're faced with one of the most competitive UK property markets and prices that are higher than anywhere else in the UK.

You're also faced with the prospect of searching through thousands of homes across a huge city.

Despite all that, though, buying in London really is a fantastic opportunity and living in the city is an experience out on its own.

However, any property search in London requires intensive research and sound preparation if you really want to find your dream home.

In this guide, we'll look at how you should establish and manage your finances, detail some of the best places in the capital to look for a property and take you through the buying process itself...

How to buy in London


Get your finances in order

One thing you will need to buy a house in London is money. And probably quite a lot of it.

Earlier this year, London was named the most expensive city in Europe to buy a home and the eighth most expensive in the world.

But if you look in the right areas for you and, most importantly, get your financials in order before you buy, the capital's stunning properties need not be out of reach.

As with any property purchase, it pays to clear any debts before you buy. Mortgage companies hate debt and having some will undoubtably impact on your borrowing ability.

And seeing as every single pound counts for a lot in the London market, you'll want to make sure you can borrow as much as possible without over-stretching yourself.

How much for a deposit in London?

Clearly the more you can save, the better.

You'll get a better mortgage interest rate with a larger deposit and that will save you money in the long term.

But saving for a deposit, especially if you're already living in London, is not easy.

Deposits for first-time buyers in London averaged £114,952 last year, according to research by Halifax, meaning a huge amount of savings pressure for anyone wanting to buy in the capital.

Where to buy a house in London

London is a big place. Really big actually.

So, pinpointing the area(s) you want to live in is key to a successful property search.

There's no room for a scattergun approach in the capital, so it's best to think of boroughs and postcodes as little towns within a big city.

Find two or three that suit you best, both in terms of affordability and suitability for things like commuting or schools, and focus your search on them.

Here are five London postcodes for you to start checking out!

Beware though. London property prices can be hugely different simply by street.

For example, living in SW7 is far more expensive than living in W8 - despite the two West London postcodes being right next door to each other.

Are you going old or new?

The great thing about London is its variety.

We've got everything here from stunning riverside new-build flats to traditional Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses.

But with that variety comes decisions. And you'll need to decide what kind of property you want and what kind of property will work best for you.

Once you've decided on your core search area, establish what kind of property you are after and focus in on those properties.

That level of focus will help you avoid being tempted and wasting time on properties that are not right for you.

London house prices

You can't have failed to avoid the steady stream of stories in the UK press regarding the Brexit effect on London house prices.

And it's true that capital property values have 'corrected' slightly since the UK decided to leave the EU in 2016.

But London property prices are still way above the UK national average of £229,431, with the average London home costing £457,471 - almost double.

Staying ahead of the competition

It's dog eat dog in the London property market, even in a slowdown like we're experiencing at the moment.

So, if you want to ensure you're in the best position to find your dream home, you need to be constantly researching properties and keeping an eye on the market.

Buying in London is an investment and commitment in time, so as well as being all over the main property portals, Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket, you should strike up good relationships with agents in the areas you're searching.

Doing so could see you get an early tip on a property coming to market, meaning you can get in for a peak before every other buyer in London.

It's little advantages like that that can make a real difference to your search.

Be flexible

As a big city, London rarely sleeps.

And it could be the same for you once you embark on a capital property hunt.

We're exaggerating slightly, of course.

But you should always aim to be flexible - whether that means an early morning viewing or spending your Sunday afternoons browsing the property portals and researching pricing in a certain area.

Be prepared to do whatever is necessary and you'll soon be on your way towards your dream London property.

Be prepared to travel

The closer you live to Central London, the more expensive properties become.

So, if your budget doesn't stretch to zones one or two, consider living further out and commuting in.

While the commute may cost more annually, it will almost certainly pale into insignificance compared with the asking prices of central properties.

Think long-term - and don't rush things

You want your London home to be right for you - as well as be at the right price.

So, don't rush into anything when on your property search.

Take a long-term view and if, after searching for some time, you still haven't found your dream home, consider renting and use the time to explore other areas - as well as top up that deposit if possible.

Buying a house in London - the process

As we mentioned above, it pays to be organised and structured when buying a property in London.

So, here's a checklist of each phase of the buying process...

  *  Establish finances, deposit and borrowing potential
  *  Draw up budget including legal fees, lender fees, removals, stamp duty and solicitor fees and obtain a mortgage agreement in principle
  *  Pinpoint three key areas of London to start your search, taking into account travel needs and budget
  *  Establish the type of property you want / need against your budget
  *  Start searching for properties, contact estate agents and head out on viewings
  *  Make an offer on your chosen home, establish what's included in the sale and engage a solicitor
  *  Complete your mortgage application
  *  Arrange lender valuation of property
  *  Draft contracts and conveyancing process
  *  Mortgage offered by lender
  *  Sign contracts and agree a moving-in date
  *  Completion - you've got the keys and your brand new home!

If you are now ready to buy your first home in London, take a look at our properties for sale or get in touch with your local Ellis & Co office.