Buying & Selling

How to buy a house in London

How to find and buy property for sale in London, whether you want to buy a house in London’s Canary Wharf with a postcard view, or need help to buy London properties in some of the quieter, leafy suburbs.

Buy house London

By Expatica

Updated 8-1-2024

With more than 8.6 million residents, London is a huge metropolis with residents from all over the world. As the hub for the UK’s economy, politics and culture, London attracts a great deal of Brits and foreigners, despite high costs of living and higher than average housing prices than the rest of the UK.

Buying UK property is likely to be one of the biggest investments of your life. This is particularly the case in London, where house prices are considerably higher. With so many people looking for accommodation in London, the housing market is extremely competitive.

This guide includes the following sections:

Property for sale in London – a good investment?

The number of people renting and buying in London is currently split 50:50. However, research by PricewaterhouseCooper forecasts that London will become a city of renters by 2025, with just 40% owning their homes. Much of this is due to younger Londoners being priced out of the market and forced to remain renting in London. This continued increase in the rental sector will inevitably mean there will be less houses for sale. Should you wish to buy-to-let, you shouldn’t have any issues finding tenants.

However, the London buying market is still an attractive prospect for those who have the resources; it has remained relatively stable over the past years, including post-Brexit. The luxury end of the market (over £1 million) has slowed in the last year with changes to Stamp Duty. New transport-led regeneration and the government pledge in January 2016 to fund the construction of more affordable homes in London is helping boost availability in up-and-coming areas.

Property prices in London

The 32 London boroughs cover a huge area. Naturally, prices vary depending on where and the type of London property you buy. A large majority of property sales in more central boroughs are flats in London; many older buildings and new developments are divided into apartments for sale.

According to the Zoopla ZED-index, the average London house value in January 2017 is around £655,000, which has increased by 2.23% from the previous year. However, choosing central areas such as the City of Westminster yield an average price of £1,172,000; this is considerably more than if you bought a flat outside London’s central areas. Meanwhile, in other affluent areas like Chelsea and Kensington, expect your budget to exceed £2 million.

Although, if you want more space and don’t mind a longer commute into the city, there are bargains to be had further out and have the option of buying a house, most likely a terrace or semi-detached property with a garden. According to recent figures published by London estate agents Foxton’s, property can be bought under £500,000 in up-and-coming areas like Croydon and Bromley and these areas have generally benefited from improved transport links too.

Where to buy in London?

When you buy property in London, location is paramount; the amount of time it takes to travel to work or school can be significant. However, the good news is that London boasts a fantastic transport system with the London Underground, Overground, train, and bus services and major roads that work to make traveling in and around London as quick and simple as possible.

Naturally, if you’re living on your own or as a young couple, you’ll want to be close to the heart of the city. Alternatively, families may want to look further out to get the choice of larger properties and good schools.

To help you decide on the types of areas that might be best suited to your situation and budget, here are some of the best areas to buy in London. You can also read our guide on the best places to live in London.

Central London

The areas within Central London are often a preferred choice for young professionals, couples, and expats, who want close proximity to everything. If money’s no object and you’d rather minimize the commute, then your best bet is to buy an apartment in central London.

The prices in the high-end areas with luxury properties in traditional London townhouses or plush new-builds are in boroughs like Knightsbridge and Belgravia. Prices here come at a premium. But shop around and you could still find a reasonable price that yields a good return on investment.

South London

South of the River Thames offers a great variety of houses in London, from riverside London apartments on the Southbank and re-generated Battersea to three-story terraced-houses in areas like Clapham and Dulwich Village that are popular with young professionals and families alike.

Some up-and-coming areas in South London include Croydon, Wandsworth, Bromley, Peckham, and Lewisham. Here, your money goes much further, as many of these areas are currently experiencing good levels of growth.

Property for sale in London

In Croydon, properties are available for under £400,000, while Wandsworth and Lewisham average around £600-700,000. These areas all boast excellent transport links to the city and have a wide range of schools, local amenities, and parks. Often, you won’t even need to travel outside your borough.

North London

North London also has a great deal of boroughs close to central London, including Camden and Islington. Inevitably the rise in popularity has caused prices to go up considerably in these areas, but another increasingly popular area in North London with plenty to offer is Barnet.

As one of London’s largest boroughs, it is particularly suited to families. It has a great range of schools and excellent transport links into the center of London via underground or overground train, as well as close road links to the M25 and M1. It also has a great deal of public green spaces and a diverse and self-sufficient area full of amenities.

West London

Hammersmith and Fulham are two areas of West London close to the city that have seen a great deal of growth over recent years.

However, other promising areas like Wembley are also proving to be a popular choice for buyers, with a series of new developments for an open-air shopping centre and housing attracting more buyers to the area. It has efficient transport links despite being in Zone 4 and is close to the M25 and M1 roads. It’s also just a short train ride to Heathrow Airport.

Other popular western London boroughs include Richmond, Twickenham, and Kingston upon Thames that offer large houses, pretty tree-lined streets and plenty of green areas for recreation and relaxation.

East London

Since the 2012 London Olympics, East London has undergone major redevelopment, particularly in areas such as Stratford and Newham. These areas have witnessed huge investment over the past decade.

However, it’s still possible to find a good value property in these areas with excellent links to Canary Wharf and central London, as the average house prices are typically under £400,000. This area does have one of the most ethnically diverse and young demographics in London. This often makes it a popular choice with aspiring young professionals and expats.

Real estate agents in London

With a fast-moving market, finding property in London can take some time.

They key is to do as much research on an area as possible and secure your finances in advance. Therefore, you know exactly what you can afford, what you want and can act fast. There’s very little time to hand around and dawdling and unnecessary delays could result in you losing the property you want.

There are thousands of independent estate agents operating across the capital for you to choose from. Most are local outfits that operate in specific parts of the city; you may need to do your research when it comes to finding the right estate agent for you. However, there are a growing number of online and regional agencies serving the whole of London, including:

However, most estate agents use Rightmove and Zoopla to list their properties online, as well as on their website. This can be an invaluable resource during the initial search process.