Moving to the UK? This article answers one of the toughest questions for expats with our guide to housing in the UK: renting vs buying.
Thinking of moving to the UK, but clueless about where to start? Here’s the good news: you’re not alone. Every year, thousands of people relocate to Britain and face unforeseen costs, unreliable estate agents, and mountains of paperwork. Making the process simpler is all about narrowing down what kind of property you’re looking for and deciding whether you want to rent or buy.
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Renting can be a brilliant option for less financially stable people who aren’t certain about where they want to be. It’s also less time-consuming than buying. Good properties are often available directly on sites like Gumtree by current tenants or owners. Removing the need to go through an agency can make the process a lot quicker and easier.
Another key benefit to renting is that you’ll have a landlord who’s liable for damages to the property. Best of all, renting allows you to try out an area without putting too much on the line. When renting in the UK, particularly in a busy city like London, it’s often easy to get hold of short-term leases or rolling contracts with short-notice periods.
The flipside to the ease and convenience of renting a property in the UK is a lack of stability. While a good landlord can be the stuff of dreams, a bad one can have you tearing your hair out. Phone calls can be ignored, repairs not dealt with, and tenancies cut short without more than a few weeks’ notice; for this reason, it’s really important to research your rights as a tenant before you move. Avoiding a dodgy landlord is often possible by going through an agency. However, this often comes with added hassles and fees. If you’re renting over a long period, you should also prepare yourself for rent hikes.
On a more superficial level, rented properties are often strict about redecorating or even putting things on the wall. As a newcomer to the UK, the inability to make the property feel like home can be a serious turn-off.
Non-UK residents may be concerned about getting hold of a mortgage, but it’s not as difficult as you might think. You aren’t required to have a UK credit rating, although it can be helpful. There are plenty of banks that will help you out with the process and offer competitive rates. Once you secure a mortgage, you know that every payment you make is being fed back into your own home. After all, the house or flat will be yours permanently after you’ve paid it off completely. In some cases, a mortgage can also work out cheaper than renting.
If you’re clever about it (or just plain lucky), you’ll buy somewhere in an up-and-coming part of town where house prices are expected to increase. Selling your home for a higher price than you bought it for a few years down the line is an excellent way of funding a future property. Buying your own property also makes you your own landlord. You can decorate how you see fit, and you’ll be able to take charge of any problems or breakages yourself.
First off, buying a home is always more complex than renting. If you’re kick-starting the process from another country, you’ll most likely have to rely on an agency based in the UK, which equates to fees.
Buying a home is also not always a guaranteed investment. House prices can fall, and if they do while you’re still paying off your mortgage, you may not be able to sell (if the value of your home is less than the amount of mortgage remaining). Rising interest rates will lead to a rise in your mortgage payments, and any damages to your home will need to be paid out of your own pocket.
Other factors to consider when moving to the UK
Being away from home is not always easy, and when you’re having to contend with dodgy Skype connections and emails that refuse to send, homesickness can set in. These days, internet speed is a huge factor for people looking to rent or buy. It should be for you too, if having high-speed broadband is crucial to your work or staying connected with family and friends. Broadband comparison sites will allow you to check internet speeds in specific areas, but it’s also worth consulting previous tenants if you can.
Potential damage to your home
Certain areas of the UK are prone to serious flooding. Though house prices or rental costs may be cheaper for properties in these areas, home or contents insurance could be sky-high. Coupled with this is the emotional and financial devastation that you may be faced with if your property does flood. It is important to double-check the history of the area, and whether it is prone to these natural weather fluctuations.
Cost of living
Living in London doesn’t come cheap. But the capital isn’t the only part of the country that has higher property price tags — Oxford, Brighton, Bath, and Edinburgh are coveted parts of the country, and the property prices reflect that. However, in many cases, this is offset by much lower living costs. If you are considering a move to the UK, consider all your likely expenses, along with the cost of renting or buying, such as the local prices of petrol, public transport and conveniences like supermarkets.
Though you may have your heart set on living in a village, relocating to a city is always going to make it easier to find work.
Relocating to another country is incredibly rewarding, but rarely simple. The pros and cons for both renting and buying a property in the UK are numerous. The main thing is to go into the process with an open mind and a willingness to research your desired area.