Moving to London| Hunting for House and School in London
When I moved to Chicago, it was a walk in the park. My husband was already living there for years and thus everything was all set for me from day 1. Moving to Bangalore was a just a bit tricky. We were moving, but to another part of our own country and thus we mostly knew how systems work. Moving to London, however, was a completely different ballgame. We were going to a country where we had no idea as to how we would be getting things done.
We decided that it would be for the best that Mr B travels alone first, stays in London for a fortnight so that he can scout the place a bit and Little B and I will join him later. That’s what we did. Mr B’s travelling alone was fruitful because he found a good house for us to stay in. House is the biggest issue that a move involves. With that taken care of, you will think we were set. But no, it was still a long way for us to go before we felt “all set.”
Hunting for House and School in London
These were all the issues that we faced while hunting for house and school in London and here’s how we solved them-
Renting a House/Flat in London
A month before our actual move, we started zeroing in on the area we wanted to live in. Initially we weren’t too interested in living amidst the hustle and bustle of a city and so we choose a quiet suburb just outside Greater London. However, as Mr B came here and experienced London, he persuaded me that living inside the city has special perks and so now we were looking at new areas. There were a few things to consider –
- London Underground (or Tube or Metro rail) divides London in 6 zones, something like six concentric circles. The zone 1 is the core of this circle and zone 6 being the outer circle.
- House rental prices will increase as you get closer to the core, i.e. zone 1 and will decrease as you get farther away from the core.
- Mr B’s office was going to be in zone 1 but living in zone 1, 2 and 3 was not at all an option. We had to move farther. However, if we moved farther away our travel costs will increase.
- We had Little B with us and therefore we wanted to stay in a 2-bedroom apartment rather than a 1bhk.
Considering all of the above, we decided that zone 5 and 6 will suit us the best and so we finalized a city that was safe and well connected in zone 5.
Help From Lettings Agents
From what we could gather, real estate agents were our best bet in finding a house. Renting a house here is called ‘letting’ a house so you should be exactly looking for ‘letting agents.’ We got contact numbers of a few agents from that area through websites like RightMove and PrimeLocation. We contacted them and explained them our requirement. They showed us a couple of houses. We negotiated the lettings agent on the rent of the house and the fee he was charging and the negotiation was successful.
The paperwork and other processes related to renting out were swift and within a few days of viewing the house, we were able to move in the house.
Please note that for every house/flat/residential property, there is a council tax that has to be paid to the council of that borough. This tax varies depending upon the type and location of the property. You should ask the lettings agent about that tax – will the owner of the house continue paying that tax or if the owner is expecting you to pay the tax. If the tax is going from your pocket, ask about the amount and consider that amount in your monthly expense for the house.
Finding a School in London
Admissions in all state schools happen through the borough’s council. We went to our council office and filled up an admissions form for Little B giving our 3 preferred schools.
Finding a House and a School in London are Interlinked
Here’s how –
- For admission to a state school in London, you need to have an address. It cannot be the address of your office or a relative or the hotel you are staying in. It has to be your residential address. So the first step is to find a house and finalize its papers. Only then you can approach the second step of school admission.
- The state schools follow the rule of catchment area. That means that each of them cater to a certain area and there are only rare chances that they will entertain a student from outside their catchment area. That means that the closer you are living to a school, the brighter your chances are to get your child an admission to that school.
- However, it might be that you rent a house just because of proximity to a school, but when you apply for it you find out that there are no vacant seats left and therefore your child is allocated another school. Nothing much can be done about it at that time. However, you can request the council to keep your child’s name on the waiting list for the school of your first preference. If a vacancy comes up, they will let you know.
We were told at the borough’s council office and also by a lot of other people that the whole admissions process in state schools can take as much as a month. However, Little B got admission within a week of applying and that too at the school of our choice. I am sure that the fact that we were residing just a couple hundred metres from that school did play a part in Little B’s selection.
So now, as Mr B goes about his day and Little B attends her school, I sit here in our house writing about my days here in London. Did I mention that we got a house with a little porch, a little backyard and a little shed!