Getting on the UK Property Ladder

Thoughts from Alanna…

My boyfriend is a proud new homeowner!! Now I have dreams of pulling wallpaper and painting baseboards!

Let’s rewind.

For months we’ve been looking at properties online, each of us responsible for certain sites (and there’s tons). We used Your Move, Right Move, Zoopla, Kent Homes and Ward and Partners. A lot of these sites have houses all over the UK, but we found they were the best for houses in Kent as well. They also show rentals if you’re not looking to buy. Helpful!

I’ve found that homes or rental properties go fast in England and you really need to act quickly. Our plan of attack was looking at new properties every night and contacting the agents right away if we wanted a viewing.

What totally surprised me were prices. Holy crap. As you can imagine, buying a decent family home in London is unbelievably expensive. Somewhat similar to Toronto but even smaller and more outrageous (example: a fourth floor one bedroom flat less than 500 sq ft near London Bridge tube station is selling at £485,000 which is nearly $900,000 Canadian). However, since London is getting more and more unreasonable, more people are moving to Kent in order to commute into the city, making the houses even more desirable.Homes

My next surprise was the differences in housing. We’re talking smaller, older homes built in tight with each other. First I had to get used to the lingo:

  • A fully detached house is rare (free-standing, not touching another house)
  • Semi-detached house (stuck against one other house, which is what my boyfriend bought)
  • Terrace house (a townhouse that’s attached to a bunch of other houses in a row)
  • Flat (an apartment, usually only 1 floor)

Once you decide what kind of house you’re after, it’s so much easier to narrow down your online searches.

A major requirement for my boyfriend was having off-road parking which is basically a silly way of saying a driveway! Driveways are not always a common thing in the UK. Since so many homes are semi-detached or terraced, there’s not always room for a driveway so many go without, being forced to park on the street (or if you’re unlucky, down the road). Even if the house does have a “drive” as he says, they’re usually really short and can only fit one car rather than the big Canadian suburban driveways I’m used to, fitting multiple cars, a basketball net and room for driveway chalk drawings.

When you start seeing more and more properties (whether to buy or rent) you can’t compare it with what you know back home. It’s not the same. You just need to do your research, understand what you’re looking for and go with the flow.

Side notes:

  • People seem to love conservatories here. I’ve never seen so many in my life.
  • Do not expect closets. The entire house may only have one which ends up being the towels/linens/toiletries closet instead.
  • There’s no electrical outlets in bathrooms, so you’ll need to find some other place to blow-dry your hair!
  • I’ve yet to see a screened-in window, even on second or third storeys. I guess if you’re dumb enough to fall out a window, it’s natural selection.
  • Don’t expect air-conditioning. The country as a whole doesn’t really need it.
  • We have a palm tree on our front lawn. This is not the first palm tree I’ve seen here. Where are they coming from??
  • Instead of having a basement (you won’t here!) you’ll probably have an attic which the English call a loft. They’re usually big enough to stand up and walk around and some even convert it to another floor of the house.
  • Fridges seem so small here! So tiny! So sweet!

It’ll still be a few weeks before we get the keys, but if anyone wants to peel wallpaper, I will repay you with pints.


Baby fridge