Finding the perfect place to call home in the UK

15 November 2023

In the second of our three-part series on moving to the UK from overseas, we consider the key factors for International Expats when choosing where to live, including lifestyle considerations and the areas of the UK potentially best suited for your relocation. 

Prioritising your needs

Narrowing down the options and deciding where to live in a new country can be a daunting prospect, especially if you’re not familiar with your new destination.

First, what are your priorities? Do you have school-age children? Do you need to be based near your new office, an international airport, or close to family based in the UK? And what suits your lifestyle best – the great outdoors, city living or something else entirely? 

“You need to decide what’s important to you,” says Matthew Salvidge, Head of Corporate Lettings at Savills, whose team regularly deals with international relocators. “For families with children, a huge factor is schools. I would recommend speaking to an independent school search consultant.

“They can advise you on the different educational options available to your children and assist in organising applications, tests and other requirements. This can help you narrow down your location choices based on the schools available and their acceptance rates.”

For more on the UK schools system, check out this article: “Moving to the UK? Do your homework to find the right school for your child”.

Balancing the commute

Another thing to consider is proximity to major commuter routes and arterial roads. “How long are you willing to commute, and do you need to get to London easily?” adds Salvidge. “And do you want a neighbourhood that’s well-connected to other parts of the city or region that you plan to live in?”

Then there are the nearby amenities to factor in, as well as access to green spaces. Ultimately, what’s most important is what’s acceptable to you. This could even include things like crime rate statistics, flood risks and the climate. 

“Most of our overseas buyers consider schooling, security and infrastructure as the key driving factors,” says Stuart Cole, a Partner in Knight Frank’s Private Office. 

“Many also choose to live in areas where they are near like-minded people. This makes it easier to build new friendships and relationships, as well as developing support networks. You don’t really want to be moving somewhere where it could be harder to fit in.”

London's calling? Or discover Britain's delights

Nearly one in three people from overseas makes London their home1, drawn to its many attractions, international reputation as a financial, cultural and political centre, and its large and diverse expat communities. 

Home to some of the world’s most prestigious and expensive neighbourhoods, London's central boroughs are a magnet for the wealthy. Mayfair, Kensington, Chelsea, Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Westminster all offer residents a luxurious lifestyle with easy access to the best London has to offer, as well as the convenience of two nearby international airports, Heathrow and Gatwick. There is also London City airport to the east, as well as Stansted and Luton to the north.

“Central London is still the main draw for high-net-worth individuals,” says Salvidge. “However, the surrounding commutable areas are also very popular and offer a more relaxed lifestyle.”

These prime areas consist of Surrey’s ‘Golden Triangle’ to the south of London, and the affluent commuter towns of Weybridge, Esher, Cobham and Walton-on-Thames, as well as Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells, nestled next door to the east in Kent’s famed ‘Garden of England’. To the north and west, there’s also the popular Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire towns of St Albans, Harpenden, Rickmansworth and Beaconsfield.

Of course, there are many more desirable places to live in London’s commuter belt – listed above is only a flavour. All these suburban outposts have excellent nearby schools and good transport links (many boasting commute times into central London of 30 minutes or less), alongside beautiful countryside settings.

Slightly further afield, Britain’s university cities shouldn’t be overlooked either – such as Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and Edinburgh, to name a few – offering a vibrant mix of academic excellence, cultural attractions and cosmopolitan living.

You could also consider the great British countryside as well – the rolling hills and charming market towns of the Cotswolds, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire and Cheshire, among others.

“There are many great places to settle in the UK, it all depends on your individual preferences and needs,” says Stephen Moroukian, Head of Product and Proposition for Real Estate Financing at Barclays Private Bank. 

Cole at Knight Frank adds: “At the end of the day, a property is just a property – and we can generally find someone what they want, as long as all sides are clear on the search criteria.”

Start your UK property journey

You can read more about the UK property market in our recent article: “Things to know when buying UK property”. There are currently no limitations on foreigners buying property in the UK. However, for those international buyers needing a mortgage, dealing with an international bank that considers your overseas income and personal circumstances is key.  

Renting is another option. “If you’re unsure about the location, renting can also be a good choice,” adds Salvidge at Savills. “You can rent for 6-12 months, which gives you enough time to get to know an area and explore other potential locations.”

Finally, for those still in the early stages of moving to the UK, there’s nothing stopping you from starting your online property search today. Thanks to technology, you can even view properties virtually through video tours offered by estate agents – giving you a good sense of a property, and allowing you to shortlist options before any visit.

“Discussing your priorities early on, before you make any decisions, makes any trips to the UK for house hunting more productive,” says Moroukian at Barclays.

“But whatever you’re ultimately looking for, the UK is a consistently popular place to live – with a wide range of places to choose from, each with its own unique charm. And whether you're looking for a bustling city lifestyle or a more relaxed pace of life in the countryside, you're sure to find the perfect place for you.”

If you found this useful, our first article in the three-part series provides some helpful insights into life in Great Britain, titled "Why UK living is a global experience". The third and final article focuses more on London living: “Buying in London: Claim your corner of the capital”.

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