Buying in London: Claiming your corner of the capital

10 March 2024

Moving to London is an exciting adventure. But with so many neighbourhoods vying for your attention, choosing a place to truly settle and call home can feel as daunting as deciphering a rush-hour tube map – especially for those with little knowledge of this vibrant metropolis. 

In this final article of our three-part series, we aim to help people coming from overseas to find their perfect corner of London – from the prestigious allure of central enclaves to the hidden gems waiting to be discovered, this article explores the considerations that could help understand your ideal location.

Prime and price

Prime Central London (PCL) embodies the heart of London's prestige properties. Think established elegance, upscale amenities and historic charm. And while there’s no universally agreed-upon definition of the exact PCL boundaries, it generally refers to the cluster of high-end core districts – encompassing iconic neighbourhoods like Mayfair, Notting Hill and Chelsea. 

“Budget plays a crucial role in prime central London,” says Jo Eccles, Founder and Managing Director of Eccord, a London-focused buying agent. “While the grandeur comes at a premium, exploring different areas and considering options outside the most well-known neighbourhoods can lead to under-the-radar spots that suit your needs and budget perfectly.”

North, south, east or west?

Most Londoners have their own mental map of the city, dividing it into distinct areas. Yet, these generalisations are only really a starting point – and risk overlooking the city’s rich diversity.

Traditionally, the ‘north’ is seen as bustling with energy. Speedy public transport links whisk you to the city’s iconic landmarks, while Hampstead's green spaces and the charming streets of Islington can cater to a variety of tastes.

Over the River Thames, to the ‘south’, charm coexists with cool – with sprawling parks and village vibes mingling with trendy hotspots like Clapham and Brixton. 

To the ‘east’, edginess and artistry collide with urban renewal. Shoreditch pulsates with creative energy, Hackney thrives with independent spirit, and Canary Wharf's sleek towers rise tall in a modern finance district. Then there’s the elegance and heritage of the ‘west’ – from Richmond Park’s sprawling greens to Chiswick’s quaint streets, all offering a glimpse into London’s refined side. 

“If you’re new to London, having come from overseas, you could consider renting first, allowing you to explore the different areas of London before making a commitment,” says Eccles. “And don’t be afraid to explore beyond the stereotypes – each area of London has its own unique charm and personality. With an open mind and a little guidance, you could soon find the area of London that is a perfect fit for your needs.”

Dream big, plan smart

Sometimes, though, your dream London location might not fit your budget.

“That ideal Notting Hill or Holland Park townhouse will usually involve vertical living unless your budget is around £20 million or more,” says Eccles. “And while central areas undoubtedly offer prestige, you could consider areas like Richmond, Chiswick or Hampstead for more space and gardens. Equally, vibrant neighbourhoods such as Fulham can offer similar experiences to Chelsea.

“And thanks to a shift in priorities, your commute doesn't have to be the dealbreaker it once was. With many families prioritising lifestyle over work commutes, especially since COVID, you might find your ideal home further out – offering green spaces and a strong local scene, while still enjoying easy access to central London when the mood takes.”

Schooling often tops the list for families choosing a new home. You can dive deeper into this topic with our recent article: “Moving to the UK? Do your homework to find the right school for your child”.

Trade-offs and tailored choices

At the end of the day, what matters most is what’s important for you.

“You must consider your needs first – and location after that,” adds Eccles. “A six-storey townhouse just won’t work if you want an effortless open-plan kitchen or have a big family with dogs. Nor will you easily find a spacious garage driveway for your basketball hoop in the middle of Chelsea.

“You need to understand the trade-offs: smaller gardens and vertical living in central areas, versus lateral space and gardens further out.”

London embraces it all

And while some new arrivals will want to dive straight into the London scene, others will aim for the comfort found in established expat communities scattered throughout the city.

“Remember, London is a melting pot of cultures where international visitors are the norm – wherever you go in the city, not just in the expat enclaves,” says Stephen Moroukian, Head of Product and Proposition for Real Estate Financing at Barclays Private Bank.  “And most things, from international airports to your favourite global cuisine, are also within easy reach. So, relax, conquer and explore – and you will no doubt discover your own unique London experience.”

If you found this useful, continue reading our other two articles in the series: “Why UK living is a global experience” and “Finding the perfect place to call home in the UK”.

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