Quite a lot of the families planning to move to UK are struggling whether they should buy or rent a house / apartment
In the recent years, the UK housing prices are continuing to rise, contrary to what some Youtubers had said that it was so cheap that people should buy some for renting out. Nevertheless, if you are a real estate investment expert who specialise in buying low, refurbishing and selling high, this will be a completely different story.
Personally, I think it is unwise to make such a risky decision to buy a house or apartment without a reasonable knowledge of the UK property market. Moreover, once you buy a home, probably you will stay and settle there for a long time, limiting your flexibility in finding jobs. As such, it is not recommended for younger generation.
Most of the sharing in social media are around the difficulties with renting in UK: limited supply, fierce competition and costly rent. Even if you found your dream home, this might take two to three months before you could move in. For those families newly migrated to UK, the upmost task is to get a permanent place to live. Without a permanent address, you basically cannot continue with your settlement and unable to open local bank account. In case you have kids, you cannot get a place in state school for them, or even make any advance application.
Yet, I had a different experience instead.
移居英國，好多家庭都會糾結在應否自置居所還是租屋。近年英國的房地產升值了不少，並非如有些 Youtubers 所説的那麼便宜，買幾間來收租那麼簡單。當然如果你是房地產投資專家，低價買入，稍作修輯再轉手圖利又是另一回事。
Finding your ideal place to live is just like taking an Optimisation exercise in mathematical terms – You strive to get the best result subject to all your resources constraints. Before proceeding with the search, you have to list out all your resources constraints.
Each family has resources constraints of their own. However, most of these will be around time, affordability as well as personal expectations on the living conditions. Taking my family as an example, my constraints can be grouped as below:
- Able to move in within the shortest time
- Under the Local Council where my preferred state schools belong to (in the catchment area) and close to these schools
- With low crime rate
- Apartment and preferably with concierge service
- Good public transport
- Monthly rent plus council tax within budget
In order to shorten the searching time, I have shortlisted a number of properties during my self-isolation period. Using letting platforms like Rightmove, Zoopla or Primelocation, etc, to collect all the required information. For those candidate properties, contact the respective letting agent via the ‘Request details‘ button, to arrange viewing.
要找理想居所，情況就如數學上的 Optimisation，基於自己資源上的限制去尋找最佳結果。而在踏出第一步之前，就先要釐定自己資源上的限制（Resources constraints) 是甚麼。
- 所屬 Local Council 覆蓋到心儀的 state school 及距離較接近
As I had already arrived in UK and got a local mobile phone number, most of the letting agents contacted me within one or two days to arrange for the property viewing.
Back in last December when I first attempted to contact those UK letting agents from Hong Kong, the response were totally disappointing. However, even you managed to get a good agent, you might not legally rent an accommodation as you still need to prove your ‘Right to Abode‘.
Upon completion of our self-isolation, we had viewed seven to eight properties shortly within two days . As one of them was ready for move-in within two weeks and located in the Kingston town centre, we finally asked the letting agent to make the offer despite the monthly rent and the council tax were relatively higher than the rest. Having a shorter move-in time would definitely help to streamline the rest of our settlement works.
Frankly speaking, if you have a clear understanding on your family needs and the respective priorities while eliminating all those relatively minor requirements, renting an accommodation in UK is not that difficult.
回想去年十二月在香港嘗試找英國物業代理，回覆速度真有天淵之別。但另一方面，即使遇上很好的代理，由於需証明你具備 ‘Right to Abode‘，你仍可能無法租屋。
如此這般的我就在隔離完成後兩天内看了七、八個單位。由於其中一間在兩星期後即可遷入，地點又在 Kingston 市中心，雖然租金加上 Council Tax 稍高，但因可加快餘下的其他安排，我們在第三天便通知物業代理作 offer，把屋子租下來。
Task accomplished and relaxed?
Definitely not and what follow are the most tedious works.
Other than paying the Holding Deposit, 6-month or one-year payment upfront and deposit, there are review exercises like KeySafe Tenant Vetting and Right to Rent check (via WhatsApp/Facetime) as well as sign off of serveral agreements that every tenant aged 18 or over has to make:
- Tenancy Application Form
- Agreed Terms of offer
- Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement
- Addendum to Tenancy Agreement for all permitted residents aged below 18
As I had only around two weeks before moving in, completing these agreements became a daunting task. Nevertheless, it’s great that all these reviews and agreement sign off could be done online. Many thanks to the good works of the UK government. If you have any uncertainties with the agreements, do consult your letting agent for clarification.
Quite a lot of the agreements seemed to be overly complicated at the first glance. However, the rationales behind are the various protection to the tenant. This is an area that outperformed what we have in Hong Kong.
除了支付 Holding Deposit，預繳半年或一年租金及按金外，所有 18 歲以上的住客均須接受 KeySafe Tenant Vetting 及 Right to Rent check (via WhatsApp/Facetime) 審批，與及簽署以下多個文件：
- Tenancy Application Form
- Agreed Terms of offer
- Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement – 正式租約
- Addendum to Tenancy Agreement – 租約附件，㴠蓋所有 18 歲以下的住客
On the day of move-in, landlord or the letting agent will briefly explain the current status of the property to you. Furthermore, they will also handover an ‘Inventory Check In Report‘ to you within one week’s time. Remember to go through the report thoroughly and highlight those discrepancies to the landlord. This report will also be used when your move out the property and you are responsible for any items that are different from that covered in the report.
在交樓當天，業主或物業代理會簡單交代屋內狀況，另一方面，他們亦會在一星期內提供一個份完整的 ‘Inventory Check In Report‘。而他日遷出時租客須為同一 inventory 內不同之處負責，因此建議大家切記要逐一查察，列出差異之處，回覆業主。
By the way, you are not allowed to change the lock to the property during the course of tenancy. Should you want to replace change the keys, try talk to your landlord.
Kingston upon Thames where I currently lived is located in Zone 6 of Greater London, it is a lovely place with lots of parks and beautiful scenery. Transportation is reasonably good and it only takes about 40 minutes to travel to centre of London by railway. As such, property price and rental are comparatively higher than most of those Chinese resided cities like Manchester and Birmingham. Monthly rent for typical two rooms apartments ranged from GBP1400 to 2000. For those modern and/or fully equipment apartments, the monthly rent may be as high as GBP 2600.
Council Tax is paid by the tenant and the tax is based on the valuation price of the property. You may go to the local council’s website for an estimation in order not to exceed your budget.
One more thing to note is that not every apartment comes with parking space included. For those family who plan to have a car, this is another consideration to make.
我定居的 Kingston upon Thames 地處 Greater London 的 Zone 6，環境優美之餘，交通尚算方便，乘搭火車往倫敦中心約需四十多分鐘。亦可能因此，此區物業價錢及租金一點都不便宜，相比其他華人聚居之地如 Manchester、Birmingham 等高出頗多。普通兩房 apartment 租金由 1400 – 2000 鎊不等，稍為新及設施好一點的更可能高達 2600 鎊。
另外還需留意 Council Tax 是由租客負責，而稅金則是以單位估值計算，大家可到市政府的網站查閱，確保不會超出自己預算。
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