Moving to the UK

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Seeking good real estate agent in London

April 2014

Dear list members, I am considering moving to London and buying a flat there, preferably in the Kensington/Chelsea area. Can anyone recommend a good real estate agent in London who might handle these areas? Thanks a lot. Jim

London is a big place. You may want to be more specific about what part! N, S, E or W? I would also try Southerbys or another US company as they often have affiliations. Or even branches worldwide. Mathew

Apologies if this doesn't respond to the initial question, which I can't find. I live in London at the moment and just wanted to let you know that the market is very different here -- each property is usually listed with/can only be shown by just one agency, so prospective buyers/renters generally need to register with a number of agencies covering whatever geographic area they're targeting (the situation may be different with long-distance transactions, since I suspect that Sotheby's and a few others may specialize in that sort of thing). There aren't 'buyer's agents' vs. 'seller's agents' here, although each side in a purchase hires its own solicitor. I think the single best resource is, which has a pretty sophisticated map-based search mechanism. Running some searches should give you an idea of which agents handle the types of properties you might be interested in. Good luck! Temporary Londoner

Moving to Bristol with preschoolers

September 2006

We are considering a move to Bristol, England. My husband has a job offer. We don't know a whole lot about the area. We have 2 young kids (3 & 4). We need to know about pre-schools and schools. What is it like to live in England? Is it kid friendly? What is there to do with young kids? What is the cost of living like? Everything seems so expensive. It seems like a great opportunity to live abroad for awhile, but we'd love to get any information. Thanks! anon

I'm from London originally but we just spent 2 years in Bristol before deciding to come back to the bay area. I could say so much about the place, both positive and negative, that it would be much easier if you'd like to email me and we can chat. Bristol is a pretty good place to be if you want to be in England. It is a family friendly city, diverse and alternative community minded, surrounded by lovely countryside, and felt a very managable size. It's only 1 1/2 hrs from london on the train. Cost of living is high, but it really depends where you live in the city. I can point you in the direction of some family oriented neighborhoods. Schools are not great in Bristol; secondary schools (high school) are notoriously bad, but may change soon. Basically you have to afford to live in a good neighborhood to get into a good school. But overall I think schools are less inclined towards standardized testing in the UK and still manage to have arts, sports, etc. Our son went to the Streiner (waldorf) school there which has a very good reputation and which we loved, and which - unlike here - is government subsidized up to 5 yrs old. In general nursery school starts at 3 yrs old and - imagine this - is free in the state schools. Primary school starts in the september of the yr your child turns 5. For me though it was hard living there for a few reasons; a long way from the coast, despite how it looks on a map. It's a very racially segregated city. A lot of grey skies and rain. I missed the joy, energy and optimism of bay area folk. Us Brits are much more reserved, overall. I missed eating out (too expensive and not very child friendly, plus the food isn't great). On the other hand; fantastic media, real seasons, long vacations (5 weeks a year generally), all of Europe at your doorstep, and genuine people - when you make a connection with someone it really lasts. Oh, and good beer : ) mcharlton

I was just there last week. I spent 2 days in Portishead, just a few minutes outside Bristol. Portishead has a lovely park and lake with a playground, lots of ducks to be fed, lots of old men sailing remote control sailboats, a path to walk around the lake. There is a teacup ride there, too, and when we were there (on a weekday) and inflatable slide. Bristol is beautiful. Amazing bridge over a gorge. You may be happy to know that there is a children's ER there. We had a very good experience there after my daughter fell down a steep flight of stairs. There is a small zoo just outside Bristol called Noah's Ark Zoo Farm.

It is very expensive. It seemed to me that it was ALMOST the case that what they pay in pounds there, we pay in dollars here, in other words, something that costs one pound there would cost one dollar here, so everything is twice as expensive.

One thing that bothered me was the pervasiveness of smoking. There are just a whole lot more people smoking everywhere there than there are here. susan

I say go for it! Your kids are a perfect age to expose them to new places and people without the challenge of separation you would face if they were a bit older. When I was in junior high school, I lived in England with my family due to a job transfer. I think the hardest part of that for me was my age. I now love England and have been back several times. Be prepared for re- learning how to drive, a very different school system, school uniforms, inability to find some favorite foods (or prohibitive expense when you do find them), and potential loneliness for the parent who isn't working, especially if that parent has to leave a job here to make the move happen. Besides being a beautiful place to explore in its own right, being in England means being in Europe. Going to France can be a similar expense to going to Yosemite for those of us in the Bay Area! Anglophile

Moving to London with a 2nd grader - schools?

September 2006

Greetings! We are a family moving to London in January, probably for a few years. If anyone has suggestions about neighborhoods and especially schools, we'd be most grateful. We have a child entering second grade in September. I know it is very expensive there - we are also considering areas outside of London that are commuting distance, such as Greenwich, if it means a better school. Where are the best public schools? If we can afford to go private, which I am not sure we can/will do, what are the best options? Many thanks for your help. Travelin' Mom

Ooooh, lucky you! London is one of our favorite places in the world. It would be #1 on our list, if not for the poor exchange rate! Husband has taught there twice on two different occasions; lived there w/ two children for 6 mos. Would highly recommend North London, off either the Hampstead or Belsize Park or Chalk Farm tube stop. It's about 20min from London central, but a very lovely area, albeit a bit posh. We had a rental in Hampstead, postal code NW3, found that the schools were good, although the class sizes were large (about 30+). We opted for a private school (which I believe they call public) because of our temporary stay,otherwise, the local school would have been fine. Feel free to email me if you have more questions. It will be a fabulous experience for you and your family! Cheers! Elaine

I also replied to the question about moving to Bristol, England. Keep in mind that in England the name for public and private schools is often reverse from here. What might be a private school here is called a public school there. The school system is quite different and if you prefer and can afford it, there are ''American'' schools around. Anglophile

Moving to London with an infant and a toddler

September 2005

My husband's job is relocating our family to London for 3 years. We have an infant and a toddler, and are interested in finding a child-friendly neighborhood in London. We're especially interested in finding a place to live where we can walk to parks, restaurants, shopping, etc. Also recommendations for childcare or other activities to do with kids (I'll be home with the kids) would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for any suggestions. Relocating Mom

I am British and have just moved from London to Berkeley. I would be happy for you to contact me by email to try to answer any questions you have. You mention young children, but not whether they will reach school age when you are in London. This of course would be critical to your choice of neighbourhood, as will budget for renting/buying a house. Other factors include whether you would like to live near other ex-pats (specifically American) in which case you should consider north London boroughs such as Hampstead and St John's Wood.

I would urge to you look at the wonderful neighbourhood where we still have a house: Dulwich, in South East London. It is very leafy, with great houses, several huge parks, a good selection of public and private schools and a lovely village-like centre. It is very family friendly with all the resources that entails. It is about 15 minutes by car to the City, 20 minutes West End and only 10 minutes to both by overland commuter train -- it's not on the tube, but nobody sensible would choose to commute by tube!

Do get in touch if you would like to chat. Tracey

Finding a neighborhood that meets your criteria is pretty easy - there are loads. Most Londoners walk or use public transportation, so getting to all amneties is usually doable. Driving in central London is actively discouraged since one has to pay a fee to do so. What narrows it down is your budget and your husband's commute. No use recommending a particular borough if it means he's going to be travelling for 2 hours, or if you can't afford it. I assume that any company that can transfer a family for 3 years without only one parent working to a city that has horrendously expensive housing costs (even for locals) is going to make it worth your while. Generally speaking, the further out you go from central London, the cheaper it is.

But London is HUGE, and sometimes it's easier (and cheaper) commute-wise to live hundreds of miles outside London and use one direct overground train than live closer and rely on busses and tube. How to start... Google.

Chat with locals to get a feeling of the character of each borough. Old prejudices have changed, neighborhoods have been revived. Living there is completely different than visiting, and you will find that your neighborhood will indeed be your world since you will not be very motivated to go into central London very often with small children... But make the most of it and good luck! Used to Live There

A few years ago, we spent 6mos in London w/ our two, then 4, 7. Lived in Hampstead, just north of London, off the ''Hampstead'' stop, Northern Line or 24(?) bus. Postal code ''NW3''. This is a lovely, lovely, not to mention posh, neighborhood. It's very convenient and NW3 schools rank highly. Would also recommend the area around the ''Chalk Farm'' stop, Northern line, just south of Hampstead. Both areas are an ez commute to London U. There are tons of Americans who move to Buckinghamshire, esp. since it is close to the American School, but I think that area is too far from London to be any fun. Figure out where you will be working and from there, figure out what school(s) you want for your kids. We had a wonderful experience, albeit a bit expensive. You'll have a great time!! [I'd go again in a heartbeat] Elaine

Hi, We did not read your original posting. But we will move to London, too, in December. We have a toddler and a baby and have extensively researched housing, childcare and schooling issues during the past months. The areas we have looked into most are Twickenham, Ealing and Acton. We are also looking for a family that moves the other direction to possibly swap electric appliances and the like. Please contact us. Looking forward to talking to you. Christina

Moving to England with young kids?

August 2005

We are considering a move to Bristol, England for my husband's work and are looking for any advice on living abroad with small kids (ages 1 1/2 and 3). We figure we will go for at least 3-5 years so they will start school there. Any experience with Bristol? England? Or just generally advice on living abroad? This is something we have always wanted to do and figure it is better to go when the children are young. At the same time, I worry that I will be isolated since I won't know anyone or be able to work (thankfully they speak the same language!). My husband's schedule will be demanding and will require travel so we'll be on our own at times. Ideally, we would take the opportunity to travel as a family but even that seems exhausting with young kids. We are both excited and nervous about the possibility and appreciate any comments...

Hi, We lived in England for about five years and I taught in an elementary school there. Bristol is a lovely city. I haven't lived there since I had my son, but lots of my friends have small children. I think you will have a wonderful experience. A city like Bristol is very child-friendly. A lot of pubs have play areas and the schools for young children are very good. Travelling should also be quite nice because you can travel almost anywhere on a train. I always find train travel nice with small kids because they are not so tied down to their seats and you don't have the stress of driving or navigating. There are lots of kid-friendly things to do if you seek them out too -- berry picking, museums, walks. I never lived in Bristol, but I have friends that do. I lived in London and Oxford. If you have any specific questions feel free to e-mail me. Mandi

Moving to London with school-aged kids

June 2004

Greetings! We may be moving to London in a few months to stay for a year. Any advice on affordable neighborhoods? Great places for kids? We also need tips on schools, as we have a child entering kindergarten next year. One of us would be commuting to ''The City'' (financial district). Thanks for your help. travelin' mom

I lived in North London for six years, in West Hampstead. Unfortunately, nothing in London is affordable any more, but Northwest London--St. Johns Wood, West Hampstead, Hampstead, Swiss Cottage--are all convenient to central London and the City and all have heavy ex-pat populations--really critical in meeting people in a short time (it takes MUCH longer to make friends in England than in the U.S.). In particular, West Hampstead has a Thameslink (main line) train stop, which is convenient to the City and (generally) less crowded and faster than the Tube. It also is close to St. Johns Wood, where the American School is located. While we didn't have kids in London, many friends did. If you're there for just one year, it's best to keep them in American-style schooling. The British system is just too different. Another plus: they're all close to Hampstead Heath, which is glorious. Former Ex-Pat