Context Magazine

The Property Fixer

Edition 1 - The united issue

We talk to Ugo Arinzeh of Onyx Property Consultants to find out what Americans moving to London need to know about schools, popular neighbourhoods and buying a home.

Illustration of London tube train

What should Americans relocating to London consider if they have school-age children?

UA The first question is whether they want their children to remain in US schooling. There are only three American schools, and only one is easily accessible to central London, which is in St John’s Wood. The others are in Egham and Cobham, in Surrey.

It therefore leads a lot of Americans to focus their property search on north-west London. Remember, there are no school buses in London like there are in the US, so most children are either taking public transport or relying on their parents doing ‘the school run’, which is a very British phenomenon.

Aerial view of London

Which postcodes do Americans moving to London tend to favour, and why?

UA St John’s Wood is a high-value part of town, so many Americans look at nearby Swiss Cottage or West Hampstead. Egham and Cobham in Surrey are popular for a more suburban lifestyle. Holland Park [in West London] is an area people love because it is on the Central underground line and has a quaint, village feel.

South Kensington and Chelsea are also popular, and then we see places like Islington and Angel popular with young tech workers thanks to their close proximity to Old Street and Shoreditch.

Illustration of London street scene

What are your top tips for Americans looking to buy their first home in London?

UA Space is a big issue. Unless they’re coming from New York, Americans need to get their heads around the kind of properties available in central London – there isn’t a huge number of singlefamily homes with a driveway. They need to look at where they will be working and then establish how long a commute they are prepared to tolerate.

London has a wide array of housing stock, from converted terraced flats, which Americans are not familiar with, through to modern serviced apartments in high-rise towers. There is also a mix of products in close proximity, with some of the nicest houses found next door to social housing. Different income profiles and different housing types co-exist in London.

In America, most people own their homes and the concept of leasehold versus freehold (unlike a freeholder, a leaseholder doesn’t own the land the property is on) is something I often have to explain. Then there are mortgage questions – in the US, you can rock up aged 55 and get a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, and that is not possible here. The added cost of stamp duty (a tax payable on the purchase of any residential property or piece of land over a certain value) is also something that usually shocks American buyers.

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