Buying a house in London
Buying in London may seem daunting. This guide is here to help you navigate buying in the capital. From where to buy in London to what London house prices are like.
In this guide:
Cheapest places to live in London
Safest places to live in London
Why buy a house in London
London is England’s capital and the UK’s most visited city. It’s no surprise that house prices here are higher than in any other UK city.
But despite the high property prices, people flock to London for many reasons.
London is popular because of its:
jobs and business opportunities
vast music, art and culture scene
history and architecture
parks and green spaces
top shopping locations
The London housing market has changed a lot since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
Many Londoners have left the city in favour of living in cheaper areas surrounding the city.
Homes in other parts of the UK cost less and can offer more space, which is what many home buyers want now that working from home is the norm.
London house prices have lowered as a result, which could be good news to people still keen to buy in the capital.
In London there were around 3,679,910 residential properties as of 31 March 2020 ¹
Here’s a rundown of the number of properties in London by property type:
Detached - 131,750
Semi detached - 466,620
Terraced - 937,040
Flat/Maisonette - 2,046,850
Other - 4,150
London house prices
London house prices are some of the highest in the UK.
Between January 2020 and January 2021 the average house price in London was £485,537. This is higher than the UK average of about £239,000. ²
Here are the average house prices in London between January 2020 and January 2021 depending on property type:
Detached - £932,167
Semi detached - £601,323
Terraced - £516,734
Flats and maisonettes - £418,53
Central London house prices have fallen by an average of 10% since the beginning of the pandemic.³
This is because people are now more interested in buying houses with more space in quieter areas of the city.
Areas farther out, like Wimbledon, Dulwich and Richmond have seen their house prices increase over the last 6 months.⁴
House prices in central London may bounce back as things return to normal.
A home in London was an average of £485,537 in 2020, making London the most expensive city in the UK.
Cities like Swansea, Manchester and Birmingham are cheaper options for buyers on a budget.
The cost of living in London
London is the most expensive city in the UK according to Expatistan.⁵
Although it’s an expensive city, salaries in the capital are also usually higher than in the rest of the UK.
Here are some examples of what things cost in London:
A regular cappuccino - £3.56
A pint of beer - £5.72
A monthly travel pass - £144
Gym membership per month - £52
Cinema ticket - £13
Where to live in London
Whether you want to be centre stage in the midst of the city or a little further out where you can get more space for a lower cost, London has somewhere to suit everyone.
London is a big city, so it’s helpful to break it up into smaller regions.
Generally, people consider London in terms of Central, North, East, South and West.
Central London is where you’ll find the bulk of the capital’s hustle and bustle.
It’s where all the most popular tourist attractions are, including:
Museums and galleries like The British Museum and The National Gallery
Busy shopping areas like Oxford and Regents Street
Historic architecture like Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
Parks and green spaces like Hyde Park, St James’ Park and Green Park
Central London also has a buzzing nightlife, with plenty of nightclubs, bars and pubs to choose from. Soho is an especially popular area for a night out.
North London is a very family friendly part of the city.
It’s thought of as a more upmarket area of London, with houses in some areas costing over £1 million.
There you’ll find quiet residential streets lined with townhouses, neighbourhoods with a village feel, and idyllic walks.
Popular areas in North London include:
Find out more in our North London guide.
Although it has not always had the best reputation, East London is now one of the most popular areas for young people.
It’s a culturally diverse hub for creatives and startups, and even plays host to London’s equivalent of Silicon Valley, Silicon Roundabout.
The East End boasts great nightlife, a multitude of options for foodies, and plenty of independent shops and cafes.
Popular parts of East London are:
Discover more in our East London guide.
South London is known for its hilly, green scenery and family friendly atmosphere.
However, it has also become a very popular part of London for young professionals because of its affordability.
Areas like Clapham, Brixton and Peckham are busy and vibrant and play host to many great bars, pubs, restaurants and music venues.
Meanwhile, those looking for a more small town feel lean towards Forest Hill, Greenwich and Dulwich.
Some popular areas of South London are:
Discover more in our South London guide.
West London is great for anyone looking for somewhere quiet and residential with lots of green space.
This part of London is well known because it’s home to Kensington and Chelsea, one of the most expensive boroughs in the UK.
But although you will find some more expensive homes here, there are also plenty of more affordable spots.
Here are some of West London’s popular areas:
Check out our West London guide.
Best places to live in London
Deciding on the best place to live in London depends on what you’re looking for.
For some that may be somewhere close to where they work, somewhere with lots of green space, or somewhere near plenty of pubs, bars and restaurants.
What is certain is that everyone wants to feel safe in their local area, and many people want to buy somewhere inexpensive.
Like any other big city, London crime rates are higher than in smaller, quieter parts of the UK.
According to Homeviews, these are London’s safest areas:
Richmond Upon Thames
Kingston Upon Thames
With London house prices on the high end, many first time buyers want to know what areas in the city are cheapest to buy in.
Here are the top cheapest places to buy in London according to MyLondon:
Barking and Dagenham
Buy to lets in London
The number of people getting buy to lets in London has gradually decreased over the years.
Up until September, 42,000 new buy to let mortgages were taken out in 2020. This is less than the 52,800 in 2019 and 85,900 in 2015.⁹
This could be because of tax changes for landlords and higher mortgage costs.
The high property prices in London mean many people choose to rent instead of buying.
Demand for rental properties in London is generally high due to high numbers of students and young professionals from around the UK or abroad.
Many renters have moved out of the city since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Rent demand and prices have decreased as a result.
Rental demand in London dropped by:
15% in South East London
19% in East London
21% in North London
21% in South West London
22% in North West London
26% in West London
39% in East Central London
43% in West Central London
As people return to work in the city it’s likely that demand will go back up.
New builds in London
There are new developments being built all the time in the capital.
Between January 2020 and January 2021 the average cost of a new build in London was £493,678.²
New build sales were at their lowest since 2018 in 2020, with just 7,330 being sold. In 2018 14,489 were sold, and in 2019 it was 12,658.
London's help to buy schemes
Using the London Help to Buy equity loan the government could lend you as much as 40% of the price of a new build property up to the maximum value of £600,000.
You’ll still need to provide a deposit of at least 5%.
With the 40% loan from the government added to your 5% deposit, you’ll therefore only need to take out a 55% mortgage with a lender.
The government loan is interest free for 5 years and after this you’ll pay an interest rate of 1.75%. This will increase each year based on Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 1%.
Discover more in our Help to Buy guide.
Shared Ownership could make buying a home more manageable, especially in London where property can be less affordable.
With Shared Ownership you can purchase a share of the property you want and then pay rent for the remaining portion.
You can buy between 25% and 75% of the property and decide later on whether you want to buy a bigger share.
To find out more check out our Shared Ownership guide.
With Rent to Buy you can rent a new build property for up to 5 years at around 20% below the market price.
While living there you have the option to make an offer on the entire property or on a part of it by making use of Shared Ownership.
This scheme can be a good way to save on rent while saving to buy in the big city.
Read more in our Rent to Buy guide.
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¹ Council Tax Stock of Properties (Valuation Office Agency (VOA), September 2020)
² HM Land Registry
³ Property Reporter
⁴ The Evening Standard
⁹ Financial Times