By Ada Albert
Living away from your homeland comes with choices and compromises and at first people are more likely to rent than own their abode in their new country. Renting or buying a property, both of these two choices can bear a significant emotional involvement and time-consuming endeavour that comes with a lot of excitement, too. It’s remarkably a journey that ends in joining the property market with a dwelling that would mirror the contours of the owner’s expectations.
“Ok, I belong here – I love it”
Beatriz Traquina is our first case study who reflects this journey and shares it with our readers. Beatriz’s family previously lived in Portugal. “We had a three bedroom flat over there, in a nice area, next to the good schools, so basically the dream house and we were quite settled in Portugal. Then we received a bigger and a better opportunity for my husband to have more visibility within the group that involved relocating to the UK and so, yes we just jumped at it”says Beatriz. Relocating also involved looking for a property to rent.
You had already made a big move as you are originally from Puerto Rico and your husband from Portugal. Having previously taken a big step in your life transferring from Puerto Rico to Portugal, how was it this time?
It was actually very controlled. The company helped us out in every possible way. We were appointed a consultant who helped us in every step, not only housing but also with the kids’ school. Six months before the actual move our first visit was to see the schools we had shortlisted and were interested in. During this visit we scheduled to see properties, not for renting, because we understood the market here moves very fast, but just to get an idea of what we could afford with our budget. We visited two places, one in Belsize Park and another one in Hampstead. It was helpful to know what money could buy us here in London and so that was a good experience.
With the school playing a very important role in choosing the home you were going to rent, were there any other things you looked at before deciding?
Yes definitely, but we also realised that we needed to be close to the school but also some of the schools were quite far away so we had to compromise with the commuting times. Having a consultant to look after our needs was very important. Actually, I had no idea where were the estate agents here in London, so the consultant did all the internet searches that we do right now, because we know how it works and where to look for that information. We selected a house that I really loved from the list that the consultant prepared for me, so I didn’t really need to look independently for any other property.
When you visited the estate agent that had advertised the property you were about to rent, what did they expect from you?
Estate Agents ask about your professional background to make sure that you have the means to pay.
The first time, my husband’s company provided some documents, like proof of company address at the time, and the references which were required to enable us to rent the property.
With our next move they asked us for a bit about our background, and how many people we are. I have a feeling that the estate agents do favour families, with older kids. More or less what they are looking for is families, no pets, and non-smokers. They ask about your professional background to make sure that you have the means to pay.
Once you moved in what did you need for your new home, or any little adjustments to be made to fit with your gusto?
When I went to view the house all the curtains were shut. I walked into the living room and they opened the curtains and I saw the beautiful back garden I said to myself “Ok, I belong here. I love it”. It was a small house with a beautiful view, compared to our flat in Lisbon. We decided to adapt to its smaller size, because the beautiful view made up for it, definitely. In Lisbon we don’t have so many green spaces and for us it was very surprising to find that here in London.
In fact I didn’t change anything, the house was newly refurbished. We decided we would not transfer our things from Lisbon, but of course some personal things, books, picture albums, things like this.
This is your third home that you have rented in the UK – what has been your experience so far?
In Portugal we didn’t rent, we bought the home immediately, and so I didn’t have any experience of renting. I came to learn how things work in England and found it very straightforward here, especially with the technology as you can get all the information you need online, before you start this process. Our next move is to buy.
You have grown into London in a way. Did you feel that in your first visit when you came as a tourist?
No, but like all great loves they are completely unexpected and we as a family love London.
Moving home was more stressful than moving countries
Mary Scott, our second case study, is a mother of two boys and has been happily married for eighteen years. They originate from Australia; have lived in different countries and moved to the UK in 2007 when they were being relocated with her husband’s company. At first sight, for most of us who live in the UK, we find this type of migration exciting, fun and think of it as a time of their life.
There are challenges along the way, whilst considering the journey into the property market or looking for a property to rent before even relocating to the UK. For Mary Scott’s family it is a remarkable journey that ends in finding a dwelling that would mirror the contours of their expectations, with room for their family and a little extra for their family visiting from overseas.
What was the first step for you?
My husband’s company set up appointments with a few estate agents. We met with them and viewed several properties. Our challenge was to find a property that suited our young family. We also did our own research – we checked schools, transport and amenities in different areas.
We were pretty open-minded when finding a property. The main thing for us is that it suited the needs of our family.
How did you find the process in the UK, and how was it different to Australia and other countries? What would you advise newcomers to avoid or pay more attention to?
The process is fairly similar to other countries we’ve lived in for the documents required, such as identity, proof of residency in the UK, and a copy of my husband’s work contract, along with the mandatory deposit. We were pretty open-minded when finding a property. The main thing for us is that it suited the needs of our family.
We had references from previous overseas landlords, which were not of interest to the estate agents in the UK and so we obtained references from my husband’s employer.
What is your journey from renting to buying a property? How complicated is the whole process and what do you think is important to know or to have before owning your own home in the UK?
We lived in our rented home for three years. We had a few issues with our landlady as she was reluctant to spend money on any repairs when they arose. However, eventually she would agree to repair or send someone out.
This made our decision to get on the property ladder. We saved up very hard to have a deposit to buy our own property. It wasn’t easy and we had to budget quite carefully. We checked in advance what was required to purchase our own home and what mortgages were on offer. Again, we researched a fair bit to make sure we made the right decision.
Nothing is like home, but if you were to choose the things you had to compromise along the way what would they be?
Moving from our home country to various countries around the world comes with compromise. In the UK, that was the weather and a spacious home. Properties in Australia and in particular Sydney, where we are from, are expensive. London properties are also expensive and are much smaller but don’t lack character. Most properties in Sydney are modern in comparison to London.
Are there things you wish to forget during property search? What are the things that you enjoyed the most?
We finally found our home after some time. The packing was the worst part but getting rid of ‘stuff’ we longer needed was liberating. It was quite stressful for us. In my opinion, moving home was more stressful than moving countries.
Shopping for our new home was less stressful and could be described as exciting. We enjoyed furnishing our new home once we moved in. We love our new place and making it our own, and should we need to repair or change something, we can do it ourselves instead of relying on a third person!