Your guide to affordable flats in London

Anybody that lives or who has to move to London for work all share one thing in common; the stress of finding good, affordable accommodation in our nation's overcrowded capital. There's no doubt about it, London is expensive; but it is possible to find something reasonably-priced if you're prepared to do a bit of research - and commuting. To start with, let as many people as possible know that you're looking for accommodation, as many of the best places are snatched up before they're advertised.

Location, location, location ...

The most important consideration is choosing an area within a reasonable commute to where you work. Up to one hour's travelling each way is acceptable, more than that will leave you too exhausted to enjoy London life. With a few exceptions, accommodation gets cheaper as you move away from the centre - but your commute will be longer and more expensive. Property in north or west London costs more than in the south or east, so get hold of a map and identify some suitable areas. Be aware that the Northern and District Underground lines are packed and often unreliable, whereas the Jubilee and Central lines are less crowded.

London suburbs

Unless you get a live-in job in a pub or hotel, living in central London probably isn't an option. A one-bedroom flat in Kensington or Chelsea can easily cost thousands of pounds a week. West London areas such as Shepherd's Bush, Acton and Hammersmith are popular with working holidaymakers and you'll find plenty of Aussie pubs and house parties going on. Go south or east for an edgier, more international - and cheaper - experience. Brixton and Camberwell both have good transport into the centre and Shoreditch to the east is a trendy, creative area with great nightlife. Stoke Newington in the north is a mixed area with lots of different communities; look toward Clapton and Hackney Downs for cheaper accommodation.

Rent a room

Moving into an existing flat- or house-share is the most popular choice for new arrivals in London. Once you've identified a few suitable areas, decide if you're prepared to share a room or pay more for privacy, then check out websites such as Zoopla or Gumtree for available rooms. Both sites are free and good shares don't stay up for long. If you can afford a small registration fee, Easy Roommate and FlatmateClick are less competitive. Alternatively, buy Loot for their huge section of rental classifieds. Be prepared to be interviewed and to come up with a month's rent in advance plus your share of the bond.

Share a lease

If you know other people looking for accommodation, you could get a new flat-share together. This is more complicated than moving into an existing share, as you will be the main leaseholders and jointly responsible for all the rent, so get legal advice before you sign anything. The option is best with people you already know well, because if things don't work out you'll have to find someone else to take over the lease. You all need to be working and to commit to living in London for at least six months. If that sounds attractive, there are plenty of rental agencies in London who will help you find a suitable place.

Housing association

If you're committed to living in London and know you want to eventually buy a home here, renting a home from a housing association means your monthly rent will be 20% less than the local market rate. They're very popular with locals and you do have to fulfill certain eligibility criteria, but the idea is that if you put the money you save aside, you should have enough saved to put a deposit on your own home within five years. Housing associations tend to cover specific areas, so this option is best left until you're sure you've found the right part of London for you.

Rent to buy

Another long-term option is the government's Rent to Buy scheme for London. If you're eligible, you can apply to rent a newly-built home at 20% less than market rate for up to five years, with the option to buy all or part of it at any time during that period. It means you can stay in the same property, first as a tenant and then as a shared owner. It's a long-term commitment, but an affordable way to get on the London property ladder if that's your aim.

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About the Author

Isobel Phillips has been writing technical documentation, marketing and educational resources since 1980. She also writes on personal development for the website UnleashYourGrowth. Phillips is a qualified accountant, has lectured in accounting, math, English and information technology and holds a Bachelor of Arts honors degree in English from the University of Leeds.