Real estate terminology in London is not completely straight-forward. A good starting point is the complete glossary of terms on: http://www.houseweb.co.uk/house/glossary.html.
Here’s a quick guide to some of the terminology you will come across when looking for accommodation in London:
- Flat – Apartment
- Studio – A very small flat that is a single room plus a bathroom. There is no kitchen but a counter, fridge and small burner.
- Bedsit – This is a studio apartment without a bathroom. The bathroom will be in the building and you will share it with other tenants.
- One Bedroom – The bedroom is separate from the living room.
- Lease – Terms to which you agree so that you can legally inhabit the apartment. These can be broken so make sure to read all fine print and locate penalty charges.
- Maisonette – Two-story apartment with private entrance.
- Flatmate – The person you will be sharing your residence with.
- Freehold – Ownership of a piece of land and the property on it.
- Leasehold – Land or property on which you must pay the freeholder an annual fee.
The UK floor system is different than some other countries’ systems – a whole floor is called a “storey” and the plural is “stories”.
Ground level is called “Ground floor” and the first floor above the ground level is counted as the “1st floor”, as if the ground floor did not count as a floor.
Furnished – vs – Unfurnished
Unfurnished accommodation will come with nothing at all and will most probably be completely bare. If an accommodation is advertised as “Furnished”, it should contain everything that is needed from beds to fridge.
Number of rooms
Flat and houses are advertised by the number of bedrooms. A one-bedroom flat implies there is a bathroom, a kitchen and a living room/diner included in the dwelling, plus one bedroom.
Descriptions are not always realistic, you should ask for photos or a video-tour if you can’t visit.
Estate Agents’ Tricks
Estate agents’ truth might differ from reality. For example, a place described as “cosy” often means small. Here is a checklist to make sure that the property you are offered really is what it is:
- Check the area around a property on Google Earth and StreetView.
- If the details show only interior pictures, insist on seeing some of the exterior before any viewing.
- Visit a property both in daylight and at night, and at peak commuter and school-run times.
- Check all doors are fitted and all furniture, especially beds, are standard size. Even if you need to measure things up.
- Shift furniture away from walls to see what lies behind.
- Make sure all music or other noise sources in the house are turned off. It has been know that music is left on to cover other noises.