8 tips to finding the perfect house in the UK

by Stripes Staff
Stripes Europe

Cheers and welcome to England! You are starting a tour in a country largely friendly to Americans, rich in history and possessing a landscape just waiting to be explored. Though English culture resembles American culture, moving to this island can present some challenges, like how to find a home if you want to live off-base. This article will help you overcome many of the stresses that come along with house hunting on the economy in England.

Finding a home

Government housing is available at most installations in England, but waitlists can be long, depending on where you are stationed. If you would like to live on base, you should complete a DD Form 1746 and turn it in, along with a copy of your orders, to the Housing Management Office (HMO) at the installation you will be leaving. To find out if you qualify for on-base housing in England, contact the HMO at your receiving installation. 

You should visit the HMO at your new installation within 48 hours of your arrival in England. If you have not already done so, you can complete your DD Form 1746 to be put on the lodging waitlist during your visit. Staff members can also guide you as you search for housing off base. Visit www.housing.af.mil for more details. 

The Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN) website is no longer monitored by the DOD; it is now a third-party resource for locating off-base housing. Another source, Right Move, is a popular U.K.-based property listing website. 

You might also find an independent agent who will take you to homes that meet your search criteria and help you with the leasing process. These services can be expensive, and the associated costs are not reimbursable. However, using an agent can save you a lot of time and relieve you of the stress of researching and finding potential homes. 

Things to think about

There are some things to consider when searching for a home: 

English homes can be very eccentric.

One home came complete with its own bell tower because it was a converted schoolhouse. Another home was a converted barn with old beams protruding into the rooms. If you are looking for a home with character, you will probably find one. 

The older your home is, the harder it may be to heat.

Older homes may not have modern insulation or windows to retain heat during the generally cool English weather. 

If you are concerned about heating your home, ask for its energy efficiency rating.

The rating, mandated for most homes being sold or rented, gives a home a grade from A (very efficient) to G (least efficient) for energy usage. Keep in mind that this rating is based on known information, so if the owner has made improvements to the home, the rating may be better than reported. 

Deposits are covered by a scheme in England.

In England, the word “scheme” does not have the negative connotation that it does in the U.S. Scheme is often used in the way that Americans use “program.” A third party will inspect the home and should note all of the building’s deficiencies. Your inspector will look for your input on this, and you should take care to note any problems that were missed. When you move out, this report can help arbitrate any disputes over damages. 

If your landlord does not have an independent agent, inspect the home for the deposit scheme, contact your HMO and ask for advice. 

Many homes in England use oil for heating.

Oil is purchased from a distributor and a truck will deliver oil to the tank that supplies your home. 

Check the walls for sturdiness.

If you would like to hang pictures in your home, be sure to knock on the walls when you inspect potential houses.

Some buildings use solid walls that can make setting a nail tricky, particularly if you are not comfortable working with tools. 

Coordinate with HMO.

Once you select a home, ensure that the HMO reviews all leasing agreements or contracts before you sign anything. 

Purchasing liability and property insurance is also extremely important.

Geico and USAA offer coverage in England, and there are also options available with U.K.-based firms. Discuss the type of coverage needed with the HMO.

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