Welcome back, Weekend Warriors!Relocating to London means not only having to rent the London apartment you’ll be moving into, but making plans for the home that you’re moving out of. So while we provide a lot of these Saturday packing tips for moving your belongings out of that house, perhaps we should address the house itself.

A while ago, one of our London Living Londonistas shared a blog post with the forum about the decision to sell her home, the darling house so conveniently situated in Montreal that had been her address for fourteen years prior to moving to London. Such is the dilemma of expats; whether you’re a tenant or a home owner, you might face some hairy logistics settling your property affairs on your originating side of the pond.

If you’re currently renting your apartment or house, perhaps your move will coincide nicely with your lease. If not, you might find that there is a break clause in your lease contract that stipulates your ability to discontinue your lease after a specified amount of time—these are very common features of London apartment tenancy agreements, though may not be in your home city; in which case, it might all depend on how understanding your landlord is about moving out and discontinuing your rent payments prior to the originally agreed-upon term. You may end up having to forgo your deposit, paying the remaining rent installments, etc., but if you’re being transferred overseas by your employer, your company’s coverage of such penalties might be part of your expat package (if not, see if you can negotiate that in!).

Employers may likewise cover any costs related to the sale of your property—again, if you’re being transferred. Moving by your choice diminishes how much leverage you have with an expat package, if you’re granted one at all (see “Relocating to London: Negotiating an Expat Package with Your Employer“). Likewise, you may have costs associated with finding a tenant.

And therein lies the big decision to be made with a property that you own: sell or rent? If your move to London is only temporary (perhaps a year or two), you might deem it makes sense to hold onto the property if you know that’s where you’ll return upon repatriating back from the UK. It is also a desirable option simply as an investment; these days, a lot of folks want to hold onto their properties until real estate values rise up again to render the investment an ultimate gain in capital. Having to sell at a loss could hurt, but, then again, so can having to pay mortgage on a place where you no longer live in the event finding a tenant to cover the cost is unfruitful. Such was the concern of the aforementioned Londonista, who stated in her blog post:

“The decision [to sell] came from a combination of logistical hassles – finding tenants, managing the property from afar, monetary concerns – and also the realisation that we wanted to make a real commitment to our new life in London and fully close our Montreal chapter before heading over. Which just goes to heighten the anxiety, nausea and excitement of the whole endeavour.”

Everyone’s circumstances and priorities are different; I couldn’t possibly provide you the specific solution to your situation in one blog post without knowing the particular factors involved. What I do hope to achieve today, however, is setting your mind to thinking through this if you haven’t already:

– If you’re renting and need to move before the lease term is up, read through that lease agreement and inquire with your landlord to understand your options/consequences.

– If you own an  apartment/condo and are looking to rent it out, consult your building association by-laws to ensure you’re legally allowed to sublet. Not every owner within a multi-unit building has that option!

– And if you have the option to either sell or rent, determine what you’d personally prefer to do either out of sentiment or practicality, weigh that against your finances and your willingness to commit to the money/efforts/time your decision could involve, and determine whether it’s something you might receive assistance for from your employer.

I’m hoping to follow up on this eventually with personal anecdotes of expats living in London (including myself) who all owned (or still own) homes in the States prior to their relocation, how we arrived at our decisions, what circumstances we had to work with, issues faced, success stories, etc. So stay tuned, as hopefully one of them will resonate with you and further help with your move.

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