When Sam Cookney declared that it was cheaper to rent in Barcelona and commute to his job in London, his friends thought he was exaggerating, but it turns out he was bang on the mark.
The staggering costs of renting in central London, means it can actually be cheaper to rent and commute from the city of sun, sea and sangria – and live in a more spacious home to boot.
“I thought at least it would require some poetic licence or dodgy sums,” said the 30-year-old, who currently flat shares in Shepherd's Bush. “But the only assumption I’m making is that I work a four-day week in London, with a day at home (i.e. Barcelona).”
Here’s how he worked it out:
The cost of London
The cost of renting a one-bedroom flat in West Hampstead is £1,505, according to Zoopla.
“I chose West Hampstead because I know and like the area, and it doesn’t seem a stretch to suggest that a young professional may afford to live there,” commented Sam, a social media manager.
He then added in council tax at approximately £75 and a zone 1-2 travelcard to get to his job in the City (£116.80), making a total of £1,697 or €1,979 a month.
The cost of living in Barcelona
Hop across to Barcelona and a three-bedroom in the Les Corts district costs €680 a month.
“I used to live there, and being a fairly upmarket residential district, it’s a very decent and fair comparison to West Hampstead,” Sam said. “There are, of course, cheaper flats, but I was trying to compare apples with apples – even in spite of the three bedrooms.”
He found a three-bedroom flat, with three balconies, a stone’s throw away from the metro, in a nice, safe area. The cost? €680 a month – and there’s no council tax in Spain.
Getting to work
Of course, the cost of the commute from Barcelona to London would eat up all of the savings made on rent... Right?
Well, not necessarily - Sam found he could fly back and forth from Barcelona to Stansted via Ryanair nearly every day in November for €34 a trip.
Then throw in the €6 to get to from Barcelona’s el Prat airport and a £14 return to Liverpool Street, making €23 in total on transfers each day.
“I could walk to my desk by 9:30am, with time for a Pret coffee and bacon and cheese croissant en route,” said Sam.
That’s fixed commuting costs of €57 a day, 4 days a week, for 4 weeks a month, which gives us €912. Add on rent of €680 a month and the cost of living in Barcelona and commuting to London comes to €1,592 a month.
That’s €387 LESS than the cost of living in London and commuting from Zone 2. Oh, and he gets to live in a sunny city by the sea in a three-bed flat with three balconies.
"It's just beyond crazy, and completely unsustainable," commented Sam.
"I feel like it's reaching a tipping point. I've been discussing with friends this week, and several of us have said that we're going to have to consider leaving London. The sums just don't add up."