A few weeks ago a secretary called me in absolute desperation. She was desperately looking for a place to stay in central London for some VIPs from abroad. She stumbled across my website and didn’t really understand what the service was about. I think the words ‘free service’, ‘apartments’ only helped her figure out that Quality London Block Management had something to do with accommodation. Sorry for my long opening but it’s a prime example of how little travelers in the UK and Europe know about the serviced apartment industry. After explaining the concept of serviced apartments to her and helping her find an apartment, I realized that I needed to pass this knowledge on. So this article is my contribution to unlocking this elusive industry and providing tips to travelers .
What is a serviced apartment?
A serviced apartment is a block apartment that has a separate bedroom, living room/lounge, fully equipped kitchen and your own private key to your own door. Serviced apartments can be in the form of a one-room apartment (all in one room with a kitchenette), one, two or three bedrooms.
All apartments come with housekeeping, utilities and an administration team to help you…just like a hotel. Guests only pay one nightly rate and can live in an apartment with everything they would have in their own home.
Pros: Serviced London Apartments vs Hotels
- More value for money and cheaper. In a hotel, regardless of the star category, you pay per night for a room with a television, a bathroom, a sofa and a bed. This is comparable to a studio apartment! In an apartment there is a separate bedroom, a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom and a dining table (except studio)
- Pay per apartment and not per person. An example would be paying £250 per night for a two bedroom apartment that sleeps up to 4 people, which is £62.50 per person.
- freedom and privacy. An apartment is like home and offers a lot of space. You have your own keys to your own door.
- Booking is easy, just like hotels. Most apartments require a credit card as a guarantee, prepayment before your arrival and that’s it. No deposits, no leases.
Cons: Serviced London Apartments vs Hotels
- The apartments lack the buzz and service of a hotel like restaurants and room service. Although some apartments are owned by hotels and offer you the use of their restaurants and other services.
- No 24/7 service. The apartments are run by a small team working Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm, leaving you on your own at the weekend. There are emergency numbers to call in case you suffer a power outage but no 24 hour hotel duty manager to rush to your room.
- No pool, massages, saunas like hotels
What to look out for when booking a serviced apartment in London?
- Quality of the apartment – make sure you find out if it is clean, well furnished and maintained. As? Look at the photos and ask if you can arrange a viewing. This is very important if you are staying for a long period of time.
- Do they have a friendly and efficient management team? If you need the convenience of a welcoming face to greet you upon arrival, then ask for an apartment with reception. Some apartments have key boxes, so you can arrive at any time, but there will be no one to pick you up. A friendly and small team gives you a very personal touch.
- Apartment office opening times – doesn’t sound important? Well that’s because most of the apartment operations teams are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm. If you arrive at your apartment during office opening hours that is fine, but at any other time and on weekends you will need to pick up the keys from a different location.
- Key collection by car at the airport? – If you are flying into London from abroad and don’t feel like roaming around London at night to collect your keys, most apartments will hire a taxi to take your keys to the airport on arrival. Convenient for little money.
- Payment procedures and cancellation policy – each apartment has different terms and conditions for guests. All accept a credit card to guarantee the reservation, some require 100% prepayment at least 7 days prior to arrival and cancellation can take from 12:00 p.m. on the day of arrival up to 28 days. So before you confirm the reservation, you should be aware of the terms and conditions. Ask your housing agents to explain the process to you and read the terms and conditions in your confirmation emails. This will save you a lot of hassle and headaches later.
- The apartments are always assigned upon arrival. This policy is the same as in any hotel. So if you are not a regular guest in a specific apartment, apartments will be allocated. In the same breath, some apartments have only a small number of apartments. So if you reserve the only 3 bedroom penthouse in their collection then you are guaranteed that specific apartment.
- Prices become more competitive the longer you stay. By this we mean that you have more bargaining power if you stay a month or more. In this case, your real estate agent can really help you by negotiating with a variety of apartments to get you the best deal.
- Using a real estate agent also saves you time searching, but most importantly, they work with your budget and do a lot of negotiation for you. Of course, you also have to be realistic about what you can book. Don’t expect to shell out £80 a night for a luxury apartment. For example, one of our clients had a budget of £300 per night for a two bedroom apartment and wanted a bit of luxury. Anyone who knows London well will also understand that this budget is actually very small. Nonetheless, we booked him and 3 friends into the Victoria Park Plaza luxury apartment (£150 a night less than the usual rate) for £300 a night with free breakfast, gym and Executive Lounge access. Any real estate agent worth his salt can and will move mountains to help you.
What if I don’t like the apartment upon arrival?
If you really feel like you’ve been hit hard, let the housing management team know and ask to be moved to another apartment. All the apartments we work with are very customer oriented and try to help guests enjoy their stay. If this doesn’t work, speak to your apartment agent if you booked that way. However, the best advice is to ask the right questions before booking an apartment.
Your appetite for apartments has now been whetted – how do you find apartments in London?
- As explained above, you can use a free search and booking service provided by an apartment broker or go directly to a specific apartment that you know. Either method is perfectly fine depending on your knowledge of London housing. Using an agent means they will search their portfolio widely and present you with a variety of choices…all within 10-15 minutes. Agents are impartial and will only recommend (good agents anyway) the quality apartments for your needs.
- You can use search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN to find apartments. Enter keywords like “London Serviced Apartments” or “Quality Apartments in London” and so on.
- Pointing out the obvious though, ask for a recommendation from friends and acquaintances.
- Visit Tripadvisor.com and other customer review sites.
If you’ve read this far, then thank you for your time. I have tried to make this article clear and as helpful as possible, but I welcome your comments and any additional information that you feel is very important.
I am enthusiastic about my London Block Management company and the service for our guests. All our guests receive a free search and booking service and we also take care of them upon arrival. Our mission is service with honesty, good old fashioned personal service and helpfulness.