Moving to Birmingham
An overview of Birmingham
The UK’s most populated district and second-largest city is a diverse, economically successful hotbed of music, sport, and literature, right in the middle of the country.
Beormingahām was established as a small hamlet just outside the Forest of Arden by the 7th century Beormingas tribe, and in the 1,400 years since, has become the country’s second city in many ways, including the economy and higher education.
The host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games has given the world Cadbury chocolate, Peaky Blinders, the disparate but red-hot talents of Ozzy Osbourne, Duran Duran, and Judas Priest, sci-fi pioneer John Wyndham, and Jack Reacher creator Lee Child.
Once branded as the first manufacturing town in the world, the sector still contributes £4 billion to Birmingham’s economy, but has been overtaken in importance by service industries.
And forget the stereotypes: the accent is fine, most days it doesn’t rain, and it’s not a gloomy industrial city – in fact, it’s the fourth-greenest city in the UK, just above London.
Birmingham is a beautiful hub of commerce
The cost of moving to Birmingham
As with any relocation, the cost of moving to Birmingham will depend on where you’re coming from, and what you’re bringing with you.
If you’re planning to move the contents of a three-bedroom house (roughly 875 cubic metres of belongings) from London to Birmingham, you should expect to pay £1,301, on average.
- loading and unloading
- packing services and materials
- dismantling and reassembling furniture
- the fee for distance travelled
The drive from London to Birmingham is around 120 miles, and most removal companies charge £1 per mile (source: comparemymove, 2020).
The amount you’ll end up paying will also differ depending on your moving date, the removal company you choose, and whether you require any supplemental services.
The cost of living in Birmingham
Birmingham is a relatively affordable place to live, especially considering the economic opportunities on offer in the UK’s second city.
Birmingham isn’t in the top 20 least affordable UK cities (source: Lloyds Bank, 2019), and it came eighth in terms of house price growth – with the average house price increasing by 50% in the five years up to 2018 – which suggests it’s a city worth investing in.
Here’s a look at how much you can expect to pay for different goods and services in Birmingham (source: Numbeo, 2020).
|Pint of beer||£3.50|
|Mid-range bottle of wine||£7|
|Monthly public transport pass||£65|
|Cinema ticket for one||£9.50|
|Monthly gym subscription||£27.30|
|1kg of local cheese||£6.32|
Despite this heady rise in house prices, property in Birmingham is still much cheaper than most.
The median house price in Birmingham is £180,000 – much lower than the average across England and Wales, which stands at £271,000 (source: Office for National Statistics, 2020).
The city’s house price-to-earnings ratio is 6.56, which places Birmingham 239th out of 339 places in England and Wales – meaning it’s easier to buy a house there than it is in 70.5% of other local authorities.
House prices in Birmingham have also risen by 6.74% over the past 12 months, showing the city’s popularity is soaring (source: Zoopla, 2020).
If you want to buy a terrace house in Birmingham, the average price is £164,497, and the average cost of a flat is even lower, at £157,424.
If you want to rent a home in Birmingham, you can expect to pay £684 per month, on average – a little lower than the national average of £700 (sources: Zoopla, 2020 and Office for National Statistics, 2019).
The council tax bands in Birmingham for 2020/21 range from £1,106.87 (A) to £3,320.61 per year (H), depending on the type and location of your property. There is also support available if you or someone who lives with you is disabled or receives certain benefits.
You can expect your electricity bills in Birmingham to be similar to the UK average.
The average fixed cost of electricity in the West Midlands is £83.15 per year, which is £2.07 more than the UK average of £81.08.
And the average variable unit price of electricity in the West Midlands is 16.7p per kWh, which is just 0.1p higher than the UK average of 16.6p (source: NimbleFins, 2020).
Public transport in Birmingham
You can get around pretty easily in Birmingham by using the bus, train, and tram networks.
Most people take the buses, which run regularly from morning to night on all days apart from Sunday, when the service is less comprehensive. Many buses have free wifi and USB charging points, which is a welcome bonus.
The tram is another good option, with West Midlands Metro running from Wolverhampton to Birmingham every 6-8 minutes during the day, and every 15 minutes on evenings and Sundays.
Because of Birmingham’s central location and excellent rail network, you can also easily access the whole of the UK from your new home.
And it’s simple to buy a season ticket and save some money with the Swift ticket finder. You can get unlimited travel on regional National Express buses for £61 per month, for instance.
Working in Birmingham
Birmingham’s major industries are health and social work, retail, and education, currently in that order. These sectors supply 40% of the city’s 515,000 jobs.
The unemployment rate was 8% from July 2019 to June 2020, which is significantly higher than the UK’s.
It seems that COVID-19 hit the city harder than most areas of the country, with Birmingham University’s 2020 economic report pointing to “a genuine economic renaissance before March 2020” that has turned sour since, with increasing inequality and disruption.
Birmingham will rise again though, with the help of its largest employers National Express, Sainsbury's, Lloyds Banking Group, Mondelez (which owns Cadbury), and Asda – all of whom have more than 2,000 workers in the area.
The best neighbourhoods in Birmingham
Birmingham is a wonderful mix of history and modern innovation, a diverse mosaic of old industrial buildings and cutting-edge digital progress, with enough exciting activities to last a lifetime.
Here are three of our favourite Birmingham areas.
The ideal area for young professionals
Average property price: £186,276
Once an industrial hub, this up-and-coming central neighbourhood has transformed into a go-to area for cultural and digital businesses.
The Custard Factory is at the centre of this renaissance, and is complemented by the modern flats built in old factories throughout the surrounding area.
Digbeth oozes cool on every street, with more art galleries, live music, and independent shops than any one person needs – plus the newly opened Roxy Ball Room.
Make sure to get a beer and pizza at the excellent Dig Brew Co, then check out the barrier-breaking Matrix Virtual Reality gaming arcade before stopping in at The Old Crown, a pub which was established in 1368.
A wonderful place for families
Average property price: £336,365
Harborne was made for families.
The leafy Victorian suburb has five primary schools, four secondary schools, and a couple of nurseries, with plenty of green spaces where the young ones can tucker themselves out on nature walks.
It’s just a speedy 19-minute bus ride to the city centre, though you can also find lots of local leisure activities, not least at Harborne’s cricket club and two golf clubs.
An excellent all-rounder for anyone
Average property price: £392,062
This suburb is a welcoming home for anyone.
With its monthly, award-winning farmer’s market and annual Moseley Folk & Arts Festival – along with the confusingly named Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival – it’s both family-friendly and undoubtedly cool.
Its thriving high street is also home to a plethora of independent bars, cafes, and restaurants. Try out middle eastern fare at Palmyra, Indian tandoori and balti at Kababish, and comforting Italian dishes at Ponte di Legno.
Things to do in Birmingham
If you’re interested in learning more about the world and enjoying beautiful creations made by ridiculously talented people, Birmingham has you covered.
Go see contemporary art at the Ikon Gallery, enjoy the independent Reuben Colley Fine Art gallery, and float through the gorgeous Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Then stop in for a performance at the Symphony Hall, wonder at the skills displayed by the Birmingham Opera Company or Birmingham Royal Ballet, or relax at the 110-year-old Electric Cinema.
Birmingham is a wonderful place to have a ton of fun without being judged for being enthusiastic about activities some might see as childish.
In that spirit – and with the help of some spirits of another kind – you can dive headfirst into enjoying retro arcade gaming at Kongs and NQ64, or the bleeding-edge gaming experience at Matrix Virtual Reality.
You can also visit the Flight Club for darts and drinks, Lane 7 for bowling, shuffleboard, karaoke, and drinks, and pool tables, ping pong, bowling, and (you guessed it) drinks at Roxy Ball Room.
The city has basically unlimited adventures on offer at night.
From comedy shows at The Glee Club, to the cheesy music enjoyed by all at Pop World, through the various delights of the O2 Academy and live indie performances at the undeniably cool Dead Wax Digbeth, you’ll never be bored.
And if you want a comprehensive account of every venue in the city, Visit Birmingham has you covered.