Since December last year I thought I had the best possible rent deal in London by having a chance to live in an absolutely amazing flat for incredibly decent/ normal price. On my own. It is not an usual thing in London. Not only that people even being in their 30s+ live in shared accommodation because they cant afford to buy or rent a place for themselves, but also that the quality of the accommodation one gets in return for often totally over-priced accommodation is very questionable. For this reason since the very first day when I moved in this lovely flat I felt I am so lucky.. But, unfortunately, just like bad periods, also good periods have their ends. My landlady gave me a one month notice as she wants to return and live in the flat herself, potentially sell it etc..
Needless to say, I was totally sadended and down. I could stay in this place for ages and if I had spare few hundreds of thousands of pounds I could buy it. But, as it is not the case, I had to start searching for my new place and I never could have imagined it gonna be so hard. It is worse than going to dates and doing job interviews. So, on the Day 1, when I got my one month notice, I started browsing advertisements mostly on www.gumtree.com and www.spareroom.co.uk. My agreement with landlady was that I could basically move out any time within the month or I could, if needed, stay extra 1-2 weeks. So, I had a great flexibility and also financially I was not risking to lose anything. Excellent.
When reading adverts I was looking for: a place with as few tenants as possible; with good public transport to work, to my Saturday farmers‘ market, airports, central London; tidy, clean, well maintained place; safe location; no party house and probably not sharing with under 25s; large, big, spacious room with good amount of daylight; with enough storage space (all my books, shoes and clothes); house with a character, some arty, creative touch. Oh, and yes, I don’t want to pay more than 600GBP per month. Normal requirements, right?
So, on Day 5 I had my 1st viewing. That was a studio flat about 200 metres from my current place. I love the area where I am now and it would be very easy to move my stuff. However, the entrance in the flat was kind of through the back garden passing by garbage bins and giving not very nice views on my way to the flat. Though studio as such was pretty spacious, there was not much daylight coming in and the room was pretty untidy. I did not feel this is my place and in general – who would grab the first option on his way? I got time.
On Day 7 I had two viewings. So, the 2nd place to view was a double room in a very interesting flat located in the reconstructed old Piano factory building. The best thing in the flat was a living room with double –high ceilings, much daylight and space. A room was ok, but extra furniture would have been needed. A lovely place, not a standard one (that’s what I like and I’m looking for) and in convenient location (it could be a 40 minutes walk to my work, which would be something amazing being in London).
Right after that I was viewing the 3rd place – a studio flat again not so far from my current place. This property was presented to me by an agent, a young male. At times I could not understand if he is trying to sell me this property or himself (or maybe nowadays flirting is one of the sales agents‘ techniques?!). Studio was ok, the house was ok, but the price was too high. I thought the bills were included, but they were not, so that’s more than I want to pay.
On Day 8 I sent a message to the Old Piano Factory lady saying that I would want to take the room, but never heard anything back from her. That means, she chose somebody else. I lost the competition. I wonder what qualities or competencies I did not have..
On Day 10 I had another two viewings. My 4th place was a Victorian house in my neighbourhood, which had two double rooms for rent. The one I wanted – a large double room – was already taken and I was not interested in the standard double room. I am maybe claustrophobic (or just simply – not a teenager anymore), but I need a SPACE, so this was not what I needed and wanted. The best thing about this property was a landlord. A very cute guy. 🙂
My 5th place was a large room in a house 3 minutes away from my current place to be presented by the agent of the 3rd place. Imagine – he did not come! I was waiting for about 15 minutes and left. I felt very angry. Not nice. He must have had hangover after Friday night out, I thought, and thus had forgotten about me… Men..
On Day 11 I went to see my 6th place, about 20 minutes walk from my work. A large double room in a two storey 3 bedroom flat in a purpose built apartment building. Landlady was a professional property developer, very talkative and lovely. She would be living in this flat as well, therefore was really looking for people withi whom she would get along. A room was good size, spacious, with lots of light and enough storage space. But, I realized that i don’t like these apartment buildings with greyish/cold corridors and a feel of like living in dorms. Price was very attractive, but in terms of location, though it was not very far from my work, I was sort of concerned about safety in that area. Also, imagining travel to/from my work, airports (now and then I need to travel) and other favorite places in the city especially at night, I felt it might be a bit complicated, time-consuming. The next day the owner texted me saying that she has chosen me with whom she would want to rent the room, but I declined this offer.
On Day 12 I had two viewings. The 7th place was in my neighbourhood, however that was way too far from my train/ bus stops (I have no car and I don’t drive so it’s always very important to view the place in relation to public transport accessiblity). Moreover, that was one of the places which as such is ok, but has no soul or anything special. Very impersonal. Very basic standard. No. The 8th place was arranged again with the male agent, who did not apologize for not meeting me the other day to view another property. But, guess what, he did not come again. I promise not to deal with him ever again.
On Day 14 I have booked again two viewings. One was in the early morning before work. The 9th place was a double room in a purpose built flat (I wish, I knew that before; I would not have gone as I really don’t like them). The flat as such was ok, but I saw that the standard of cleanness is lower than mine and though I like music, living with two punk-rock musicians was not my dream. I would say, that was a too chilled/ relaxed house. No. My 10th place was an extremely large house even according to my standards with huge kitchen, cosy living room and wide corridors. Moreover, it had original wooden floors, interesting furniture and it really had a character. However, like with the 4th place, the room which was advertised, was taken, but the one which was still free (standard double) was not good enough. It was also unfurnished, but it would not have been a problem if it was the room I was interested in. I would have loved to live in that house, plus – the price was very good, but it had to be that room which was already taken. And I did not want to go for anything less.
Then, fortunately from one side and unfortunately from the point of view of my house search, for the next 7 days I event abroad, so for about a week I am out of the market.
On Day 23 I am seeing the 11th place – a large double room in a newly built 4 bedroom house. The room was ok. I liked its small balcony and red leather retro sofa in there. However, I did not like location. Not very convenient for public transport users and offers little flexibility. Plus, very obvious patroling of policemen around the area in early evening made be feel not very safe in the area.
On Day 24 I am seeing two properties. The 12th place is a 2 bedroom flat in a victorian house. Room is nice, flat is nice, a potential housemate is nice, everything is clean and tidy. And the price is good. After having a good chat about things, I thought there was a click and that’s it. However, in the evening I found out that, though it was a hard decision, they chose somebody else. Damn. Really. I really liked the place. A bit girly maybe, but lovely. Getting more and more frustrated with my bad luck, I am arranging another viewing in an area where I used to live 2 years ago. So, my 13th place was supposed to be a large double room for a very good price, but when I was just about 5 minutes away from the house, I got a message from the landlord saying ‚sorry, room is gone‘. So rude, I would say. But what can I do. It’s good I could do some reading while traveling back and forth, otherwise those two hours I spent to visit that place would be completely wasted.
On Day 25 I am seeing my 14th place. First problem was to realize that it is again a purpose built apartment building. The second problem – just by the entrance there were two huge garbage bins with rubbish all around it. Not a very esthetic look and though it has nothing to do with the room, it says a lot. Landlord did not warn the current tenants that there will be people coming that day to view the room, so room was messy, untidy, atmosphere was tense and thus gave not a very good impression about the flat and management of things there. No.
On Day 26 I had another two viewings. My 15th place is in a very good location in terms of transport, however, it was again apartment building on the ground floor with very impersonal basic atmosphere. I would never be able to call that place as Home. No. It had all the basic things you need and was relatively clean, but I want something more. I want to feel happy going home.
My 16th place was something very outstanding. The house both looks and feels like a castle. It is in a very good area and the house was on the edge of a very big park. It was a gated property with video entrance systems and very well maintained internal garden and communal areas. There was a doube bedroom available in 3 bedroom flat without living room. Two nice girls as current tenants. Almost spotless cleanness. Perfect. But, maybe too perfect for me. I think, I would feel like caged lioness in that place. But, girls said, they will choose the ‚winner‘, and they did not contact me again. Neither did i.
On Day 28 I had 3 viewings (I am getting desperate, frustrated, impatient and unsettled). My 17th place is in a very good location close to my favorite shopping area and comes with en-suite. Price is good. There is a red sofa in the room (I love red). And geneally I like the room. There is no much communal areas, so the cleanness does not bother me that much (I am ready to make some compromises). Kitchen is not the biggest in the world, but would be ok. In the evening I get a text that they have chosen somebody else. I replied – thanks.
My 18th place is very near my current place and it is arranged through an agent (not that male). It took me to visit 3 houses (luckily, they all were on the same street) until I got to the right one. Agent’s excuse was that she has to deal with so many properties that she got confused in which house is exactly the room she is offering me. Anyway, after about half an hour I find the right house. House is very nice. Peace harbour. And the live-in landlor, a man in his 40s maybe, seemed to be very nice, considerate, intelligent person. However, the problem was that our understanding of how big is ‚big‘ was different. The room was ok size, but I would not call that big. Plus, there was a relatively small window with a glued-on cover so that you cant see it through (landlord thinks, the view to the garden is not very nice). So, despite the fact I liked the house as such, room was too small. And I could not imagine where I would put my 40+ pairs of shoes. Landlord then kindy offered to come to that place for a short term let until I find what I really look for. Could be an option, but that would mean only prolongation of this frustration, so after some thinking time I said No.
My 19th place was a double room in a gated property, which is like an isolated village with many newly built apartment buildings. This property, basically a street of houses even has its own website, so it is a strong community there. Flat was nice, modern but I could easily feel that this is a guys‘ flat. One of the current tenants was nice, had a good chat, with him but later on he texted and said the usual thing – sorry, we chose somebody else. I even did not reply. I am such a loser.
On Day 29 I arrange a morning viewing. I tell my boss at work, that I will be late. From outside the house is maybe not what exactly I imagined, but it is a 2 storey house with 3 bedrooms. The room for rent is ensuite, quite big, though I am not sure if it is big enough for all my stuff. But, this is a house with nice wooden floors, interesting decorations and very colorful. You can feel a touch of creativity in this house, which also gives a sense that this place is unfinished in a very positive way. I love the dining/ living room with floor-to-ceiling windows which leads to a garden (which is definitely and very obviously unfinished :), but I could maybe do something about if I had a chance) and brings a lot of light in. However, the best moment was to discover that the landlord is a musician playing world music and also jazz. For me as a full-time jazz lover this was a big plus and made the house so much more attractive. I would assume that this connection through jazz was a critical point for landlord as well, so at the end of the viewing they said – you are cool and we would give you a room! Yey. Finally. 🙂 However, I did not want to rush and said I will think about it as I still had one more viewing that evening. But, in about 2 hours I texted them yes and cancelled my viewing in the evening.
As only on Day 32 I received a contract, I still kept checking ads (just assuring myself that i have made the right choice) and I even went to see one more place (21st) on Day 32 (but somehow, though location was perfect, the room was ok, but had too ‚heavy‘ furniture).
And, i should note here that actually i have to feel to some extent lucky i got a chance to visit these 20 places, because in many cases I did not even get a chance to go for a viewing. There were few very attractive options in warehouses, penthouses, however, i guess, because of huge interest owners were very selective who to invite even for the viewing. Very often i was asked to send them a brief summary about myself, which made me feel like as if i am applying for a job…
My 20th place which I chose to be my next Home is not perfect, but it is a matter of compromises I want to make, my preferences, values, needs and budget. I will get a normal size of the room (i would refuse to stay it is actually large), homely, cosy, arty atmosphere with a bit of creative touch, within limits of my budget, safe area and hopefully sharing the house with very nice people.
From the other side, all this month-long activity which has completely turned away my attention from other things just characterizes the current situation in London‘s rent market: due to inability to buy property, there is extreme demand for rented accommodation which drives up the prices even for a low quality accommodation and why would not landlords keep prices high if at the end of the day there will be always someone to accept it.