created by Lizzie Edwards
Lizzie Edwards spent three months hunting for the perfect home, but was it worth it? And what did she learn along the way?
For anyone who is currently, or has ever lived in London, the flat hunt is an initiation test to life as a fully-fledged Londoner. It's a brutal "best-toughen-up-quick-you're-in-the-capital-now" kind of challenge. It punches you square in the face as soon as you arrive from whichever more reasonably priced, more adequately housed part of the world you just left behind. The London house hunt is unforgiving; it pulls no punches and often lands you in situations that leave you wondering how the hell you got there.
My own flat hunt lasted three months from start to finish. It took me on a wild goose chase around parts of London that I never thought I would see, and indeed many that I never wish to see again – but what better way to find your feet in a new city than desperately following Citymapper with your nose to your iPhone as you stride frantically in the wrong direction around unfamiliar streets?
I must admit, my own search was mild compared to some - I have heard countless weird and wonderful tales from fellow survivors. Like the boy in the pub who told me rather proudly that he'd viewed over 300 flats before signing the golden tenancy agreement; or my friend who was (illegally) leased a flat that the owner wasn't even aware was on the market; or my current flat-mate who looked around a house for a good 15 minutes before being asked rather bemusedly by the man who had let her in, what on earth she was doing in his flat (turns out it was a neighbouring place up for grabs).
Yes, all newbie Londoners can share in the pain and mental torture that is the London rental market. London is currently in the midst of the biggest housing crisis since the second world war and believe me the struggle on Spareroom.com is most definitely real *other property sites are available*.
As an eventual survivor of the London flat hunt, I feel I should use this platform to impart three pieces of wisdom that I learnt over those three fateful months:
1) Don’t try and conquer London alone: in order to be victorious in this struggle, chances are you’re going to need the help of others in the know. You must tell everyone that you meet of your current predicament – new work colleagues, social media friends, the newsagent down the road. Everyone must be aware, because everyone is a potential source of assistance and inside knowledge who may provide solace on the inevitable dark days ahead.
2) Trust your instincts: if the price is too low, it's a con. If the deposit is being requested in cash, it's a con. If the potential new housemates have an air of serial killer or crack addict about them, stay away (unless you’re into that sort of thing?). No matter how despairing you become in your search, don't let go of your instincts and common sense. I learnt this the hard way by pulling out of a flat after paying a £200 non-refundable holding fee – trust me, if you are so unsure about a place that you are left flipping a coin to decide whether or not to take it, it's best to cut your losses.
3) Never, ever go Speed Flat-mating: this is possibly the most valuable piece of advice I can give you. Again, I speak from experience on this one. Turning up to a dingy central London night club at 7pm on a Tuesday night and having a sticker stuck to your chest branding that not only are you desperate for a flat, but also that your budget is laughably low is unlikely to do anything for either your flat search or self-respect. In my experience, this night did nothing for my housing prospects except provide a hilarious story for my successful smug flat-renter friends to revel in.
I am very pleased to say that I am a flat-hunt survivor. After three months of frantic searching I was rewarded with the sweetest prize of all, 24 hour access to London in all its glory. Stick in there fellow house hunters, the end goal is most definitely worth the struggle. But, please trust me on the speed flat-mating.
Follow her @Lizzie_Edwards