The last 3 weeks have been some of the most stressful of my life; so much so that last week, I cried for 60 whole minutes on the tube home from work. I know what you’re thinking – my work commute is an hour each way – madness, isn’t it?
But back to me crying on the Northern line: the reason I have been so stressed is that my life has been consumed by flat hunting and all of the hell that comes with it. I currently live in Muswell Hill with friends, and with the end of our current lease due (and the urge to live closer to central London than Slough) we’ve been searching for a new place.
The decision to live so far to the border of Zone 3 was based on rent prices – currently I’m paying £530 for my room including bills, which, if you’re a Londoner, you will know is a bargain. Personally, knowing that I could be paying that rent for a 2-bedroom flat back in Glasgow makes me feel quite sick, but details, eh?
Nonetheless, with this great “deal” I currently have, I found it difficult to come to terms with paying any more when I am clearly struggling as it is (please refer to my first blog on being skint in London for context). An upside to my situation is that I will be sharing a 2-bedroom flat with my friend and her boyfriend, lowering the rent split; so with this in mind, and a budget of max £650 rent a month for my room (in order to be able to stay alive with my remaining salary), I set off on the (not-so) wonderful journey to find a new home.
I’m sure you’ll be able to tell it has been a tough ride – what sort of boring blog would this be if I didn’t share with you the mess that is my life? There have been a variety of stepping stones and lessons along the way, and here are but a few:
All estate agents are called Josh
I have spoken to so many different estate agents over the past few weeks that I’ve not been able to remember which properties I have discussed or who I have discussed them with. I soon found that around 90% of estate agents are called Josh and they’re all pretty much the same ridiculous stereotype.
Josh, a cheeky-chappy who likes to be known as Joshua by the ladies, loves to give a bit of banter, and has a slight lisp to complement his Cockney accent when he says things like “Thee ya thweet heart!”. He doesn’t know how to send emails, calls consistently throughout the day when you’re trying to do work, and sends property text alerts that are in no way suited to your requirements that you’ve just spent 10 minutes explaining, for the 15th time that day.
Josh is anyone’s idea of hell, but without him, you’re homeless… so you may as well embrace that fake charm and take his bullshit on the chin.
Oh Jenny don’t be hasty
One thing I’ve learned from the past few weeks is not to listen to estate agents when they say “You won’t find another flat like this for this price!”. I swear, the whole flat hunting process is so draining that it messes with your brain. The trouble with London is that it’s so overpopulated, if you don’t make an offer for a place within the same day of viewing it, it’s gone to another tenant. The sheer fear of not being able to find anything better than what you’ve just viewed kicks in, and suddenly, flats that you normally wouldn’t be paid to set foot in seem like an attractive option.
Places with weird tribal décor and bright red couches that are insulting to the eyes, disgusting bathrooms, tiny living areas and dry rot are amongst a few I’ve viewed when I’ve found myself thinking: “We could make it our own?”. We were even hasty enough to pay a £400 holding deposit for one that no one was sure of, but thankfully the offer was rejected – a blessing in disguise in hindsight. Which brings us nicely to my next valuable finding:
DEPOSITS WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME
A question to all Londoners: is this a new thing that estate agents make you pay a deposit just to make an offer on a flat, that may not even be accepted? Is this not just completely ridiculous? When our offer was rejected, we were told the deposit would be refunded within 3-5 working days – meaning we were out the game for potentially a week and unable to put deposits down for any other flats until we had that money back. Well, isn’t that kick-you-in-the-balls fantastic? Obviously, during this period of time we happened to find the most perfect flat in the perfect location within budget, with no spare cash for deposits.
Thankfully, the Bank of Mum gave me a temporary loan, but some people aren’t so lucky. Following our second attempt at an offer, we received the amazing news that the landlord had accepted us as tenants, and I was overcome with sheer joy and relief. This was however dampened slightly, upon seeing the costs for agency and ‘admin’ fees. £150 each to sign a form, not to mention 6 weeks’ rent damage deposit up front? Seems legit. Oh, and by the way, I’m still waiting for that refund from Atkinson Mcleod 3 weeks on…
Tenancy agreements are apparently legally binding
Something to think about before handing in your months’ notice for your current flat – it’s most likely not a months’ notice! With the panic of trying to find somewhere, my flatmates and I stupidly overlooked our current contract and found this out the hard way, potentially having to pay DOUBLE RENT next month. After a long and painful argument with our Del Boy of a landlord, he agreed to let us terminate the tenancy early if someone takes the flat on time. It’s now a race against the clock to find new tenants and avoid paying an extra £500+ that I certainly do not have. You can’t write this shit.
There is light at the end of the tunnel
Despite having secured an amazing flat 5 minutes’ walk from Brixton station, the stress of moving and financial strain still lingers over my head as I question my life in London as I know it. There is still debt to repay, packing to be done, cleaning bills to settle and a moving van to be driven, until I can actually relax in my overpriced new room (don’t worry – the more candles I have, the less I’ll think about my bank balance).
Regardless, the end is nigh, and soon I will be only a 30-minute tube journey from work, in a great flat, with access to unlimited chicken nuggets at a nearby McDonald’s.
The prospect of nuggets alone is enough to restore my will to live…