It has been 2 weeks that I am desperately looking for a flat in London, not for me but for Mister H. I have volunteered to help him since I am on holiday and have no specific plans. Looking for an apartment in London is not really a piece of cake… Perhaps it is the same everywhere but when you are under pressure and have a deadline, negotiations can become a nightmare. I have decided to share some tips and advices I have learned from our experience with you. I hope it will help you in your quest for a roof 🙂
If you are looking for a studio or a 1bedroom flat, you can look on the internet on the real estate agencies’ websites for some ads and offers. Once you have a good offer in front of you, just call and book a viewing! Everything goes pretty fast at this stage of the research. The real estate agent on the phone will ask you for your details and then will be able to direct you towards what you are looking for. If you are a student, the agency and the landlord will ask you for a lot of documents (an enrolment letter from your university or school, your ID or passport, a bank account statement, a deposit, agency fees) and will certainly ask you to pay 3 to 6 months of rent in advance… Otherwise, if you have an English guarantor, everything gets easier (the guarantor must earn more than £60 000/year). What I recommend to students, based on my experience, is to find a flat to share with people. For this, check the website spareroom.co.uk and select your search criteria. Most of the time only private people post ads. It is pretty convenient as you then can avoid all the agency fees and the extra deposits.
If you are a young professional, you’ll have to submit the agency or landlord different documents such as: passport, a recent bank account statement, pay slip, a letter from your employer. The real estate agents in London are scared of students and thus ask them for more deposits and guarantees. Living with other people is quite interesting in London because you never know who you will end up living with. It might be a successful architect, a super geek, or a model! People in London are all following the same goal: succeed. Thus, sharing an flat with other professionals in my opinion and if you are single/alone, is the best alternative.
→ Spareroom advantages:
- Easy and user friendly website
- Up to date system
- Direct contact with the landlords or other people sharing a flat already
- Networking and getting to know new people with common or different interests
- Sharing a flat can be cheaper than living by yourself
- You choose the type of flatmates you are looking for: young, old, couples, smokers, students, professionals etc..
- Convenient for both short-term lets and longterm lets.
→ Spareroom drawbacks:
- If you are shy and prefer to avoid sharing a flat with people you don’t know, it might not be a good solution for you
- You may be disappointed by the way the flat sharing goes: people turn out to be dirty, loud, disrespectful…
- Sometimes there are no pictures of the flats
- Every time you’ll go for a viewing, you’ll have to meet the flatmates and make your best to be “hired”, think of it as a job interview 😉
Sticking to your initial budget can be quite a challenge I must say… If you are looking for a flat or a room in the city center (zone 1, zone 2 max.), you may have to set your budget between £700 and £900 per months, including bills. If your have a lower budget, I guess you’ll have to start looking in zone 3.
- If you are a student, you don’t pay any city taxes 🙂
- If a real estate agent tells you that the chances the landlord accepts your offer equal 90%, do not trust him. Keep on looking and visiting flats, you never know.
- The best period to start looking for a flat is before September and before January. Everyone moving to London and starting a job or college will start looking during these two months, so the prices will rise and you will end up homeless or increasing your budget… remember one word: anticipation.
- If you are looking for a flat in London, you don’t need to start looking 3 months in advance. 1.5 months before your arrival date is enough, otherwise agencies don’t have anything already for you. It is a matter of timing.
- If you are using Gumtree.co.uk, do not accept to pay a deposit if you haven’t seen the flat yourself or have a friend in London who can visit it for you. Gumtree is a helpful tool if you can view the apartment. There have already been people who have lost a lot of money due to the fact that they payed without viewing…
- Always take a look at the transportation near the flat before signing! If you are too far from work or school or college, perhaps you’ll reconsider.
- If you have a pet, you’ll have to look harder and will have more troubles as landlords are not so much into having pets in their flats…
Good luck with your flat hunt and remember not to give up and stay positive 🙂 In London you never know what can happen, both in good and bad ways 😉