When hubby and I returned to London on sponsored visas, he started work almost immediately so I was left to the tedious tasks of job searching and house hunting. Surprisingly, it only took ten days to get decent freelance work, but at six weeks into our search for an address I was getting the feeling that we had overstayed our welcome at the home of some very generous friends who offered to put us up temporarily.
Having lived in London for almost two years prior we thought knew what we wanted in a house and what we could expect. During our first week of house hunting we wanted a large double room, in a pretty Victorian house with a garden, within 10 minutes walk of the nearest Tube station, on a line that takes me directly to work within 30 minutes, with a maximum of two other (cool) housemates. Our new house family would be 9to5 professionals who travel frequently, enjoy being out in London and were fun but chilled when at home.
Was that too much to ask?
After the second week of hunting we were no longer looking for a pretty house with a garden. We had become more flexible in terms of the perfect housemate and started to look at rooms in smaller ex-council flats with tiny windows and a kitchen that was in great need of renovation.
By the end of the third week we were exhausted. Our 70+ inquiries on Spareroom.co.uk had less than a 10% response rate and the rejection was starting to take its toll. Was it something in our profile that was offensive or off-putting?
Change of tactics… DIY share house
We decided that joining an existing share house was proving too difficult and we needed to change tactics. We were going to create our own awesome share house, with a garden and a nice kitchen, in a great location with brilliant housemates. Another week passed and I started to lose hope.
Surely we didn’t need to be within 15 minutes walk of the Tube? And we definitely didn’t need a garden or outdoor space. Living with 18-year-old students – why not? Furniture: we could probably do without that too!
Even buddying-up with others seemed too difficult and there was always something to contend with: their budget was higher than ours, it would take longer for us to commute from the location they wanted, they didn’t believe in sharing bills, she didn’t want to be on a lease, he couldn’t provide references, was there room for her two cats, French bulldog and budgie?
The entire buddying-up process is much like online dating. You sign up, pay your monthly fee, select your preferences (double room, non-smoking, no pets), describe who you are (a social, tidy and friendly professional couple), what you like to do in your spare time (long walks along the beach, authentic cultural experiences… blah, blah, blah), and what you expect in another housemate (don’t be dirty or mean).
I found a profile that perfectly captured what I was feeling at the time. The profile started like this: “Once upon a time there was a professional, called George. It was very important for George to remind people he was a professional because it meant, in the eyes of many other self-proclaimed professionals, that he wasn’t smelly (like a student), and that he had a time during every 24 hours when he switched off to recharge his batteries (unlike a student).
It was brilliant! George then continued to write his creative and intriguing ad in third person. I wanted this guy as our new housemate – if only he would respond to our request.
Pinning down the right housemate was hard. At one point last week we were submitting an offer to rent a property with another couple who we hadn’t met yet. It was like committing to an arranged marriage without having been on a first date.
So, six weeks into our futile hunt, my hubby and had viewed close to 20 properties between us, submitted offers on three properties unsuccessfully, had 169 conversations on Spareroom.co.uk, found eight potential housemates to move in with but zero housemates who wanted what we wanted, contacted approximately 45 letting agents, changed our preferences hundreds of times and every morning at 9.01am I would get a phone call from Igor at Foxtons following up on our search.
What we really needed was Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer on hand to expertly select the perfect house to meet all of our requirements and desires.
By week seven we finally had a home. What a trial. But that’s all part of living in London.
Also by Jacqui on Australian Times:
Read Jacqui’s blog about her overseas working holiday adventures with her husband: NeverEndingHoneymoon.net
IMAGE: London renting (By R.Nagy via Shutterstock.com)