I moved house five times in less than 18 months in London, so I reckon I earned the stripes to tell this story.
Behind finding a job and surviving the ghastly winters, searching for a roof over my head was my third most-hated London pastime. If you have ever rented a bedroom or, God forbid, just a share of a bedroom(!), you know exactly what I’m talking about.
There’s plenty to hate about the process. I just can’t decide what part of it exhausted me the most. There’s the hours you have to spend trawling through thousands of ads on Gumtree and the like. Then, once you’ve found a place that a) won’t break the bank, b) isn’t a hoax and c) doesn’t ask for sexual favours in lieu of rent payments, the emailing/calling/texting process begins.
Even at that early stage, lunch breaks and evenings are wasted as you fire out emails and texts. Sadly, the most common reply goes something like this: “Sorry, the room has already been taken. Good luck with your search”.
Once you’ve got a more favourable reply, the next step is to cancel your plans because more than likely you’ll only be able to view the room you like on a night you’re previously engaged.
Next up – getting to the place. The Tube line you need will probably be closed, so you’ll have to rely on buses.
Once you’ve arrived at the place, your time to shine begins. With so much competition around, looking at a home and room is more like an interview. If the people living in the flat or house are decent enough to care, they’ll probably put you under the microscope.
And you’ll do the same to them: Is the hairy mole on that guy’s chin going to drive me nuts? Are they going to smoke inside even though they said they never do? Will they sniff my underwear when I’m out? All these questions and many more are likely to skip through your mind.
Once all involved have seen and said enough, it’s time to leave and, if you like the place, start the wait. You let them know you’re keen, and then, just like after a job interview, you’re forced to wait and see if you’ve made the final cut.
Once they decide to invite you into their home, the financial pain hits. You want how many weeks’ rent as a deposit?! It costs how much to add my name to the lease?!
However, if you’re new to London or you’re thinking of moving, don’t let all this turn you off the idea. Just like diving in so many other deep ends, everything is fine once you are in. And at least one of your new housemates has ‘potential’, right?