Rent. Those four innocent looking letters that taunt and tease every Aussie when they first come to London.
Finding a place to live is challenging anywhere in the world, but back home you’ve got friends and family to lend you a couch when in need and help you with the big move when the time comes around. Not the case (for most) in London town.
Add in the extremely competitive market, need to find a flat near to public transport, sky-high costs and general poor quality of what’s on offer and you have yourself a real handful.
Finding a nice place to live is a full-time job and you’ve got to be on your toes if you want to bag something good. Whether you stalk an Apple Store, swap mocha-choca-lattes for free wifi at Starbucks, or sweet-talk your way into an internet café owner’s heart, do what you gotta do to hook yourself up to a computer and get the search underway. After all, how long can you stay in your 13-share dorm before a park bench starts looking like a viable option.
First things first. Do yourself a favour and always sort properties from newest to oldest. Things move quickly in this town so if you find something you like, jump on it, or somebody else will.
When you’ve got your eye on a particular property, it’s always useful to aim to be the first person to view it, because if the place is worth taking it’ll be taken on the first viewing.
I was so eager to secure my studio flat in South London I said yes just as soon as I walked in the door. The agent led me into the bedroom — which didn’t contain the kitchen — and I dropped an excited, “I’ll take it!” A tad hasty I agree, but how often do you come across a well-priced studio where you don’t sleep in front of your stove?
Another very London problem are old buildings. From the outside they add to the historic scenery and old-world charm of the city, on the inside however, they’re often dank and dark, have cracked ceilings, jammed windows and rusty pipes. There can be many issues with old buildings so make sure you ask the right questions when checking one out. It’s also important to have a flexible landlord who understands the building is old and that some things may need to be fixed or replaced during your stay.
Also if a long hot shower is not a negotiable point for you, don’t go for a ground floor flat in an old building. Old piping systems favour higher apartments and water only trickles down to the ground floor often leading to lukewarm low-pressure showers. So unless you intend on reaching for the hose every time you need to wash your hair, ask the current tenants or have a sneaky test while visiting the place.
For other hints and ‘how to’s’ for getting around London, check out Bianca’s new book, “An Aussie’s Survival Guide to London” from talktraveltome.com; tackling the little problems for newcomers to London.