London living is no laughing matter.
It’s a high finance, fast paced activity that has no room for hesitation.
Before arriving, I didn’t realise the competition I was about to face in securing one of the most important elements my time away from home.
You also don’t consider the things are you willing to compromise.
I was lucky enough to have a few friends allow me to sleep on their floors and share their beds in the first few weeks of arriving in London. If you are fortunate enough to know someone here, and they offer you a place to sleep for week, you must appreciate the generosity they are offering you. They may be risking defaulting on their rental agreement, upsetting their housemates and adding to the overall house expenses by having you there.
Here are my top tips for finding somewhere to live in London:
Before you leave
Try to arrange temporary accommodation for the first four weeks.
- Ask to couchsurf with friends – I’d start by contacting some of my mates in London to see whether I could stay with them for a short period of time. Try to share yourself around and avoid pushing the friendship with them.
- Book a room through AirBnb – I’ve been using AirBnb for the last three years and have never encountered a problem. The hosts have always been helpful, friendly and respect your space. Aim to find somewhere with the London’s travel zones of 1,2 or 3 if you can.
- Book a hostel – My ability to provide fantastic advice here is limited, as I found accommodation quickly. Many people I know used hostels in their first few months to find their feet; there are hundreds around the city. Here are some suggestions to start you off.
In the first month
This is a huge month. You will be trying to adjust to new surroundings, cultures, temperatures, as well as locking in a job and finding a place to live.
- Set your deal breakers – I never thought I’d have to consider living in a flat where I’d share the bathroom with five other people. Sit down and think about what you want to get out of your experience and think about your dealbreakers. You will most likely have to compromise on some of them, but its good to know what you want to help narrow down the search. To give you an idea, here were mine:
- I don’t want to live in a party house or with more than four people
- Avoid council style apartments and apartments without dining /lounge room
- I need to be able to get to work within 45 minutes at the most
- I want to live within 10 minutes walk to a train
- I want to feel safe
- I like Clapham, Borough, Battersea, Putney, Fulham and Earl’s Court.
- Visit the suburbs – get on trains, buses and physically walk around the areas. Before I left, I heard that Acton, Hammersmith, Shepherd’s Bush, Willesden Green and Earls’ Court were the places to live. Turns out, many of them were too far away from my work and I also didn’t feel comfortable being there. Personally, I love the charm of the southern suburbs – Clapham, Putney, Fulham, Southfields and Battersea.
- Start the search
- Agents – This is the safest, but maybe the most expensive option. In the end, I secured my flat through an agent. The positives – the costs are transparent. You can get things fixed and if you are straighty – one – eighty like me, you’ll be satisfied to think you are legally allowed to be living there. The downsides – you pay a referencing fee, a contract fee, a large bond (generally three months rent) and will most likely have to find another person/ couple to share. Shop around with agents, as their fees vary.
- Websites – the majority of my international friends have had success with Spareroom. This is how I found my temporary accommodation. It’s a user friendly website and app that can filter price range, location, bedroom size, housemate profiles plus more. I particularly liked using the site, then jumping onto Google Maps street view to see whether I liked the area. Other sites that may come in handy include Gumtree or AirBnB.
- Social media – love it or hate it, use Facebook. The Kiwi’s in London and Aussies in London Facebook pages have been invaluable to my experience in London, not just for accommodation. Spare rooms are constantly posted on these pages, so if you are seeking to live with like-minded travellers, sign yourself up to these pages.
Locking it in
Once you’ve hand picked your favourites, contact them straight away to arrange a viewing. There’s no time for hesitation. While in the interview, try to find out as much as you can to help you figure out whether it’s for you. Confirm the amount of rent, confirm the bills and utilities price, find out about the other housemates (do they work shift work, have they got partners that often stay over, are they party animals), find out what else in is the area (it is near a noisy high street, are you on an ambulance route, is there a grocery store close by), find out about public transport (is it easily accessible) Check the appliances and facilities are in good condition (nothing worse than a shower that doesn’t work).
Once you’ve decided on the one, communicate this to the landlord, Facebook contact or agent straight away. My friend and I were searching for a room in peak season, so we found ourselves walking out of an interview hearing we missed out on the room thirty minutes later as we hadn’t confirmed whether we wanted it. Arrange the financials and sign the contract.