Finding a flat in London is one of the hardest real life tasks I’ve ever done in my life. Easily. I never want to leave my current flat just due to the fear of doing it all over again but mostly because I feel like I hit the jackpot with my lovely new home. House hunting in London made me so stressed out for a number of reasons.
For most people including myself, you don’t have long to find somewhere. I moved to London to start a new job and a new life. If you don’t have friends or family down south then this makes trying to find somewhere pretty difficult as places go really quickly in the big city.
It’s also really tiring because you’re either looking for properties, trying to book an appointment to view it or going around to see them all the time. Your focus is entirely on finding somewhere to live before your time runs out. The fear of homelessness is real. You’re also meeting a lot of new people which is really exhausting and having to be quite judgey very quickly towards them and their home.
For me it was a very negative experience. It’s not fun…at all. I’ve lived in 3 properties in London and I’ve paid for 4. Yes, that’s correct and my maths isn’t wrong. I was also a victim of a London Housing Property scam. I lost a lot of money and almost became homeless. Pretty scary.
I’ve made a check list of all the things you should be prepared for when looking for your first home in London and how to avoid being scammed.
Have a deposit and first month’s rent ready
Money, Money, Money. You’re not going to get anywhere without it and unfortunately, a lot of it. Is London as expensive as it seems….YES! I’m from the North of England where we have a £1 a pint (and not just in the student pubs), a Greggs sausage roll is considered a decent meal and going to big Tesco’s was considered the luxury shop. You can get a decent 1 bedroom apartment up north for the same price as a box room in London with a bunch of strangers. Living the dream.
A deposit is about 4-6 month rent and you will also need your first month’s rent ready to go. If you are going through an estate agent, you will also need to prepare for an admin fee. You need to pay the person doing all the hard work for you.
Find Temporary Accommodation to find your permanent home
The best way to find somewhere to live in London is by living is London already. I’ve been able to find somewhere to live in other small towns in a day by arranging a bunch of appointments and going down for the day. You can’t do this in London. You’ll find properties being swooped up before you even get there.
If you have a friend or family member in London, it’s time to ask for a favour and see if you can sleep on their couch or in a spare room for a few weeks while your house hunting. If you don’t have anyone to stay with then look at Airbnb or couch surfing websites to rent something. Luckily, someone from my new job let me stay in their spare room for a month while I looked for something.
Have an area of London and property type in mind
I wanted to find somewhere to live as close as possible to my work so I could save money on avoiding the TLF. This has saved me a lot of money because I walk to work which is a rare luxury for Londoners. If you’ve got a job in the center then you’re sort of out of luck. Unless you can afford somewhere in the City Center then we should be friends! If you’re saving the pennies then it’s the outskirts of London for you and a lovely commute to work on the Underground awaits. Proper Londoner style.
What kind of property do you want to live in? A flat? A house? Do you want an en suite? How many people would you feel comfortable with? Do you want a communal hangout like a Garden or Living room? All female or all male? Mixed? Lots of things to think about before you start looking for anything. Make some decisions and be flexible.
Use a Legit Travel Agent or Housing Apps
Shouldn’t this be obvious I hear you say? Well, that’s how I got scammed and I’m not the only one. I was actually pretty careful but they we’re just very deceivingly clever. If you want to learn more about my housing fraud experience then check out my vlog below for the full story.
When I was house-hunting I used apps mostly. My favourite app was SpareRoom by a long shot. I found the most opportunities on this app, it was easy to use and I actually had people contacting me to view their house too. That’s actually how I found my most recent property by them messaging me.
Keep your Schedule free
Don’t expect to have any sort of social life when your house hunting. If you’re not looking for property, you’ll be arranging to view place or going round to see them. This will be before work, after work or even on your breaks. Properties in London get swooped up pretty quickly. Don’t think you can arrange to see them on a weekend because it’s very likely they’ll be gone in a day. Go view them ASAP and preferably that day.
Don’t be surprised if you get a few messages telling you the room has now been taken before you even get there. I was literally on my way to a viewing once when they messaged me saying it had gone. True Story.
Stick to your budget
Based on your new London wage, you need to figure out what you can realistically afford and stick to it. Have a maximum amount and don’t be shy to negotiate. We’d all love to get a luxury flat in London but unfortunately, you need money for that. We can’t all get lucky like Bridget Jones with her cute little flat in Borough which now would cost a fortune!! Be realistic.
Look for warning signs
Warning signs like, is the estate agent legit but also are they trying to con you into an apartment they haven’t been able to get rid of for a long time. What could those reasons be? Maybe the MOUSE TRAPS on the kitchen floor? Look for the warning signs people, you know when you see them. Not a joke, the mouse traps actually happened to me in a viewing. Check out my weekly vlog which is so cringy watching it back as it’s one of my first ever vlogs, but shows some of the viewings I went to that week.
Have a set list of questions ready
Don’t just walk into a property, have a look around and then leave. Make sure you ask the landlord, tenants, agent questions. How much is the rent? How long is the lease? What’s included or not included in the rent? What do the other tenants do for a living? Why is the last tenant leaving? What furniture is included in the room? Ask questions! Shows you’re interested in the room and it helps fill in the missing pieces so you can make a decision.
Have a chat with your potential new housemates
Don’t just interrogate the tenants with your questions. Have a chat with them! They could potentially be your new housemates. This is a good chance to see if you’ll actually get on living with them. Remember you’re getting a “House Share” after all and you’ll be living with other people. It’s great having a nice place to live but if you don’t get on with them then you’ll probably end up leaving ASAP. Nothings worse than living people you don’t like or get on with.
This is also a good chance for you to sell yourself too. If the advertisement is coming from the tenants then remember they are the ones who are making the decision on who gets the room. They need to like you.
Go with your gut feeling
I viewed so many places in London before making a final decision on one. Trust your gut feeling. Don’t rush into a decision if you’re not 100% convinced on a place. Remember, once you’ve signed a contract for somewhere then you are locked in till the minimum contact date. That could be 6 months or a year for most places so you need to be sure that’s the place you want to live. It’s very rare you’ll pick the first place you see so prepare to view a lot of properties.
Do not take CASH with you
One of the weirdest scenarios I’ve ever seen was a group viewing with a few people at the same time and one of the tenants said “I’ll take it!“. Then, pulled out a wod of cash enough for a deposit. Don’t do this! It’s dangerous and it’s not very professional when dealing with agents or tenants. It also looks very dodgy.
Be prepared to make a quick decision
Not too quick of a decision to hand over a wod of cash to the owner but quick enough so you don’t lose the place completely. Like I said, London house shares go pretty quickly. Once you’ve decided that the place for you, make sure you show your interest or hand back your application asap. Make sure you ask when viewing the property when they will be making a decision and when they need to know your answer by so you know how much time you have to decide.
Check the contract thoroughly
Once you get the contract, check it or get someone else to check it for you. Make sure you’ve not missed anything within the “small print“. Make sure everything matches up to the advert and the information they told you when viewing the property. Look for anything odd or if something doesn’t make sense make sure you clarify it with them before signing anything.
Make sure your deposit is protected
A London housing deposit is pretty high so make sure it’s protected within a Deposit Payment Scheme (DPS). The landlords, agencies or tenants personal or secondary bank account is not OK. Make sure it’s protected properly.
Thank your agent or housemates for picking you
You’ve got the place?! Great! Make sure you thank the agency so if you ever look again they will be more inclined to help you again. If it was the tenants that picked you then get them a card or bottle of wine or something to say thank you. They picked you out of all of the people they interviewed. Make sure you start of on the right foot and get them something nice to say thank you. They made the right decision!
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Are you moving to London? Do you have any questions about moving? Let me know in the comments below.