When David and I first arrived in London, we were lucky: we found a place to live straight away. It literally didn't take us longer than four days.
When I say "place to live", I use the term in a very "London" way, meaning that it is what it is: a room in a flatshare. Back then, we were beyond happy. The room is big, the flatmates were nice and who's to argue with a location where you can actually walk to Westminster Abbey? Not to mention Southbank that we're just crazy about.
But as time passed, it became clear that the negatives of flat sharing outweigh the positives in a tip-the-scales, decision-prompting manner. Following the swift change of people in the flat around December (basically everyone left and all new people moved in), so many things went downhill. Now, we're stuck in a place where practically no one ever cleans (our cleaner resigned a month ago and David and I got tired of being the only ones who knew and cared about where the mop is) and concepts such as "taking out the rubbish", "buying bin bags" or, in some cases, even "flushing the toilet" (sorry for the visual) are as foreign as magical twinkling unicorns. Any and all friendly behaviour around the house is limited to a quick "hi" in the hallway and really, the only good thing about our flatmates is how rarely we see them. Obviously we can't wait to move out.
The only problem: finding a decent, non-tiny, non-filthy, bills-included flat in London without having to a) rob a bank or b) move to Croydon? Ah, there's that twinkling unicorn again. That's how elusive they are.
While flat hunting, I have seen a whole new side of this city. A side I like to refer as, "I might as well have moved to Manhattan". It appears that, in order to secure a decent living situation in London, you have to either be a millionaire or...no, that's pretty much it. I remember a man from the council on a "housing crisis" show on Channel 4 confirming my worst fear: "to have choices, you have to have money. That's the only way." Seems like we are doomed to die in our dirty shared flat and be eaten by our savage flatmates.
Which brings us to a an even more worrying topic: lettings agencies, aka The Devil (that wears ugly blazer suits that may or may not be Prada). Even if you are lucky enough to find your Unicorn Flat - that super-rare, perfect place that doesn't send you into early bankruptcy, chances are there's a sneaky agent hiding behind the ad, requiring fifty references, three years' rent in advance, a letter from your employer, a birth certificate, a criminal background check, a drug test, a blood and urine sample (okay, okay, I got a bit carried away there. But what happened to trust, people?) or - cue laughter - a letter from a "property owner in the UK that will guarantee to pay your rent in case you fail to do so". No, seriously. I was actually asked to provide this. I didn't even bother pointing out that, first of all, I am not from the UK myself and the few home-owning friends I have will hardly step in and pay my rent for me, and secondly, I am 30 years old and can be expected to pay my rent myself. But I was on the verge of making up a fictional person and crafting an elaborate letter from them. Fake address and all.
One word of warning: be careful with the agents you trust. I happened to come across a place that claimed they "specialised in low-cost properties". Awesome, I thought. Not so. Not only did this agency, whose name I would love to disclose but obviously can't, ask me to pay a fee before actually viewing the flats, every flat they showed was rented through another agency - I'll let you imagine the markups. Prices went as high as £1000 for a studio flat. And the things I saw. THE THINGS I SAW. Nothing beats the shower cabin next to the bed. Really. No kidding. I have never walked as many flights of stairs in my life as I did in the days that I was flat hunting with this agency. Are the only flats available in London all on the top floor? And lifts? Ever heard of lifts? I guess people here like their exercise. Plus, newsflash: a studio flat with a "mezzanine" is not a one-bedroom flat. "Mezzanine" is just a nice way to say, "you will spend the next three years hitting your head on the ceiling when you wake up in the morning". When I showed interest in a flat, I asked the agency how much the council tax was. The answer I received was, "call the council and ask". Thinking back on the initial fee paid to view the flats, I realised that this was a huge mistake.
Then there was the agent that, upon hearing that the £340/week flat was "a little bit out of my price range right now", offered to "do it for £325". My conclusion is that letting agents just don't get me. They don't speak my language.
So until the right, £200-a-week-bills-included flat in zone 2 shows up (yeah, yeah, I heard it - let me dream will you?), here's some home-spiration (homespo? Is that a word? It should be!).
All pictures from Pinterest. I regret to admit I do not live in any of these places.