A little over 6 weeks ago when I last posted on this blog I was about to get on a plane to fly back home from China as my Chinese year long adventure came to an end. I think it’s safe to say that after a little adjustment period and some reverse culture shock (you expect me to pay HOW MUCH for a drink?!) I’m now fully settled back into UK life. I’ve been enjoying spending lots of time with my family and friends and time has flown by so quickly that i’m now about to start off on my next adventure, moving to London, where i’ll be working a prep school in Fulham as of the end of August.
Of course this means I’m now desperately trying to overcome my first hurdle to becoming a fully fledged London gal…
…finding a place to live.
What’s the problem with that? I hear you cry… Surely just ring up some flats, view them and pick one?
Ohhhh ho ho.. no.
Ask anyone who has ever had to flat hunt in London and you will probably hear the same reaction. “It’s soul destroying”, “They could use this as a method of torture”, “so much money, so little space!!”
Flat hunting in London is indeed a very special experience.
In fact, if you’ve never felt your hope deflate, melt, and accumulate slowly into a pool of disillusion at your feet in the space of 30 seconds, then I highly recommend you try it…
I’m just beginning to find this out for myself, lucky me! So far my search has been completely unsuccessful. My first attempt saw myself and my dad making it down to the capital (more than an hour later than planned after a cancelled train, subsequently missing our first viewing and putting us both, as you can imagine, in a brilliant mood) where we headed eagerly to a flat in West Brompton that looked LOVELY from the pictures, boasting of a “huge kitchen diner” with “spacious living area” and “newly refurbished rooms”
We were greeted by Michael, the tenant trying to get OUT of the place and get the next willing victim in… as we walked into the “huge kitchen diner” which was infact a tiny, dark and dingy cave like room with only one dim light bulb I looked around for the “spacious living area”, peering over the work surfaces wondering if perhaps it was hidden behind the mountain high piles of dirty dishes and cups that seemed to have been left on the side for an eternity, not one single piece of work surface was visible, I’m pretty sure at one point I could see flies circling around the dishes in the sink… “Michael?” I asked, hopefully “Where is the living room?”
He then pointed at a small two seater sofa in the corner of the room, underneath the alcove of the stairs. The sofa was directly in front of a TV. I mean, if you like sitting snuggled up to only one other person and watching films/TV in such close proximity that you probably couldn’t see the whole screen at once.. then sure…this was a great set up, I certainly wouldn’t have gone for “spacious” as my descriptive word of choice though.
We were then frog marched past the 6 or 7 locked doors of the mystical “other flatmates” and shown the (definitely NOT newly refurbished) room on offer, which was a small single and yes, i’m going to use ‘that’ cliche now…you couldn’t swing a cat in it.. The funny thing was, even though I knew this place was a dump I found myself saying things like “Without that TV, you could probably fit another sofa in there”, and “Oh, well it’s not like I’d need to get to the kitchen much anyway” before shaking hands, thanking Michael and leaving, stepping over the puddle of despair on my way out. But that’s the thing with London flat hunting, you seem to try and find the positives in living in a cupboard… or having to share your space with rats… or whatever else is thrown your way because well, you need somewhere to live and if you don’t think positively you might just cry.
The rest of our day didn’t go brilliantly, we saw another place where the bedroom was literally the size of the bed, so you kind of had to just open the door and fall onto your bed and voila… the wardrobe was outside and well, you get the picture.. we went home feeling pretty deflated and I decided to leave the flat hunting for a while. I have spent an unreasonable amount of time on SpareRoom and Gumtree but I’m quickly learning to never trust anything or anyone: “shabby chic” means your bed is in the living room, “open plan” means your creepy new flatmates probably have a peephole into your bedroom and “£500 a month for a lovely double room in a nice location” is just a bare-faced lie.
Despite this, my naive side reared its head again the other day when I spotted what I thought was a GREAT find on SpareRoom – Modern, nice looking double rooms available in Shepherd’s Bush – only a 30 minute commute from work and 10 minutes into central. Too good to be true? yep! Did it stop me from getting my hopes up? nope! Forever an optimist!
Anyway here is the advert in question, from an agent called “Skyline Estates” who have a very swanky website and all of the pictures of their rooms seem to be fairly similar, I thought i’d hit the jackpot (notice the ridiculous amount of SpareRoom tabs I have open on my browser??)
I spoke to “Fabio” the Italian agent who was selling the property, who by the way was so flipping hard to get hold of and then not exactly helpful in replying promptly with address details (I got them on the morning of the viewing after pestering him with phone calls) but whatever… I’m kinda used to the Italian “it’ll get done eventually” attitude thanks to my year abroad so I just kinda let it slide… He essentially said that viewings were going to be on Monday (I spoke to him on the Friday) and that there was a lot of interest in the place so unless I could go and view it in person I probably would miss out. Despite living up north and having to fork out a silly amount of money for last minute train tickets, I figured this place would be worth it. Well. Never have I ever seen such blatant false advertising in my life.
- There was no shared living room, there was not a living room at all.
- There were not 5 people sharing the flat, there were 6.
- Despite advertising 3 bedrooms, and having 3 pictures of bedrooms which you would assume corresponded to those 3 bedrooms, the place looked NOTHING like that.
- The kitchen was so small you could stand in the middle of the room and touch all 4 walls without having to stretch.
- The “bathroom” was a tiny, disgusting little room and I was a little scared to go in there and touch things in case I caught something, bearing in mind this is to be shared with 6 people…not sure how that would work in the mornings when everyone wants a shower.
- The flat itself was basically one small claustrophobic corridor with doors leading into the bedrooms and since the kitchen was so small there wasn’t even room for a table, you basically would have to cook your dinner and either stand in the middle of the kitchen blocking the way for anyone else to get in there or go and sit in your room on your own, sitting among your “BRAND NEW IKEA FURNITURE OMGGGGGZ” but wait… it wasn’t brand new Ikea furniture was it? nope!
- And the bed was a wooden slab with two damp, really squishy crappy mattresses piled on top of each other
- BUT you did get your own fridge?? Bonus, I suppose? See there I am, i’m doing it again… “but you DO get a fridge which I suppose make the lies sting a little less…”
Here are some pictures I took of the actual room on my iPhone:
Clearly, I won’t be signing for the flat. I am now going to stick to my original plan of waiting until I move down at the end of August when I’ll be crashing on my good friend’s sofa. That way I can actually go and view places without wasting money on train fares and hopefully weed out the places like this a little easier.
Don’t get me wrong the room itself wasn’t AWFUL and you at least DID have room to swing a cat. With a bit of a clean and a few personal touches i’m sure it’d look alright in there and would do just fine for someone who just needed a base, but I went to see this flat on the pretense of it being something it wasn’t and ended up being completely disappointed.
I’m sure once I’ve found somewhere everything else will slot into place. I’m really excited to be starting this new adventure in London and I’ll probably be blogging about life down there and how it’s going as and when I get the time!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my flat-hunting woes, if anyone knows of anywhere that IS a nice place to live for a decent price then please do get in touch, or if you have any horror stories of your own to share then drop me a message! I shall leave you with this parting thought:
Samuel Johnson once said when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life…
…I say when you’re tired of searching for a flat in the city, you’re probably only just getting started.