Geoff recently wrote about the process of renting a flat in London, but to do that you’ve got to find one first. Here, Chloe gives some insight and advice into how to go about searching for a place to live, and how to find people to live with.
Before looking for a flat you need to make a choice: how much do you care about where you live and who you’re living with?
If the answer is, “I don’t really care, I keep myself to myself, I don’t want to share your food or eat together or talk about your day at work and how much weight Susan has put on over the summer”, then I’d say take the first clean flat you can afford in the area that works best for you. Job done.
However, if the answer is, “I/we want a home, want a living space that everyone can inhabit comfortably, I/we want space to create/cook/play music etc etc etc,” then you’ve a lot more work to do.
I’ve just been through this whole stressful and lengthy process and my advice is that if these things are important to you, then you should take the time to first find people you’d like to live with, and then search together for a place that you’d all like to live in.
It depends on your financial means, but most people have two main options when searching for somewhere to live in London: you can go it alone, or you can buddy up.
If you go it alone, you’ll rarely actually be fully alone; you’ll be looking to move into a flat/house share that another group of people have already established. For me, the main issue with this is moving into someone else’s space and routine. However, sometimes you do find amazing groups of people already living together, and you have the option to join.
If the fit feels right then do it! You don’t want to miss out; these people could end up being friends for life.
Don’t do it just because it’s near work, or the bathtub has really cool bubble jets; proximity and fancy bathing will not make you happy if you really can’t stand the people you live with… After a few weeks or months you’ll be unhappy, be feeling like you want to move out, and therefore have to start this whole process over again. It’ll save you a lot of time and stress to try get it right the first time around.
If you buddy-up you have the issue of trying to find friends (unless you’re one of those people with hundreds and hundreds of friends.) The solution to this is to advertise online: Gumtree.com/london or Spare-room.co.uk are the go-to sites for Londoners looking for people to live with.
As I see it, when you post an ad, you’ve got two options:
- Make it as vague as possible, and get tons of responses Then weed out the weirdos.
- Make it as specific as possible and suffer the consequences when you don’t get any replies.
For my partner and I, what worked best was being specific. By doing this you can get all of the awkward stuff out of the way in the advert, quickly can rule out the people that you’ll hate, and by starting out being honest about yourself it ends up being more comfortable for everybody. On the other hand, you might only get one reply (as we did).
It depends if you’ve got time on your side, and if there are things that are important to you. For example, for us it was important that the home environment would work for everybody; it needed to be relaxed, creative and young. This was something we weren’t willing to compromise on.
Of course you don’t have to post an add yourself, you can respond to other ads that have been posted out there. For example, this can be very useful if you’re a member of a minority group, use Gumtree’s search bar to look for like-minded people.
Finding a Flat
Before you start, you should make a list!
Here is the list my partner and I made before be started our search.
– Oxygen: we needed a place that felt like you could breathe in it
– Space: we needed to be able to move around the edges of furniture without shuffling, and to practice yoga (we will start doing this…….very soon, I assure you)
– Good walls: we wanted to be able to hang pictures and we have so many books the walls needed to handle good bookshelves
– Desk space: we needed to fit a desk in, a big one that would allow us to work surrounded by notes
– Light: personally, I hate artificial light. I needed a place that had great big windows, that didn’t need to be covered by blinds etc (as so many windows in London need to be for to avoid prying eyes.)
We didn’t get all of these things exactly as we wanted them, but we do have a brilliant balance that works perfectly for us.
So, to sum up, write yourself a list for what you need in a flat, but also do it for what kind of flat mates you’d like too.
If you know you want to be able to share food, write it down and make sure you talk about it.
If you know that the thought of someone owning leather boots fills you with a fiery rage, write it down and make sure you mention it before you move in. If you don’t, and later on you find out that your new flat mate has a large collection of real leather matrix coats, it’s really too late to do anything about all the dead cows’ skins hanging around the place.
If you work nights and need to sleep in the day, write it down and make sure your new flat mate can work around that.
Mention this type of thing in the advert you post, and you wont have to find a way to casually bring it into conversation over coffee – awkwardness averted!
The most important thing is to meet people face to face – in a public space – you’ll know pretty quickly whether you’re going to like living with them, and 99% of the time your gut reaction will be right – trust it!