So we started flat hunting the second we got to the hotel. We made phone calls and booked in viewings in the Ladbroke Grove, Kensington, Fulham and Finsbury areas. And then we allowed ourselves a whole evening to relax and have fun, getting dinner downstairs at Oscar, the hotel’s restaurant. Might I ad that while I was having fun, DW was getting a cold. I was having a couple of glasses of a lovely Pinot Noir and DW was having decaf coffee.
Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Well, the next morning when we awoke for our first viewings, it was clear that they were not happening. DW was officially ill and we decided to try and keep our later Fulham and Finsbury viewings in case he was feeling better.
And then I went back to sleep. Jet lag was wearing off and although my illness seemed to be clearing up, DW’s was getting worse.
Outside it was blue skies and beautiful weather but we stayed inside our hotel, me looking online for property, him sleeping off his fever.
So here’s the story about looking online for property. It’s all a sham. Nothing you see online on any of the sites, like this one:
… or this one:
… even exist anymore – if they did at all. They lure you in with good looking, reasonably priced properties available now and it’s all a sick ruse. The only available flats they have look like this:
It would take me too long to go into why the above is so utterly awful, but so typical of overpriced rentals here in London. Actually you know what? I went to visit that one, and I have two words for you: upholstery cleaner. Okay, two more: dirty carpets. Oh fine, you dragged it out of me, four more words: everything is falling apart.
So back to the fancy hotel we go and after some food we were ready to tackle our first viewings in Fulham.
I won’t take you through all of our house hunting horrors. But I will explain to you how it works here.
<begin long winded explanation>
Lettings are all represented by Estate Agents. They are the intermediaries that do all the viewings, paperwork, take money etc… They are a necessary evil in the crazy fast London property market.
All agents represent certain areas. In Fulham, for example, you’ll have 6-8 estate agents all competing against one another. If you want to rent in Fulham, you should sign up with all of them, or at least the ones who have flats in your price range. This process can take anywhere from 10 minutes to longer per go. Sometimes they will even have something they can show you immediately. Most of the time not.
You have to register in each area you want to look in, even if an estate agent has an office in every area. It’s a time consuming process.
And can somebody please explain to me why there are so many Hannah’s that work at estate agents? It’s really confusing. Hannah calls and I have no idea where she is from because we’ve registered with 20 agents. And they are all named Hannah.
Right. So there are a few big estate agents that cover virtually the entire city, but most agencies are regional. Some of them will be proactive and take you to other areas, but most can’t be arsed, it seems.
So you’ve registered with an agent either in person or by phone. Perhaps you have set up an appointment for them to take you to all the properties that fit your brief. Ideally you find at least one in that bunch that suits. Then, you put in an offer.
The rental market here is hugely inflated by the very agents that take you out. Their job is to get the best price for their client. You are not their client. No matter how much they might get on with you, they are there for the landlords. Because that is how they get their commissions.
So they will take multiple offers. Some landlords will wait to see how many they get and chose the best one. We put in an offer from that first viewing in Fulham on a modern 1 bed with bike parking, an awesome kitchen and furniture that was brand new (albeit there was too much of it for a 1 bed flat). It was in a pretty remote locale, the newly dubbed Imperial Wharf. Yes, there is a rail station that was very close. There were shops, a Tesco, some restaurants and a couple pubs. But it was a long walk to Fulham Broadway and the chic Parsons Green, and an even longer slog to Chelsea. Our offer was £20/week less than asking and we never got an answer.
Turns out he wanted more dosh, so took another offer, which fell through, and by then we’d already moved on. Too bad for him.
Now is when I talk about referencing. The reason the offer fell through was because they didn’t pass the referencing process. There are all sorts of hoops to jump through: personal and professional references, proof of employment, prior landlord references. These are not necessarily a problem except for employment.
I am not employed. Which means that we won’t pass referencing on the price range we are looking at because we can only get approved for a certain amount based on DW’s salary. I may as well be a stay at home mom. My potential earnings do not exist. So we started out with a fancy budget, then had to drop it to a mediocre one.
Until we realized that wasn’t going to work. We despised everything we saw that was within our healthy budget. Hence 6 months up front.
</end long winded explanation>
And further hence our need to get out of expensive awesome hotel and into cheaper less awesome places.
But no matter how many less awesome places we looked at, we couldn’t get past the tatty decor and furniture (90% of all rentals are furnished – so just imagine how many underwear clad arses have sat sweatily on that sofa…) or the lack of garden. We saw loads of fantastic two beds, but they all had single glazed windows and draughty front doors which equaled enormous energy bills. It was a disappointing time over all, as we were asked on more than one occasion if we could get our parents to co-sign us.
Anybody got a large 1 bed with gas central heating and an energy efficiency rating of at least 70?
No? Ah well.