2020 took the world by surprise and just weeks after the lockdown began in London, we got an email from our agency that we have to move with in a few months ( after eight years living in the same apartment ). As I’m a full-time freelancer, I work most of the time from home and finding a quiet space to work in a one-bedroom apartment while my husband is home 24/7 it become very challenging.
Before I begin with my story, how I find my new apartment and everything that I have faced during the process till finally sign the contract, I do have to say that I know how fortunate I’m for not having to go thru this journey alone.
The pandemic has definitely pushed down the prices on the housing market. So we know for the same price we paid in Central London we can get a bigger newer apartment. Just to help you visualize my old apartment. I was living in East London in a one-bedroom flat where both of my windows opened to the main street. The street that connects Stratford to Oxford st. (if you not familiar with London this street has a heavy traffic 27/4). We had a few hospitals within walking distance that for the sound of an ambulance alarm was not just daily but more like an hourly thing. It was an old building, however, we made it home for eight years. Was really convenient as I had pretty much everything within walking distance. Public transport, shopping centers…
Over the years I had a list of things that I wish I can change.
So when it comes to looking for a new place I feel like I’m fully prepared. ( I wasn’t!!!) I hope if you are planning to move either in the UK or anywhere else, you can find some helpful tips to make your experience a bit easier. As I was looking at properties daily the three main types are the new builds, newly renovated, and the old flats that haven’t been taking care of properly. Surprisingly the last two have not so much difference in price. I know that a new build apartment complex just not something that I can see myself living in.
I do like my privacy! 🙂
The floor to ceiling windows and all those natural lights are really tempting. But with this type of buildings once you actually inside the flat just feel like a fishbowl where all the neighbors can watch your everyday life. These buildings usually offer some sort of communal areas like roof garden, gym or a bar. But let’s be honest how often do you actually going to use these areas. I do have a few friends who live in this type of apartment building and the only thing they use is a gym! However, we all have different preferences and I can see for a single person in their early 20’s this would be a great option.
So once I had a clear idea of what I looking for the actual searching begin.
By signing up for a few property website mailing lists like Zoopla or RightMove I received raffle 50 emails a day with multiple listings. Out all of this probably 1% was that I actually went to look up the details or requested a viewing. The prices may have dropped on the market, but so many people moved during this time that a flat that was listed a day before maybe was already off the market the following days.
After a few weeks of looking finally, we find a two-bedroom house that we schedule a viewing. When the agent called me to schedule a viewing he was so pushy over the phone that didn’t even let me finish my sentence. Wasn’t a great first impression. However the next day we jump to the car and drive 20 minutes just so the agent can tell us by the house is not on the market anymore.
I have to say with this company we had another viewing and didn’t go much better so without sharing all my negative experiences all I going to say is the first impression is really important!!! 🙂
Some of the questions that I recommend to ask when you’re going to view property:
- What are the neighbors like?
- Are there any issues with the building?
- How much will your bills be?
- What’s the parking situation?
- Has there been much interest in the property?
- Have there been any major renovations done recently?
- What’s the water pressure like?
- How much will your bills be?
- Who is responsible for what?
- Can I decorate it?
- What happens in an emergency?
- What are the transport options?
After weeks/months of going true daily the newest listings & viewing several flats, we finally found one that we both liked. However, when we went to view the flat the way was furnished and painted was shockingly different than the images we saw on the website.
The agent told us it will be redecorated and painted before the new tenants move in still we weren’t sure if this is the one for us or we just build up the hype in our mind before we even see it and that’s why we so hesitant. We didn’t make the decision as we had another viewing the next day. Well, that viewing took raffle 3 min and after we were sure that we take the place we saw the day before 🙂
Putting an offer on & everything that I wish I know before
After putting an offer on the apartment I was so sure after that point everything will be going smoothly. The property was advertised as ready to move in by the 4th of August. That was perfect as we needed to move out of the old apartment on the same day. Brilliant! So we paid the holding deposit on the 13th of July.
In the UK if you apply for a property to rent you have to prove that your yearly income is at least 15 times the monthly rent that you will be paying.
If you are a full-time freelancer for less than a year you most likely won’t have any tax return yet. So the only way is to have a guarantor who signs your contract in case you’re unable to pay your rent he/she needs to take on that responsibility. I know that companies exist that charge you a monthly fee and can be used as a guarantor but none of the agencies that I have spoken accept companies. Only individuals!
So if you don’t have a family who lives in the UK pretty much no other option then asking your friend or coworker. Whoever you think even willing to just give a second thought for co-signing your lease. Just to make things even more complicated with the guarantor as right now many people on fear low, the guarantor can’t be on fear law, however, the future tenant can be!
I would love to know if any of you know why is that as I just don’t find any reason that makes sense to this. 🙂
I have never rented from the private landlord but probably if you choose to go with that alternative you don’t have to worry abate all of this paperwork. However, I know if anything needs to be fixed an agency has to act asap ( ideally) as a private landlord can take as much time as he or she wants. Like my old neighbor who spent 2-month last winter without boiler as the landlord just didn’t reply to the emails. I don’t say all landlords will leave you without hot water for months but it’s definitely something to consider who you feel is more reliable.
After we got all the paperwork, we had to fill up several online forms for the background checks. The company that had gathered our data seamed pretty hands-on in the beginning. As soon as we started to fill up, the papers got several emails offering help with seating up all the utility providers and home insurance. Within the next few hours, one of the agents already called offering any additional information regarding the home insurance packages. I guess as most of the sales jobs, this is commission based.
Let’s say I can understand why is she kept calling my husband and me twice a day. To get insurance for a property even before the paperwork gone thru. So we both told her to call us when we actually moved into the property because thill then we are not going to make any payment or get new insurance.
MY ADVICE NEVER SET UP ANYTHING IN ADVANCE!!!!!
Also, I feel like regardless of where you live to get insured for your valuables are really important. Living in London is a must! But don’t say yes to the first sails person who got you on the phone. So many websites where you can compare prices and packages to find the most suitable package for you.
Unfortunately, as promising everything started with the papers things went sideways pretty quickly.
As a freelancer, I needed to send all of my invoices. This wouldn’t be an issue but the company asked me week by week instead of asking let’s say the past three months. It gets to the point that only this took over a week ( and we are running out time ) As I was on the phone daily with the reference company and the agency. It was the only way that things started to move in the right direction.
Unfortunately, I felt like I had to be pushy otherwise nobody will care to get the paperwork done on time. Because this took much longer than anybody would expect the agency started to pressure us by saying they will put the property back on the market as the paperwork taking too long. (If this would happen we lose the deposit)
During that weekend we had to ask ourselves, so what we do if we lose that flat? What would be our back up plan?
Even it was never my plan to stay in London or the UK forever I know for sure I don’t see myself living in Hungary where my family lives. But it is definitely an option. We cud have a very easy comfortable life going back to a flat that owns by our family no need to pay rent or utility bills, and everyone within a short drive away. Life is much more relaxed. Sound pretty charming but the reality is this is the last thing either of us wanted to do.
The following week our referent paperwork finally got sent back to the letting agency and was off to the landlord to sign meaning we can get the keys and everything is still back on track.
Or at that time we were hoping 🙂 The 4th of August came and the letting agency keeps giving us mixed information. Sometimes any answer at all. When can we sign the contract or collect the keys? As it went over 15 days that we have paid the deposit we can pull our offer, and reclaim the full deposit. So I have no choice bu telling the agency if the paperwork will not complete over the weekend we pulled our offer.
We decided to start looking for other properties with the same agency that we have been in the past eight years. If we find a flat with them no background check needs just pay the difference in the deposit and we can move with in the next day or two.
After we came home from the weaving, surprise surprise the paperwork was ready for the new place. We went to pick up the keys to the office where I wish I can say this is over-saturation but the guy throws the keys to us… So unprofessional and rude!
When we finally came to our new apartment quickly realized that the carpets haven’t been replaced as promised and we had no hot water. At least now we know the reason that the paperwork wasn’t ready on time. Because the letting agency hasn’t completed the renovation on time and if we don’t pressure them by telling that we pulling our offer who knows how long it took to finish everything.
It’s now been three weeks since we moved in, and I can say finally we got a new carpet. If you follow me on Instagram you saw it in my stories:)
I still emailing daily to the agency to get a few things fixed as it should be done weeks ago. At this point, all I care about is we got the flat that we wanted and all this stress and drama with the whole process was a great learning experience. Not just by how difficult is to find a decent place in London. Also how important is to find the right agency!
As we can’t always control how things play out all we can do is control our attitude how we react. I hope this will help you if you are looking to move. I wish somebody told me to be mentally prepared for all sensorial.
Check out my latest travel blog from Mexico!