The Reality Of Renting In London



I’ve been living in London for five and a half years (someone hold me) and soon I’ll be moving to my sixth home in the city. Time flies; it’s unreal. Eighteen year-old me could have moved here yesterday, it still feels just as fresh. Will I ever get used to the unnerving tilt of double decker buses when they turn a corner? Only time will tell.

So yeah, I’m moving again. Other than the dreaded, “Why aren’t you moving in with your boyfriend?” question, (It’s only been a year and a half, he still has another year’s lease, please stop asking) the thing I’m being asked the most is,


Which is totally fair; I live in a flat with two lovely housemates in a new development, in walking distance to a station and in a safe neighbourhood. It’s a good situation. Despite all of the good stuff, however, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling I need some change in my housing situation – and I’ve had that feeling almost since I moved here. I’ve always looked to the future, getting excited the more “proper adult” responsibilities I take on; signing a lease, creating an ISA, even getting my coat dry-cleaned gives me a buzz. I can’t wait for the day I own a flat in some city suburb and live there with my cocker spaniel. I’ve kept a lid on these thoughts for a while, but more and more I’ve had this desire to decorate my own place, and its a feeling that keeps growing and growing. Maybe I’m an optimist, but even when things are good, I look for ways to make them better. I love a good measured risk.

Initially, the risk really did look great. I heard down the grapevine (a very sister-looking grapevine) that a friend from childhood was also looking to move, so we got a drink and realised that we wanted to live in the same area, make the same kind of home, and would probably make quite good housemates. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

Then we started the hunt. And this is the part that we are still in, nearly a month later. We’ve been going to one or two viewings most evenings, looking around property after property, hoping to find the one. But unfortunately, just as Prince Charming often isn’t all he’s cracked up to be, these flats don’t often live up to the photographs on Rightmove. More than once, we’ve been straight up catfished. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg that has been looking for two-bed properties in London.

A couple of days ago, I was told by an estate agent that we are in a “two-bed drought” and he ain’t wrong. Two bedroom apartments are few and far between at the moment, which means a couple of things. Firstly, the rent is sky high. I never thought I’d be looking at a magnolia-walled, run-down flat with hardly any sunlight and be told by the uncomfortable estate agent that it was on the market for over £1800 a month. Who can afford that? And who will pay that? It’s wild. I’m not looking for some beautiful, re-fitted Victorian conversion (although if one comes along I won’t say no,) I just want to see a place that doesn’t smell of smoke and have part of the kitchen cabinet missing, and meet a tenant who doesn’t say that every request they made of the landlord at the beginning of their tenancy has still been unfulfilled.

Secondly, the few and far between properties that do make it onto the market in decent condition go really fucking fast. If it went online that morning, a holding deposit will have taken it off the market by that same evening. I have no idea how people make time to keep track of every property going online throughout the day, but they must be as I’m committing hours of a day to the same process and I may as well be running in circles. It’s stressful.

I’m deep in the house hunt, calling estate agents and visiting properties only to find out they’ve been taken off the market within an hour of us stepping out of the front door. The worst bit is perhaps the uncertainty; I’ve had to give in my notice at my current place, but there’s no guarantee I’ll find anything by the time I have to move out as move-in dates are typically “as soon as you can”. That optimism I talked about earlier? It’s slowly seeping through the gaps in the badly-laid laminate flooring.

Despite all of this, I am still kind of enjoying the search. The whole process a little masochistic but to be honest, it could be a lot worse. I’m still excited to make wherever we end up a proper home, to source second-hand furniture and take the inevitable trip to IKEA for additional cutlery and bird of paradise plants. And regardless, I’m always counting my lucky stars that I can afford to move into a two-bed with a friend at potentially this price – many people have salaries that just can’t stretch that far. For all the stress it’s causing me and my future housemate, I feel grateful to have someone to share the experience with – through the highs, lows, and multiple slimy estate agents we meet.

I think we’re both holding out for a unicorn, and I have my fingers crossed that one will appear in the next two weeks. The London housing market moves fast, and I have nearly every site on email alerts so hopefully we will find a gem. Aviva, my soon-to-be housemate, is great and helps keep up our morale when it begins to waiver. And ultimately, I’ll be getting the change I need, whatever it ends up looking like. I’m lucky to have been offered multiple roofs over my head during the search, and I can always move home for a while if nothing emerges until summer. The reality of renting in London isn’t pretty, and the chances of you finding a flat like Bridget Jones’s in 2019 are slimmer than slim, but after the rain comes the rainbow, right? Well, that’s what I’ve decided to tell myself.


  1. March 2, 2019 / 12:37 pm

    Living up north and having the desire to move to London is really frustrating. I graduate next year and I can’t look at jobs in London without getting anxiety surrounding where I’m going to live and how I’m going to organise getting a house. I’ve had the dream to move to London for years and hearing your struggles makes me feel so much worse. I think that if you choose London as your home then you are committing to the lifestyle for life. If that makes sense? Really loved this post though, and I hope you find a lovely spot to live. 🙂

  2. Amanda
    March 2, 2019 / 2:03 pm

    I thought I was the only one who felt really cool bringing their stuff to the dry cleaners “oh look at me having it all together”.

    To the actual point of the post, it’s so insane everywhere right now! I live in NYC and the average rent for a one bedroom in the outer-boroughs (ie-not Manhattan) is going for $2500 and supply is scarce. I’m with you, I don’t know who is paying these prices, it’s so frustrating. I don’t really know much about the London housing market, but I wonder if it has the same problem as NYC, in that all new construction is “luxury housing” leaving really no where for the middle class to live as there are only so many older existing buildings. These are crazy times!

  3. jevoislavieenprose
    March 3, 2019 / 9:22 am

    I’ve just started looking for a flat with my boyfriend, except it’s in a much smaller city, and in Switzerland :’) But I find it really stressful as I hate phone calls and am uncomfortable around strangers, and as we’re both students I kind of feel like we might not be the best option for the landlords. Every flat that seems nice just makes me feel the expectation of disappointment because I’m a pessimist. So I really hope that our search won’t be as long as yours in London! It’s actually probably a lot easier where I live, except that we have a very low budget…

  4. March 3, 2019 / 11:14 am

    Honestly, the housing situations in London is like the ONE thing putting me off living there. As much as I love the city, I love living slightly outside it but paying a fraction of the cost. I also think theres so much more freedom when there’s more choice. It’s so annoying because housing shouldn’t be a luxury but I feel like in the state it is in at the moment, it’s starting to be considered so. I’m lucky to have a wonderful landlord, but it should be a case that I think I’m lucky because he answers my questions quickly and fixes things without an argument. When did that become above and beyond?! B X

  5. March 4, 2019 / 7:30 pm

    I’m moving to London in September for a Masters, but wanna be looking for a place to rent afterwards. Would you do a run-down of your favourite places to live in London? I’m looking for somewhere safe but also not eyewateringly expensive!! Love this piece x

    • June 21, 2019 / 3:16 am

      I’d love to see this too! Although sadly from what I’ve seen, all the good areas come with a price tag to match… 🙁

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