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.