Fantastic flats in London and how to find them
The ups and downs of finding a flat in Central London as a student
We’ve all been through it. Actually, I went through it barely two months ago. I entered flat-hunting hell and here I am, bearing scratches and bruises from the fight with bureaucracy itself and possibly traumatized in ways I’ll only come to grips with in a therapy session in ten years’ time.
Exaggeration aside, every student gets told quite early into their academic endeavor that if they want to find a flat in the future, the experience alone might propel them into what is known as *shudder* adulthood.
What can be done to prevent this from being more agonizing than it has to be?
Be careful of scams
This seems like very obvious advice, but you’d be surprised. Agents can be very convincing and you might not really get a grasp of how much is too much when it comes to pricey rents or agent fees. They’ll tell you that paying £240 each without utilities is normal for London and you might believe them.
This happened to me when visiting the very first flat of my search. The agent actually said, and I quote, “if you’re not interested just tell me now as my time is money”. People like him are perfect for their job: scaring people into accepting their overpriced rates.
Just know that you absolutely can find places where the rent is below £200 a month and doesn’t top it once you add bills. This can be for both a two-bedroom or a four-bedroom. Therefore, don't settle. By the sheer amount of properties on the market with the characteristics you seek, it would be very hard for you to not find anything. Maybe just not on the first try.
Choose flatmates wisely
This kind of makes it seem as if you’ll have to hold auditions and, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to know people have done that. You won’t be able to live with all your friends.
In other university cities it might be possible to find an affordable place housing nine people, but in London agents will laugh at you if you try and ask for anything above a five-bedroom. There are always exceptions, but you don’t want to be too optimistic. Steer away from possible flatmates with different budgets than you, or those that might not want to live in the same area. Those are! Surprisingly relevant!! Characteristics!!!
When should you start looking?
You might end up asking this question to every single second or third year you become remotely close with. There is one thing that you must remember: your friends at other universities outside London will most likely find a place before you’ve even understood who you want to live with. This is completely normal.
The market moves so quickly in London that very few (probably dodgy) landlords would start your contract in January for you to only move in in September. So if you friend studying in Manchester posts an Insta story midway through November of her and her future flatmates having brunch saying “finally left flat-hunting hell ugh”, don’t worry. You have time until at least June if not August to make better connections and find people you know you can live with.
There are quite a few stereotypes around about London boroughs and which ones are the best ones to live in. It all comes down to where the people you initially surround yourself live in.
My student accommodation was in Bloomsbury so I knew I could have never have been able to stay there without selling my soul to the real estate gods. For places to become properly affordable around there you’d need to move to Camden, and I know a few Strand or Guy's students that wouldn’t be too happy about the trek.
At the same time, with most of us migrating south to Elephant and Castle or Bermondsey in search of cheap-ish places to live, I know of someone that managed to pay less than they did in halls and live IN Covent Garden, so there’s no one way to do it. If when the time comes you’re open to more neighborhoods, check them out, as generalizations will never represent the whole truth.