New Year is always the time when folk re-assess their lives and decide to move on – quite literally - and swap their cramped shoebox-sized hovel for something more agreeable. Looking for a flatshare in London is hard at the best of times, however, so LondonNet's resident flatsharers have come up with a handy home-hunting guide.
1. Decide on an area. This makes life a lot easier. Far be it for us to generalise, but South London wins on open spaces and parks but, as far as transport goes, you only need to look at the Tube map to see that North London is easier to get around.
2. Landlord or agency? Agencies are a bit easier to get hold of when the radiator blows up and you find your carpet disappearing underneath a murky coloured liquid. Landlords can be conveniently away on business. Except when the rent is due of course.
3. Get on the phone. When calling about a place, usually it's best to phone around 8am. Ring any earlier and you'll have annoyed the hell (and probably ruined your chances of getting the room) out of your potential flatmates by depriving them of a vital 20 minutes of shut-eye. Any later you'll probably be faced with those disparaging three little words: 'It's already gone.'
4. Don't forget the A-Z. It's easy enough to get lost - more so if you don't have a map! Which means by the time you get there, the room will almost certainly have gone and you'll look something of a buffoon. Or you could end up in the wrong area altogether – funnily enough some streets sound suspiciously similar. If in doubt, ring them again!
5.Is it safe? On arrival, does the place look OK from the outside? Your new pad doesn't need to be like Fort Knox (well, unless it's in New Cross). So long as the windows have adequate fastenings, the door has a good lock and doesn't look like it could be kicked in by a ten year old, (or you're on the 26th floor of a block), then you're ok.
6. Cleanliness, as we all know, is next to godliness. OK, so the washing up needs doing and the place could do with a bit of a hoover, but if it starts resembling the back of a dustman's lorry then you really need to start worrying, unless you love living in a pigsty. Some places have a cleaner (the money comes out of the rent) others have rotas (if you are disciplined enough to stick to it) and some just clean as and when!
7. Is everything in working order? Does the loo flush? Does the shower work (it needn't be a power shower but if water comes out like someone urinating on your head then it can get a little frustrating). Bags of dirty washing everywhere suggests that someone's bra-wire has broken the washer. And three months down the line it's still waiting to be fixed. Some, however, don't even have a washer. Which means weekly visits to the laundrette. And who, in their half-arsed mind, can be bothered with that?
8. Bills. It's important to check whether or not the bills are included. If the ad says 'inc', it means bills are included; if 'exc' or if it doesn't say, then they aren't. Simple really. Else what you thought was a reasonable 350pcm, could turn into nearly 450 or 500 with bills on top. And therefore totally unaffordable. Yikes!
9. Investigate the surroundings. Does the house shake for a few seconds? Then you could be next to the West Coast mainline... If you're a heavy sleeper, then trains shooting past till 2am won't bother you so much. But if not you'll be losing plenty of sleep and will be a right irritable soul by morning. If you haven't slept through your alarm that is.
10. Get chatting. After being shown round the house, chances are (unless they've all gone down the pub) you'll have a chance to chat to your prospective flatmates. Accountants or anyone in the legal profession could be useful if you're a freelancer and need to get round those tax problems. Students? Great for partying but not so good when you need an early night in order to get up at 6am.
11. Call them back. Flat-hunting is a rat-race. So don't hang about. If there's a place you particularly like, ring them up and ask them if they've made a decision. If you hit it off when you first met them then your luck is in. If not, there's always other places to see...