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Finding a place to live in London

Posted in Accommodation in London

Finding a place to Live in London

Rent in London is ridiculous. Seriously. You will be shocked. BUT it is London, and for someone like me, it is worth the rent prices to live in this pulsing, vibrant city. I spent hours online trawling through websites and ads trying to find somewhere that looked nice, that was close to public transport, was reasonably priced (for London) and which I wouldn’t be sharing with a 42-year-old man...  Below is what I’ve learnt, and a few of my experiences on the journey to find my current London home.

The closer you are to the centre of London, the more you are going to have to pay for rent. Simple. The closer you are to the centre of London, the less you are going to have to pay for public transport (if you work in the city centre too). Makes sense as well. BUT just because you pay less rent for a similar type of room in zone 4 compared to zone 1 does NOT mean you will necessarily be paying less per week if you consider public transport costs as well. Costs for travelcards as you go further from zone 1 increase exponentially, and sometimes the money you save on rent by moving to an outer zone may not actually save you much at all over all if you work in zone 1, as so many Londoners do.

I think the best thing is to try to live as close to where you work as possible. I live in zone 2 and work in zone 1, it takes me 20 minutes by the tube to get to work, which is pretty darn good compared to the hour long journey some of my workmates take each day. The reason they put up with this ridiculously long journey to work, and then back again, is because most of my workmates still live with their parents, who settled in the outer suburbs of London. Living with your parents even after you’ve finished school, and even university, is more common than not in London. The reason 20-somethings (and 30-somethings as well) STILL live with their parents is simply because they can’t afford to move out on their own. Rental prices have also rocketed after the Global Financial Crisis. The UK was hit harder than Australia, and you can see its effects much more readily in terms of rental prices rises. Banks no longer give young couple 100% mortgages to enable them to purchase a home of their own, meaning more people are renting than when these were available.

So how do you find a place to rest your pretty head in London? Get online. Talk to people. Put yourself out there and be proactive! I suggest www.easyroommate.com to begin with. This site is quite simple to use, but is also very well managed by its creators, who will remove ads and users that are obviously scams or have another agenda. You create a profile, with information about who you are, your age, how much rent you can afford, living and housemate preferences, a little bio about you, areas you want to live in, and most importantly your contact details. Now this site is free to use, but if you want full access to contact all other users, you must pay for premium membership. I highly recommend it. This means that you can see each ads contact details and can contact them directly. Sending messages through the site is also enabled. You can still send messages if you aren’t a premium member, but the ad you are sending it to must have premium membership to be able to read it.

It may seem a little scary, or a bit forward, but after sending hundreds of emails and getting only a handful of replies back, I really recommend picking up your phone and calling the person advertising the room you are interested in as soon as you can (hopefully at a reasonable hour!). You really have to be proactive, as ads come and go within minutes if they are a great deal! This way you can also show the person advertising that you aren’t just going to muck them around, and are really interested. It also lets you ask any questions as well as organise a viewing. I found that people advertising a room who were premium members were more likely to be genuine people looking for a room mate, and the quality of the actual room was likely to be higher as well.

NEVER sign a contract or pay a deposit on a place until after you have viewed it and met the occupants! A friend who is a local Policeman said they get hundreds of people coming in to report that they’ve paid deposits on rooms before arriving in London, only to find that the room doesn’t exist, or that the person they paid the deposit to doesn’t have anything to do with the property. Unfortunately, these scammers often get away with their crime as there is little to trace them on.

While I was looking for a room to rent, I came into contact with three separate people who I strongly believe were scammers. These properties were on easyroommate.com, and were removed after I let the administrator know. However, the ads looked genuine, and it was only once I began to correspond with the person advertising that I realised it was highly likely they were trying to scam me. I have included two real examples of the emails two of these potential scammers sent to me. I have not altered them at all, except to remove their email address, and to change their name. Funnily enough, the names that my inbox showed as the sender of these emails has changed to something entirely different in the last few weeks.

The first I came into contact with was for a room in a 2 bed apartment just behind Oxford street in the middle of London. It was a great price and only a 5 minute walk away from work. Alarm bells should have been ringing already, because if it looks too perfect to be true, it is. But I emailed the person letting them know I was interested and that I’d love to organise a time to view the room, as well as a little bit about me. I received an email a day later.

“Hello,
Thanks for your interest in my lovely bedrooms flat. I have attached my available room photos of my flat below my message for you to read so that you can have a better idea of the Unit (Apartment).
I have a flat available as of today in London ideally located with BEDROOMS and BATHROOMS (one ensuite), a modern kitchen and a spacious living room. Personal Bathroom/toilet attached to each room. You will have your own private Bedroom and Bathroom/Toilet separately. But we would be only share KITCHEN reception and SITTING ROOM only. It's fully furnished, DG, GCH, bath/wc, 24 hrs Security and Porter Service available and entry phone.

Address: Wimpole Street, London, W1G 8YE, England
Area: Central London (Lambeth, Soho, Belgravia, Southwark, West End, The City, Westminster).

Wimpole Street is moments from excellent amenities and close to 24hr shop and all amenities.The nearest underground tube station from my house is Bond Street tube station and Oxford Circus, just off Golden Square which is about 3 minutes walk to my flat. It is good area and walkways with lots of entertainment and places to eat and drink. My flat offers a high and superb location for shops, supermarkets services and transportation.

Transport
1 mins walk to bus stop
3 mins walk. to Bond Street tube station
5 mins walk. to Oxford Circus tube station
7 mins walk. to Regent's Park tube station
4 mins walk. to Leicester Square & China Town
6 mins walk. to Covent Garden.


Rent: £112.00 Per Week (£450.00 Per Month) council tax and utility bills included.
£500.00 Pounds is the payment of Security Deposit implies that you have a serious intention towards renting my flat and that would enable me to reserve or keep the flat room for you.The sum of £500.00 security deposit is fully refundable back to you without any charges. The details of Security Deposit will be sent to you in the Agreement form. If this is okay by you, please get back to me with your Full names, Phone number and the Residential Address so that I can send the contract and flat terms to you by email to proceed with the reservation.

ABOUT ME: I am 26 yrs old, female a half British/ half Italian girl, Straight  and I am professional Hair Stylist.  I am an industrious person. I don't interfere into other peoples private affairs. Am a very laid back person and also, I am open minded and free with everyone. I am looking for student, professional and couples with someone that is okay with my kind of person and most especially a trustworthy person, a clean and tidy and person that I could confide in as a friend and family and that could confide in me as well and I believed you would be the kind of person. I love listening to music, cooking, reading, visiting cities, going to theaters ... I also particularly enjoy meeting new people especially roommate, new nationalities; I have been living with Americans, Spanish, Canadian, French and Italians as my previous flat mates.


Household Utilities and Amenities includes:
#Central Heating,  #Underfloor Central Heating,   #Alarm system,   #Flat screen plasma TVs with cable broadcasting,   #Hi-tech music players with surround sound,  #Satellite.

#DVD/VCD players,   #Video Game {Play station 3},   #Internet Access,   #WiFi Wireless Internet Broadband,   #Reading Desk,   #Bedside Lamp,   #Wardrobe,   #In-room iron and board,   #Goose down duvets and luxurious bedding,   #State of the art fully fitted kitchen.

#Gas and Microwave,   #Superb Kitchen with Washing Machine/Dryer/Dishwasher,   #Cookware and tableware,   #Constant hot water,   #Parking Lot,   #Storage and Gym.


I hope you like the facilities listed above in the flat and would love to share with me. So If you are really seriously interested in my flat and you wish to know more about me and my flat you could Add & Join me for a window Live Chat on MSN messenger service am online now for further discussion about know each other.

I look forward to hearing back from you ASAP..
Your's FutureFlatmate,
Anna*”

It was a little fishy, the spelling isn’t the greatest and the capitals in weird places was strange, but I thought perhaps she just wasn’t that great at writing emails. So I jumped online, onto MSN and added her so we could chat more. She accepted immediately, but then ignored me for 20 mins, then asked me to tell her a bit about myself. I did, and she said that I sounded nice and we should organise a time for me to view the room. However, before I could view the room I had to show her that I had the money to pay for the deposit and monthly rent. I said I could bring a bank statement, however she replied that she wouldn’t accept that, as apparently she had been fooled before. I told her I didn’t want to bring cash with me, and she said I didn’t have to. I asked her how I could prove that I was financially capable, but she wouldn’t give me a direct answer. Confused? I sure was! Anna just kept saying she’d need proof, and I kept asking how? She then asked if I had a relative or close friend in the UK. I said yes. She said they could act as the Sender... it was getting a little too weird for my liking. So I told her good luck with your housemate search, and that I wasn’t interested. The ‘sender’ reference may become a little clearer once you read the next email I received from another person for a different property, also in central London. This lady said she had recently moved to Liverpool for a job promotion, so would have to travel to London to show me the flat. Below is the second email I received from her.

“ I have wasted lots of money and time on traveling down to London several times to show people my flat but they will fail to turn up is either they cannot afford the rent or the security deposit required but want me to come down with the aim of renegotiating. I have consulted my lawyer and we have resolved that any potential tenants should be able to prove in the following way in order to determine who is financially buoyant and that he or she can stick to appointment when scheduled and able to pay his/her rent as at when due.

So before I can come down to London to show you the flat, I will need to see a proof that you are financially buoyant, truly interested in my flat and not a time waster, I will not ask you to email me your bank statement or payment slip because i have been fooled with fake bank statement and payslip, what you are going to do is that, you will have to make the transfer of one month rent plus security deposit(£1000) via western union money transfer by using your own name as the receiver of the money while the name of someone close to you or relative will be the sender. here is how you do the transfer; you will go to any nearby western union outlet/shop very close to you with £1000 cash, when you get there, you will tell them you want to make a transfer using their service and you will be given a payment slip to fill, below is what you are going to fill on it;

Sender's name: Someone close to you or relative name
Receiver's name: Your own name
Sender's address: That person address
Receiver's address: Your own address in London
Amount to transfer: £1000

Once you fill it, you will give the form to the agent with the £1000 and he/she will give you a payment receipt and this is what you will scan and email to me for confirmation and i will call their customer care here in Liverpool to confirm and once i confirm that the money is available to be pick up by you as the receiver, I will buy my train ticket down to London immediately, email it to you so that you can know i will surely be present for the viewing and to know the time we shall be meeting for the viewing.

I will be at the tube station to pick you up, take you round the flat and after the viewing if you are ok with the flat, you will sign my tenancy agreement form, we will both look for any nearby western union outlet very close to my flat and you will collect your money out with your passport, pay me face-face, collect the payment receipt with flat key and you will move-in on your move-in date which will be stated on the agreement form while i take my leave back to Liverpool that same day. I do not want you to have the feeling that I am asking for money BEFORE you see what you are renting because I know that payment is meant to be done AFTER you have seen the Flat and okay with it that is why I said you should make the transfer to yourself so that you will be the one to receive the money and pay me  in person after the viewing.

A little amount of money would be charge for the transfer but i don't want you to worry about that because my lawyer had advised me to be responsible for that for your own convenience, it will be refunded back to you immediately we meet for the viewing, so either you rent my flat or not, your money would be given back to you. I will be happy if you can email me back now so that i can know how to schedule my time in other to meet you for the viewing, i hope to read back from you as soon as possible.”

I emailed her back to let her know I was no longer interested.

So these are real examples of emails that really do dupe some people into handing over cash. easyroommate.com does warn against this type of thing occurring, and says NEVER to send cash deposits via Western Union bank transfers, as people will make a fake ID with your name or your ‘sender’s’ name and collect the deposit themselves. When you go to pick it up, the cash has disappeared, and it is hard to trace where is has disappeared to, and with whom!

How do you find a room in London? You call people, meet up with them, and always, always, ALWAYS view the room before handing over any money. If you have any doubts, follow your gut and look for somewhere else. If you find a place you like, the rent is what you’re willing to pay, and the housemates seem nice, jump for it! Offer to give them a deposit that day, as if you think it’s nice, so will at least 10 other people.

After I had viewed a room, the housemate said that the way they would decide who to would get the room would be the first person to put down a deposit that day. I instantly said that I had £40 and would that be enough until I could get the rest of the cash? Luckily it was, I got a receipt, then brought round the rest of the deposit the next day after work. My housemate later told me that the person who came after me offered to pay the whole deposit then and there, even after they told her the room had been taken. Luckily for me my housemates are honest lovely people, and they refused. I am now writing this post in that very same room!

I would definitely recommend trying to find a place where the rent includes all bills. If you are unsure, you need to ask. That way there will be no nasty little surprises at the end of the month. It also protects you, as if you are unfamiliar with what a gas bill looks like, you can’t be fooled into paying a bill someone has created on computer with some photoshop magic!

There are lots of websites that will help you to find a place to live in London, so sign up to them, and get your face and profile out there. Also talk to your friends, relatives, hostel roomies, workmates... any one you know in London, as lots of people find their London abode through a friend of a friend. Also, be prepared for the fact that it may take a few months to find it. I was fortunate to strike gold within a week of moving to London, and within 3 weeks of searching online all up. But there are many people who search for months to find somewhere that suits them, often staying in hostels and couchsurfing until then. For the first few days I stayed in a hostel, which was only an 8 minute tube ride from Oxford Circus. I’d stayed in this hostel before with my boyfriend for a week when we first arrived in the UK and were still playing tourist. The Astor Victoria is a fantastic hostel, very clean and reasonably priced for being so central. It was a great place to stay when playing tourist, as you can get to all the major attractions easily via the bus or tube. However, when you have to go to bed before 10pm and wake up at 5am to get to work on time for an early shift, it was a little frustrating. Other roomies arriving at the hostel at 3am and turning the lights on while having a loud conversation is not pleasant. Then having to wake up before the sun, but not being able to turn the light on (I’m more considerate than some) is also a bit more difficult than if you have your own room. I also spent a few nights sleeping on a generous friend’s couch, which was much more comfy than the bed at the hostel! It was more relaxed and much cheaper too, so definitely dig up all the London contacts you can.

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