How to find a flat in London

Not sure if it’s a god or bad sign that my blog is currently taking a non-technical direction. However, finally having moved into our new flat in London, I thought I should share some of my experiences – maybe someone will find this useful one day.

Having decided to move to London (from Norway), we started looking at websites such as Loot, Gumtree and TimesOnline. However, it seemed to us that most of the flats were available immediately – hence we decided to start looking more seriously when we first arrived.

So, we booked a cheap hotel for the first week. Took some walks around the area we wanted to live in, and searched as crazy on the websites. We soon realised we had to settle for a quite small flat (read: studio) if we wanted to live in central London. After a day or two, we found an ok flat, went for a viewing and decided we wanted it. We soon realised that bringing our dog turned out to be quite a challenge. The landlord was okay with the dog, however the leaseholder (the council) needs to grant permission. The real estate agents were really helpful, however, since we are both busy people and not staying home with the dog all day, they told us our chances were minimal.

Having wasted a day or two hoping to get this flat, we realised we needed to widen our search (Tip #1: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket). We had scanned every ad on the internet, so we decided to walk around a bit. We phoned every number on the “to let” signs we could see. By doing this we finally found a flat that suited us.

Ironically this flat was priced a bit higher than what we could afford, so we had probably filtered it out when we searched on the internet. However, the real estate agent immediately offered it to a price more suitable to our budget (Tip #2: Prices are negotiable). But of course, he needed to verify that the dog was okay etc.

Having learned from our mistakes, and being aware of our dog might be a challenge. We started searching further north. This would force the both of us to take the tube or such, meaning we had to calculate this into our budget. We found some dog friendly flats – but it wasn’t exactly in the area we had hoped to live. Hence, we were very pleased when we got a call from the second real estate agent, telling us that everything was okay with the dog. Still we needed to fill in a form for credit checking..

By this time we were tired of living at a tiny hotel room – we booked a new hotel (got a bargain at hotels.com) for another week. This hotel was a lot closer to our area of interest and it was much nicer (Tip #3, find a hotel nearby your area of interest, allow yourselves some luxury). It meant we had to transport our 100kgs of luggage once again though.

Due to the Bank holiday, a busy real estate agent who promised a lot more than he could keep and some unskilled credit checking company (who struggled to make a simple phone call for two days) – our credit check wasn’t done until late friday (the second week). By then our real estate agent had turned off his phone for the weekend..

Hoping to move in early in the week, we extended our stay at the hotel for two nights. Booking directly at the hotel was expensive, but it was at least only for two days. Or so we thought.. It turned out we had to stay yet another night at a hotel – waiting for some furniture to arrive. By then the hotel rates on our current hotel had exploded. We got permission to place our luggage at the flat however, before we booked a cheap hotel for one last night (Tip #4, if you find a nice hotel, at a decent rate, book it for 2,5 times as long as you think you will need!).

We have spent our first night in the flat now. Sleeping at the sofa bed mattress, while waiting for the bed to arrive. There are still some things to sort out, such as opening an UK bank account, choosing an electricity provider, get an internet connection up and running etc.  however, having a home in London now is fantastic. I look forward to enjoy each new day! Might be continued..

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