(For the purpose of this post, I’m using affordable in London terms, FYI. Which might be very different to most other cities definitions of ‘affordable’)
I have officially been a resident of GREATer London for three years and two months and ‘a bit’. In that time, I have lived in three different house shares, and next weekend I’m on the move again to a one bed flat in a somewhat grown-up-relationship-living-together-situation (Yep, that’s happening).
That’s four places in just over three years (not even counting the month I spent being lost and confused and having restricted access to the buffet breakfast in student hall accommodation when I first showed up on London’s doorstep). So you could say I’m quite accustomed to the minefield otherwise known as finding somewhere to live in London. And in particular, somewhere half-decent I can actually afford to live in, without missing out on too much actual living because all my money’s being swallowed up by the very real rent monster of your graduate nightmares.
Captain Obvious time. This city IS pricey. Fact. If you’re moving down from T’NORTH (please bring me gifts), you’ll probably be pretty overwhelmed at how much it is to rent out a basic room in a house share. But for me at least, the benefits of living in LDN while I’m young far outweigh the financial benefits of living elsewhere. So, I may not be able to post smiling social media pics of my smug face and a set of house keys – but instead, I can share all the fun things I get to experience in a city like no other.
However, as expensive as London is, I believe you can still balance living in a non-dungeon with having enough cash to let the good times roll. There’ll be people out there who’ll try and convince you spending any less than £1500 for a pokey one bed in Zone 4 is basically impossible. Probably the very same people to make you believe that’s the standard of London. Those people either a) haven’t bothered to look around much and have an opinion based on property that comes mostly from this article, or b) don’t want you to come and live in their city.
And neither of those are people you should listen to (especially the latter – London’s TOTES gonna love you – as long as you practise getting your Oyster ready first). There are affordable (by London standards, at least) flats, houses and rooms out there. If you’re willing to compromise a bit.
My first room in Leytonstone (Zone 3, about 20mins on the tube to Oxford Circus) cost me £420 a month. Including all bills. It was a big room, with lovely wooden floors and a beautiful fireplace. An absolute steal, which I’ll admit I lucked out with – but its proof decent value places can be found. At the time, I was a Publications Assistant learning 17k a year (here are some more thoughts on people who think you can’t live in London on less than £25k BTW) and after my rent I had enough disposable income to throw at Primark and Gin Enabler Venues and even, you heard this right, go out for dinner quite a bit.
Unfortunately, there WAS the issue of my weird live in landlord whose bedroom was above mine and the horrible sex noises, hence why I decided to move out as soon as I earned more £££, but for a first place to live in the city it was a pretty good intro, and proof you don’t HAVE to spend 2/3 of your cash on a bed in a hole in the wall. Here are just a few things I’ve picked up over my three years of moving about like a travelling one woman circus…
Decide what’s negotiable. When we were flat hunting in December, we’d already decided what was negotiable (exact location, the kitchen being separate from the living room, garden) and what wasn’t (proximity to tube, bathtub, a basic state of cleanliness). Some negotiable aspects went up and down with price – if we’d found a practical PALACE for £800 that happened to not have a bath, I could MAYBE have been swayed (but it would have been a criminal waste of a bath bomb collection). Once you’ve decided these and your budget, you’ll be ready to decide quickly when something’s right – more on that in point four…
Look beyond the obvious. Yes, we all want to live in Clapham/Angel/Shoreditch because yes, it’s lovely/trendy/has good coffee, but with the most-wanted places come the less-wanted prices. There are some great places that are still within Zones 2-3/4 that won’t make you feel like you’ve been cast out into the suburban wilderness. After having a brief look on the internet, I’ve spotted plenty of places that I could afford in Leyton/Leytonstone (COME BE MY NEIGHBOUR, we can do brunch), Tufnell Park, Ealing, Tooting, Wembley, Barking and Turnpike Lane, as a starting point. Yes, I know, they’re not super glamorous – but you can spend the cash you’re saving on your rent on cocktails in glamorous places elsewhere. Instagram will be none the wiser.
Be prepared. Know where you’re looking – save your searches on Zoopla, Rightmove and Spare Room and set up email alerts for new properties to be added. Email letting agents in the areas with your information, budget and the kind of properties you’re looking for to get the jump on viewings. Be flexible with viewings – if you can manage to get in at short notice, you’re less likely to miss out on the place of your dreams. Which brings me nicely on to…
Get in quick. And I’m talking agreeing to take the place on the spot. As you’ll quickly learn, there ain’t no time for Dithering Dorises in the ever-changing capital. For my first room, there were three other people at the viewing, and it turned out that all four of us wanted it. It just so happened I was the first (and we’re talking by a few minutes, max) to say yes. It’s ruthless, but it’s reality. And really useful in shaping your decision-making skills.
I could say A LOT more on the renting situation in London – and I probably will sometime soon, possibly in the form of a grumpy rant about ‘Generation Rent’ (aka me and my pals) being pushed out of the city if they can’t afford to take advantage of the supposed ‘help’ being offered to those wanting to buy because home ownership is basically the only pinnacle of achievement in life…um. Anyway. Hopefully these couple of pointers have reassured anyone wanting to make the move to this ridiculously fabulous city that 1) it IS doable, 2) you WILL be able to find somewhere and c) you TOTALLY won’t be living on beans on toast and Pot Noodles. Hooray!
(Well. Except during the week before payday.)
(For those curious – the snazzy home bits used to illustrate this tome of a post are from, of course, wonderful Debenhams, snapped at their Christmas press day.)