|Me, a week before moving to London. So innocent. September 2011|
1. Be prepared for having the worst couple of weeks of your life. I'm serious - living in London is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me (apart from having the best parents and boyfriend and flatmates in the world but it's kind of obvious) but I cried a lot. A LOT LOT.
2. Get ready for getting to know the worst people in the world - estate agents. They will want to know everything about you, even stuff you don't usually tell your best friends and won't care about your glorious recommendations from anyone.
3. Right, recommendations. You need those.
4. If you still think of living in Lodon as of living next to Trafalgar Square or Natural History Museum STOP IT RIGHT NOW and be ready for a reality check. Zone 2 is GREAT and if you can afford it then it means everyone will be jealous of your shiny new flat. Unless you live in Elephant&Castle...
5. Speaking of which - get to know London first - some neighbourhoods are better than others even though they are further away from the centre.
6. Start thinking what do you want to devote. Seriously, you won't get a full package so - do you want a bigger flat but in a worse neighbourhood? Or a tiny one but with great transport links? Etc.
|Near my first flat, June 2012.|
I am a West London girl - I like my Victorian houses and I like my good looking neighbourhoods. I lived in Kensignton last year, YOU KNOW (ok... West Kensington, I know it doesn't count but it was a 10-minute-long stroll to Chelsea I SWEAR) but if you asked me where I was going to live two years ago I would probably said nothing: why? Because even though I visited London a few times I had no idea about the actual city. Well, the only thing I knew - I didn't want to move to Stratford or Tooting or any of the places where riots took place.
Thank God LCF's Lime Grove campus is in Shepherds Bush because two years ago Shepherds Bush was kind of affordable and it made me think "ok, it's close to my uni, it's close to my boyfriend's school so why not try to move there?". PLUS after living in Hackney for a week I just wanted to get out of there and move in somewhere where you can actually use the tube not the overground.
Long story short, I ended up in a bedsit with shared kitchen on Hammersmith Grove. With bills included and lovely landlady, it was a better deal than halls which are, BY THE WAY, crazily expensive. And I wasn't living in Acton, Elephant&Castle or Tufnell Park (I've only been once so I'm not sure if it's any good but still, Hammerstmith Grove was better), I was living on your typical middle-class-zone-two street with its own yoga place and a pretty good deli.
|Near my second flat, our ESTATE, November 2012|
As I've already shared a great chunk of my life with you, let me spare you the details about my second year of flat hunting that ended up with eating only tomatoes for dinner because my stressed body couldn't take any other food and this year's search (it wasn't over when I started writing this, now I can happily say I will be based in the West again). LET ME HELP YOU FOR ONCE AND PREPARE YOU FOR THIS.
|Estate Princess, September 2012|
Ok, so where do we start?
This is a map of London Tube network (long live TFL!):
This is a map of London Tube network that I kind of adjusted for this post's sake, just couple of examples as I really can't be THAT bothered:
As you see, you need to decide where you want to live, narrow your search. I would focus on two-three areas at first at start your flat-hunting. If you are from another country, of course you can do it online but everyone will look at you suspiciously and you will have to come to London to see your flat anyway, so the best decision is to move in with family/friends/rent a room in a hostel for a week or two. The worst month to search is probably early September or late August when all students start to look at properties as well.
Head to zoopla.co.uk or rightmove.co.uk - these sites show you only legit ads, run by real estate agencies. Of course, agencies can be a nightmare - they need a pile of references and guarantors from you and you need to pay them admin fees but at least they won't scam you and take your money away. If you are adventurous, check gumtree as well - sometimes you can find some pretty good deals there - but remember, if something is too good to be true it probably is not.
Arrange a couple of viewings and then, if you like what you see, ask an estate agent what is needed from you - what references (if this is your first time moving in by yourself, you will be probably asked about some character references provided by your old teacher/someone you used to live with/etc.), what guarantor (this is the hard one), how much deposit you need to pay them (usually 4 to 6 weeks of rent).
For the guarantor - it must be someone who can pay your rent if you decide to, I don't know, flea the country or something. Two years ago, as I didn't know anyone in London, my agency let my dad to be a guarantor, with his bank statement as a vital document. Right now, more and more agencies ask you for a UK home owner as your guarantor which is bizzare, xenophobist and funny so it's better to ask straight away.
Ok - you like the flat, agency likes you, you can provide all the documents needed. What now? The craziest two or three days of your life while you try to collect the papers as quickly as possible so no one can steal your dream London home from you. And then, you made it. You are happy. You see me and we go to have a cup of tea and a biscuit at 5 o'clock together while watching Big Ben doing its thing and riding monocycles or whatever these British people do these days.
Here it is. The essential, simplified version of a few weeks of your life if you decide to move to London one day. And trust me. It is worth all the tears your cry. ALL-OF-THEM.
If you have any questions (probably in Polish, I KNOW I KNOW HOW PATHETIC I AM), leave them down below and will happily answer.