Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tips for Flatsharing in London - what they didn't tell you on guidebooks


With mortgage approval rates at an all time low, London's first time buyers are putting their plans on hold for the time being. As a result of which, London's rental prices are at their all time high and are expected to be so all through London Olympics 2012. Summer period is when rental leases are up for renewal and I have heard of instances where rents are increased by 15% upwards. A flat just beside Highbury Fields had five bidders going for it when it was up for rental earlier this month.

One way of getting around the hike in rental prices and yet enjoy the luxury of space is going for flatshare. Of course, flatsharing isn't for a lot of people; for obvious reasons, couples or people with kids would rather move away from London central than suffer the inconvenience brought upon by flatsharing. That leaves the singles. Besides getting a bigger bang for buck in terms of space and proximity to central London, flatsharing also affords the company that singles seek. Knowing that another soul is at home makes solitary less unbearable in a big city.

A couple of chats with some doing flatshare and some forum surfing later, I have gathered a couple of tips for those looking to do flatsharing in London and here are five of them.

Looking for that elusive flatmate

As high street property agencies deal primarily in lettings of entire properties, unless you already have found your flatmate, you would need to look for them first on online portals. Gumtree is definitely the first avenue Londoners turn to for London classified ads. Besides prospective flatmates who themselves are also looking around (picture this: "25M, non smoker, enjoys the occasional beer, does own dishes, looking for someone to flatshare) some actually has a flat but looking for someone to takeover a room which occupant has left.

Other than Gumtree, check out forums catering for Expats (read definition of Expats) like Easy Expats and Expat Focus. You'll be surprised how many people are on these forums looking to flatshare.

Go for the smallest room

Someone I know has recently started looking for a flatshare when he came across an ad on a three bedroom flat in Angel. For some reason, each room is rented out seperately with the largest room going for £250 per week and the smallest one going for just £140 per week.

If you come across something like that, go for the smallest room immediately. Let's be honest, the one who got the largest bedroom would probably spend most of his time in his room leaving the living room to the lesser beings (yep, that'll be you!) who opted for the tiny room. So be it. Lord over the living room and any other common area for all its worth and get the biggest bang for your buck.

Get your name on a utility bill

Having your name on a utility bill is of utmost importance when applying for a credit card (read which credit cards to apply) as a proof of your identity and place of residence other than your passport or UK driving license. This might be a bit tough if the property comes with council tax and all utilities bills paid. But if that's not the case, volunteer your name for a utility bill. Whenever possible, go for a fixed rate bill (unmetered properties offer that option).

As far as possible, do not agree on paying one tenant in cash and then have his name on the bill. Assuming you pay your dues regularly without fail, that's like helping someone else build up his credit score.

Draw the line on guests

This is one thing that people tend to overlook when looking for flatmates. A pal of mine moved out from his flatshare the first chance he got. The girlfriend of his flatmate had a habit of turning up unannounced and trashing up the living room without fail every single time she dropped by.

While this is considered too trivial to be included in any written agreement, do sound out your prospective flatmates especially if you value your privacy quite a bit. If they sound rather evasive about this or try to brush it off, give them a wide berth.

Avoid couples

Regardless of what couples might say, they can get into unpleasant fights every now and then like people in healthy relationships do. When pots and pans start flying, you wouldn't want to be caught in the crossfire. Nope, you wouldn't want to be a envoy should there be a silent war. And nope, the last thing you want is for your pad to be declared a no man's land.

If your fellow flatmates who are singles to begin with actually hook up, it's time to look around for another place. Friends is a TV sitcom, get over it.

Have you got anything to add? Just drop a comment will you? While you are at it, check out my London Accommodation Guide.

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