Sunday, March 23, 2008

House Hunting

Finding a place to live was our top priority after getting to London. We had a hotel booked for the first week, then we could stay at Yui/Jem's place for a few nights after that while they were in Chamonix, but after that it was either couch surf or back to a hotel..

We pretty much hit gumtree as soon as we got our bearings. Flats or even studios were out of our price rance (less than 200 pounds a week), unless we went out to zone 2 or 3. So we had to find rooms to share with other people. Our initial requirements were an ensuite bathroom and reasonably close to a tube station for less than 200 pounds, but later had to ammend that to either ensuite or transport.

The first place we went to look was in Wilsden Green. This was on Saturday night. Wilsden Green is in Zone two, north-west of central London. After getting a tube to Wilsden Green station we started walking to the place. The first impressions we got was that it was a bad area, poorly maintained and ugly houses, not many shops or people about. Definately a shock from Bayswater or Notting Hill. It was also a long walk from the tube, maybe a kilometre. The actual room was a ceiling space converted to a room, the "ensuite" was a little corner in the attic with the toilet. The other people in house seemed nice, but the room, distance to the tube and the area was bad. That was a easy "no".

Sunday it was back to Gumtree calling places. We probably called 20 or more places, using up quite a lot of credit on our phones. Only about 1/5 of the places did we get go see as they were either already taken (the good ones) or didn't take couples or the people just didn't respond.

On Sunday night we went to Greenwich to see a place to share with an aussie guy. It was quite a hike from the west side, had to take a tube to Canary Wharf, change to the Docklands Light Rail and then walk a long way. Canary Wharf was pretty cool. The whole docklands area is pretty new - and has lots of modern looking high rises.

We got off the DLR at Cutty Sark and walked towards Greenwich. It was a fairly long walk. Got to the apartment, which was quite new, the guy seemed ok, though a bit quiet.. The area wasn't that fancy neither close to Greenwich village or to Canary Wharf.. the walk was a bit too much specially if Chami has to go by herself. Another easy "no".

From there we went back to the south west, to check out a room in North Clapham. It was advertised for 200, with all our requirements, seemed too good to be true. When we got to North Clapham first thing we noticed is that it was a bad area, worse than Wilsden Green. I got a bad feeling about the place. Second we had to walk a long way, about 20 minutes to an even worse area. When we got there we discovered that the room was actually in a housing commission estate!!! All the other apartment blocks around there had security walls with barbed wire and CCTV and security at the gates! Not a good area, I was pretty sure. We walked back without even bothering to check the room. I had a really bad feeling about the place, and the sooner we left there the better, I thought.

Back to looking on Monday, but had trouble keeping track because Chami's phone was constantly ringing due to job agents calling her. We were looking at gumtree and calling places as they were being advertised, to try and get to the top of the queue.

Finally got an appointment to look at a place close to Edgeware Road tube station, at a lot of flats called the Hyde Park Mansions. The agent was a young Aussie guy called Oliver, and the room was a decent sized room at the back of a large apartment with an ensuite. The building was quite old, but in reasonable condition. It had 4 bedrooms and there were 5 other people in there already. We had a quick look around and Chami and I pretty much said "We'll take it!" We were getting sick of looking already and this place had our two main requirements (ensuite and transport), and was in a good location. The price was a bit high - 205 - specially to share with 5 other people, but we didn't want to look any more.

We walked to Baker Street were the Agent's offices were and signed the documents and put in a holding bond. Our accounts didn't actually have any money in them so I had to pull out cash from an ATM. Went back on Thursday to finalise the documents and pick up the key and pay the remaining 1300 pounds in deposit and rent. This was putting quite a dent in my Australian account.. :)

We went to check out the place after and had a better look. The living room and kitchen was a mess, and it wasn't really that great, but our room was ok and we had our own bathroom. It will have to do till we both get jobs. We did some shopping for cleaning products and linen, cleaned the bathroom and got the bed ready.

Moved in on Saturday. Our flatmates are 4 young French guys and one Columbian girl. They are ok, but communication is a bit of an issue. Sharing a kitchen in particular is hard, specially as it's small and quite old. They also happen to smoke, and the living room stinks of smoke, so we don't spend much time out there.. but as I said, will have to do.

Pictures later.

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