Looking for a new place to live is daunting, stressful and time consuming. Prepare to be disappointed with the quality of the space, the people, and your budget. Especially in big cities like London things move very fast and competition is fierce. This guide is intended for those who decided to rent a room in a property rather than renting an entire place. The good thing is you do not have to deal with an estate agent in this situation (most of the time). Sites like Spareroom, Roombuddies or Gumtree will have plenty of room ads that you can browse through to get a feel for what is out there, and most of the time viewings will be arranged with your future flatmates.
What to look for in a room?
Make a list of the things that are important to you. Do you care about having a shared living room? Do you have any bulky items that have to fit into your room? Do you have your own furniture, can you afford to buy some or is the room fully furnished? Do you mind living with smokers or pets? I used to move with a sewing machine therefore needed desk space, and prioritised working space over wardrobe space. It is important to know what your own prioritise are, rather than having a generic list.
A lot of this will depend on how long you intend to live there and what your budget is. If it’s a short-term space, the little things will matter less, and you should focus on convenience. If you intend to stay there for longer, don’t obsess about the lack of side table, in time you can get yourself one cheaply from a second-hand store.
What questions to ask when viewing?
Always view the room before agreeing to rent it or putting any money down. Viewings will allow you to see how honest the advert was, and ask about things that were not included. Ask for example, about transport links as the owners/inhabitants will have the best information about this. Take your time and get a feel for the place. Try to get a sense of the people you will be living with by asking them where they work and how much time they tend to spend together. By asking such questions you achieve two goals. You seem like a “normal” person interested in others, and you get to find out what everyday living conditions will be like. Make sure you know on what basis you would be renting the room. Is it a sublet or renting from the landlord? What paperwork will be involved? If none, be very suspicious!
Next, focus on the space. If the people did not bother to clean when having viewings, what do you think are the odds of the house being clean on a regular basis? Do you see any signs of mould? The other big factor you should consider is how many people live in the house. Is the kitchen big enough in proportion to all the members of the household? If you cook a lot, ask how much cabinet and fridge space will be available to you. Do not be shy about checking out the bathroom situation and do not kid yourself that men spend less time in bathroom then women.
Most of these considerations vary in importance depending on how easy going you are and how much time you will actually spend in the house. If you work 10 hours a day and like to socialise outside of your home, your bedroom is really the only space that matters. If you work from home the situation is completely different.
How to behave?
Many people treat finding a new flatmate as a popularity contest. I hate this. If the people living in the flat are acting like they are the judges on X factor during a viewing, run! Otherwise be polite and nice, but do not try to hide your actual personality. There is such a thing as being too polite and overly sweet which can be off-putting. When meeting your new potential flatmates treat it like a date, you want to show yourself from your best side, but these people have to like you for yourself, not the Instagram/Facebook version of you and not the prim version of you that appears at job interviews. Think about the kind of household you want to live in (see my guide on Friends Vs Strangers), if it matters to you to get along with your future flatmates than you should not hide important things about yourself. Do you have a pet tarantula? Then tell them straight.
Signs you should run:
1. Flatmates acting like they are the judges on X factor during the viewing.
2. No paperwork/contract/written agreement.
3. Purple lights in the bathroom (I’m not kidding).
4. Basement rooms with no insulation or basement rooms that are fully soundproofed.
If all else fails you can try speedflatmating?