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Renting. It's freaking me out a little.
February 28, 2013 8:34 AM   Subscribe

After years living in flatshares, MrMippy and I are moving in together. That part's fine - it's dealing with estate agencies and huge sums of cash that scares me. Help me calm down about it so I can think about how to furnish our flat in peace! (We are in London.)

Like most people our age living in London, we are renting, and probably will be for a very long time (unless I happen to find a Monet in a charity shop), so any flat we are renting needs to be a happy and comfortable home. This means that we are looking for a flat via lettings agencies (more than one person has told me not to touch Gumtree with a long greasy pole and only go through an ARLA-registered agent which will use the deposit scheme etc, which is what we are doing.)

Here's what's making me panic a little:
- rather than the £500 or so deposit and first months' rent for a flatshare as I've been paying since 2005, I'm going to have to give them six weeks' deposit, a month's rent and associated costs for fees (sadly, unlike Scotland, they get to charge us for referencing, 'check out' and the contract, which adds up to about a week's rent). The money is ready to go, but it's more money than I've ever spent on something in my life. As in, we could probably buy a used car (and presumably live in it) with this kind of money, even with the area we are looking in being very cheap for London. This makes me feel certain something is going to go horribly wrong. And if we don't like it? We'll need to have that handy again before we can move.

- MrMippy is a lodger, but his landlord's girlfriend is moving in, so while a notice period is given, there could be a little flexibility. I am also a lodger, but my landlord will want to let the room as close to when I move out as possible- so once my month's notice is given, I'm leaving. Is it wise to give notice once your initial deposit is paid, or only once the referencing/checks have gone through? (There's no reason why we shouldn't pass, but I have seen many stories of people being asked for a guarantor regardless of income, or a month's advance rent being raised to two because there's something they don't like in the referencing process.) I can't really pay two rents at once.

- Agencies so far have been astonishingly unprofessional. I've had people deny that appointments have been made, try and get me to agree to a 10 minute slot to view a flat alongside other people, tell me I need to make an earlier appointment as 'someone is very interested already', and in one case, reply to my polite enquiry e-mail with something that looks like a 12yr old's text message. Basically, they're not doing a very good job of trying to convince us to give them money. I also have a very low tolerance for being patronised by people less intelligent or competent than myself - my job involves challenging claims and working out when people are clearly hiding the truth - so it's going to be hard to remain polite as one should. Can agents generally be expected to be awful, and is agent behaviour always a good indication fo how the flat will turn out? (In fairness, one place we are seeing on Saturday had a very pleasant person dealing with me, which is positive.)

- Flats seem to go within days of being advertised, and several I've enquired about have already been let despite being up on RightMove/Zoopla. Despite me being pretty desperate to move out of where I live, we don't want to rush into anything. How much time can we expect to take to think things over?

- What if the walls are made of fondant icing and melt in the rain? What if it all goes horribly wrong and the boiler breaks?

If you have any tips for furnishing a flat from scratch as well - as in, any products which hit the sweet spot between budget and durability - then this is welcome.
posted by mippy to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know if I can lay to rest all of your worries, but I can have a go at some of them. My creds: moved to London a year ago, went from lodging in a shared flat to renting a lovely 3 bed house in Tottenham.

rather than the £500 or so deposit and first months' rent for a flatshare as I've been paying since 2005, I'm going to have to give them six weeks' deposit, a month's rent and associated costs for fees

Yeah, this is the suckiest part. Fortunately you don't (generally) have to give them the biggest chunk until after you've signed the papers and are on the way to moving in. Just make sure you've investigated every nook and cranny of the place you pick and you should be okay. Otherwise, it's a necessary hurdle you're going to have to climb over.

Is it wise to give notice once your initial deposit is paid, or only once the referencing/checks have gone through?

I gave final notice once the referencing had gone through, since it was the most complicated part of the process and dragged out far too long. My former landlords were fantastic and insisted on not letting me give notice until I was sure I had somewhere to go. Ymmv. I would say to wait, though, if you can, just in case.

Can agents generally be expected to be awful, and is agent behaviour always a good indication fo how the flat will turn out?

Yes and no. The agent we dealt with to get our current place writes his emails as if he's repeatedly banging his shoe against the keyboard. The agency itself is pretty shambolic and they dragged their feet with the paperwork, but the place we found is fantastic and a great bargain so we swallowed our misgivings. We've only had to deal with them once or twice since we moved in, so it's not too bad. My advice: try to find a middle ground. Oh, and don't, whatever you do, use Foxtons. Not even once.
posted by fight or flight at 9:01 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Flats seem to go within days of being advertised, and several I've enquired about have already been let

It might be different, but in many cities in the US (San Francisco, New York, Boston) apartments are rented within hours of being listed. You don't get time to think it over at all, you basically have to know whether you want it or not. I've always found it helpful to have a checklist of desired qualities/problems and bring it with me when I visit--that is, a sort of spreadsheet listing things like "gas stove" "carpet" "mold around sink" "garden" "porch", etc etc and make notes while you're there. And photos. Lots of photos. This all helps me make a quicker decision on whether it meets my criteria or not.

The money is ready to go, but it's more money than I've ever spent on something in my life.

Coughing up first/last/security/fees etc is absolutely the worst part of renting. But you may be able to get a lot of it back before you move in to your next place, so some of it is a one-time cost. If the deposit is for damages, document everything and you will hopefully get that back. And you'll have to pay rent for that last month no matter what, so that comes out in the wash anyways.

- What if the walls are made of fondant icing and melt in the rain? What if it all goes horribly wrong and the boiler breaks?

Ideally, this should be in the lease.
posted by epanalepsis at 9:20 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I lived in London 2004-3006 so not entirely up-to-date, but

Despite me being pretty desperate to move out of where I live, we don't want to rush into anything.

Attractive (location, size, price) flats move very quickly so you too have to be ready to move quickly. Like when you see the place if you like it you need to be ready to say "I'll take it" and put the money down.

This makes me feel certain something is going to go horribly wrong.

More likely things will go partially wrong and you can manage with that.

Is it wise to give notice once your initial deposit is paid, or only once the referencing/checks have gone through?

Wait. The worst thing is to be on the street. If you have to pay rent for two places for a few weeks, this is expensive insurance, but insurance all the same.

Mind that you will also have to pay council tax, deposits for gas and electric (if you don't have a history) in addition to weekly rent so the costs of renting are higher than you imagine.

Good luck. I loved living in London. but it was damned expensive and I was not unhappy to leave.
posted by three blind mice at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2013


I've been renting in London for 14 years now, so I've (sadly) got some experience in this area:

rather than the £500 or so deposit and first months' rent for a flatshare as I've been paying since 2005, I'm going to have to give them six weeks' deposit, a month's rent and associated costs for fees

Yes, this is quite standard now - once upon a time it was 4 weeks rent as a deposit, but in the last few years that's turned into 6 weeks rent and sometimes even 8. There's sadly little you can do about this - London rental is a seller's (landlord's) market.

That £500 'holding' deposit sounds high to me though - in my experience it's generally around a week's rent, but maybe that's around your budget? The referencing, credit checking, miscellaneous bullshit fees are also sadly unavoidable unfortunately.


Is it wise to give notice once your initial deposit is paid, or only once the referencing/checks have gone through?

I would wait until the checks are done - once that's happened there's not much reason to worry that you'll somehow lose the flat.


Can agents generally be expected to be awful

Yes - they are the absolute scum of the earth, and in 14 years and something like 18 moves, I've never met an estate agent I wouldn't gladly set on fire. Remember that in this situation you're the product being sold to the landlord, not the client - lettings agents exist to get trouble-free tenants into properties as quickly and paying as much rent as possible.


and is agent behaviour always a good indication fo how the flat will turn out?

Not really in my experience - the best flat I ever had was through the worst estate agent in the world (Foxtons), although they did of course scam me for the deposit when I moved out (although that was before the deposit protection scheme that's now standard).

My best rental experiences have always been with private landlords, found through Gumtree or back in the day, Loot, so I wouldn't rule that out at all. The estate agent weasels do constantly flood Gumtree with fake ads though, so finding private lets is more difficult now.


Flats seem to go within days of being advertised, and several I've enquired about have already been let despite being up on RightMove/Zoopla. Despite me being pretty desperate to move out of where I live, we don't want to rush into anything. How much time can we expect to take to think things over?

This can vary hugely in my experience, largely depending on the state of the property market, but sometimes seemingly for no reason at all - I've seen places go within hours of being advertised, other times I've ended up renting places that have sat on the market for a month.

My advice though would be to be prepared to make an offer on the spot if you view somewhere you like. The standard pattern for me has been to be reasonably selective/picky, spent two weeks looking at flats every evening and weekend, and then either find somewhere I like enough to immediately offer on, or run out of time and end up renting the first place I see that isn't entirely terrible. So don't wait around, make an offer - otherwise someone like me, clapped out and desperate, will be viewing it 20 minutes later, chequebook in hand.


What if the walls are made of fondant icing and melt in the rain? What if it all goes horribly wrong and the boiler breaks?

This will be covered in your tenants agreement - your landlord is responsible for upkeep and maintaining the property, and if they fail in their obligations you can break the lease and leave. You should always have a 6 month break clause in your lease as well so you can pack up and move on if for some reason the place doesn't work for you.



So yes, renting in London is tough, but good places for reasonable (London) prices do exist, and it's still an amazing place to live. Overall my advice would be to madly refresh Gumtree and Zoopla as much as possible, and be prepared to view flats every night, weekend, lunchtime, etc, and move quickly when you do find somewhere you like. And remember, you're not buying the place, so you've always got the option to move again in no more than 6 months if you need to.
posted by influx at 12:09 PM on February 28, 2013


Hello - MrM doesn't currently live in London, and so many agencies don't do evening viewings, which is a pain.

Epanalepsis - here you don't get your deposit back until you leave the property, sometimes a few weeks later. You can't just forfeit the last month's rent, and in many cases are expected to have the place professionally cleaned and pay an inventory fee before the process begins.
posted by mippy at 2:57 PM on February 28, 2013


We had some good luck flat hunting through MoveFlat without having to deal with estate agents.
posted by tallus at 12:05 AM on March 1, 2013


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