Should I book this flat in London, or keep looking?
January 16, 2010 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Traveling from the US to the UK - I'll be spending the month of May in London on a working holiday, and I'm in the process of looking for a flat, but I'm flailing a bit and could use some advice.

Okay, so I perused the holiday rentals online and sent inquiries on several properties, and after searching for a couple of weeks, I settled on a flat that I like in Chelsea via, (Google tells me that the site seems to have a pretty good rep). I've exchanged emails with the agent, and I will probably book within the next two weeks. My only hesitation is that this is a pretty big expense, and while I'm fine with that in general, I want to make sure that I won't be scammed, and that I'm not missing out on other great places that should be considered.

I have friends in London who are happy to take a look at the flat for me (and the agent offered to show it), but it is occupied until the end of February, and I expect May to be booked by then. I don't want to miss out because I'm being overly cautious, but I don't want to book the flat and then arrive only to find that something has gone wrong.

This is the flat - aside from the bad art on the walls, I like it (fwiw, it is located on Oakley Street should anyone care to do a street view).

Should I just book? Are there key questions that I should ask the agent? Should I keep looking? I would love any anecdotal experiences/advice that you can offer.
posted by mewithoutyou to Travel & Transportation around London, England (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure that the agent can't show it when it is occupied? The agent might be able to contact the current residents so that your friend could pop by and make sure it is okay.
posted by mmmbacon at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2010

I don't clearly recall this street, though I must have walked down it on various occasions. I'm sure you realise this is in one of the more expensive areas of London. Not far away from Oakley St is Cheyne Walk for example.

Just before pressing post, I've realised that you quite likely have picked this place because it's close to your work or maybe your friend's houses, so apologies for the ramble below if that's the case.

When I worked in London I spent too long commuting to and from work stuck either on tubes, trains or buses and you have a perfect chance to avoid all of that. So have a look at the links below and see how long it'd take you from this apartment to your work and to where your friends live.

London tube+bus journey planner and also similar for overground railway but covering the whole of the UK.

Still considering travel, but on the plus side for this apartment, from Sloane Sq tube it's 1 stop to Victoria station which has lots of overground trains (taking 30 mins or so) to Gatwick (2nd biggest) airport and also trains to the Sussex coast. So if you fancied a weekend out of the country or a day trip to the sea it'd be pretty good for that.

If I were in your position, considering the rent you can pay, I'd pick somewhere very close to where I was going to be working - I'd go for within walking distance and also closer to a tube station than 15mins if at all possible.

Also a stray thought, have you enquired on the longterm rates for a stay in a hotel? I have no idea what kind of discount a central London hotel might give for a months stay and perhaps you'd rather not live in a hotel for a month anyway which I can understand.
posted by selton at 3:31 PM on January 16, 2010

Best answer: The company seems to be reputable. Records at Companies House show its accounts are filed up to date and there are no pending petitions against it. They're associated with, which is the UK's biggest property website.

The flat looks nice. Of course, in London, and particularly Chelsea, it'll be eye-wateringly expensive, but it'll be a good centrally-located base to explore London (and to come to meetups!)
posted by essexjan at 3:34 PM on January 16, 2010

Whereabouts are you going to be working?
posted by i_cola at 3:35 PM on January 16, 2010

I have used these people before without problem. They are close to Queensway and Bayswater tube and near buses. Not cheap but less than yours.
posted by TheRaven at 3:43 PM on January 16, 2010

Response by poster:
Hey, thanks everyone! To follow up:

mmmbacon - She didn't offer to show it while it's occupied, so I'm going with no on that.

selton - Thank you for the links! I'm remote, so I'll be working out of my flat (I can work/live anywhere, essentially, as long as they have wireless). I like Chelsea but I'm definitely open to other areas. Living where shopping/dining/pubs/tube stops are within walking distance is the important part. I have looked at a couple of hotels mentioned in past AskMe posts, and the rates are pretty similar. I like the idea of having a kitchen (daily maid service would be nice though).

essexjan - Thank you so much for your sleuthing work, that's essentially what I was looking to find out, but didn't really know how to go about it. Yay meetups!

i_cola - I'll be working in my flat, so I can live anywhere - suggestions welcome!

TheRaven - Thanks for the link! I'm checking them out now.

I'm going to take another week or so to follow any advice that I get, so I still have time to choose a different location.
posted by mewithoutyou at 4:07 PM on January 16, 2010

Is the listing with a reputable agency that your friends can verify? If they can't view the apartment, can they at least meet the agent in person at an agency office just to be sure it's all legit? Can you get references from others who have stayed in the apartment?

I would urge a lot of caution. I have no direct experience with the listing service in question, but we recently rented short term accommodation in London and I can say that there are a lot of scams and dishonest listings here. We ended up exchanging emails with dodgy-sounding landlords and looked at a few places that were not at all like they were advertised (photos did not match the unit at all). I would be careful about putting down a deposit on anything that you or your friend can't view first. If you do, make sure you use a credit card, so you can potentially dispute fraudulent charges.

We had a good experience with Roomarama. They act as a middle-man between you and the landlord. Your deposit is held in escrow until you arrive and give a security code to the owner/agent at check-in. The service costs a little more, but I think the peace of mind is worth it.
posted by amusebuche at 4:11 PM on January 16, 2010

Best answer: Wow mewithoutyou you're very lucky to work from home. You asked for ideas about other areas to look at and this is my completely biased opinion.

If I were to live anywhere in London again I'd choose Richmond and only partly because it's close to Kew Gardens (see below).

Richmond is, same as Chelsea, very close to the river Thames but further out of the centre of London to the South West. It has good, quick transport links (tube & also overground trains) to central London and a really nice feel to the place. I'd imagine it's not as expensive as Chelsea, not far behind, but it's a lot more relaxed and relaxing.

As I already hinted, from the main shopping area it's walkable to the Royal Botanical Gardens normally just known as Kew Gardens (there's also a tube station of the same name). A warm summers afternoon lazing around in Kew Gardens is fantastic. Anyway no matter where you live in London if you have a free afternoon on a warm day head off there.

'Kew' pronounced the same as 'queue'
posted by selton at 5:20 PM on January 16, 2010

Response by poster: amusebuche - Good point - she is apparently a reputable agent and I will check to see if she'll meet with my friends at her office. My other thought is to have them go to the address and at least have a look at the exterior. I will definitely be booking with a credit card. Roomorama looks great, I've made some inquiries tonight - thanks!

selton - Thank you, thank you for the advice. Richmond looks lovely (I'm checking for flats there now) and I'll definitely spend time at Kew Gardens.
posted by mewithoutyou at 10:15 PM on January 16, 2010

Oakley St is in ther heart of Chelsea. It's a nice area. There are great shops and bars very nearby, and you're a five minute walk from Battersea Park.

It is a 10 minute walk to Sloane Square tube, and about the same to South Kensington. It's decently central. There are regular buses night and day if you don't feel like walking.

Although I like Richmond, I wouldn't live there is you think you're going to spend much time in the centre of London. If you need green space you have Battersea Park. You can actually get to Kew direct on the boat from Cadogan Pier (right at the bottom of Oakley St).

One thing to note: Oakley St is busy-ish - in that it leads to a bridge and carries traffic from the Chelsea embankment to the Kings Rd. Make sure the flat has double glazing or it will be noisy.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:51 AM on January 17, 2010

The location is pretty good for your purposes I think. The only potential downside is that the road is pretty busy. As per MuffinMan check for double glazing/whether the rooms face directly onto the road.
posted by zemblamatic at 3:06 AM on January 17, 2010

Best answer: Slightly late to the party but...

OK, after some mild digging off your profile I don't think you're a Chelsea (and def. not Richmond) person. I'm thinking Camden/Kentish Town area. Great for bands & nightlife, easy access to central London and you're next to Nick Hornby country (Islington/Holloway). Nicely placed between Hampstead Heath & Regents Park for greenery & space. Overground train to Kew is approx. 35 mins.

If you want to go more upmarket (a la Chelsea) then Primrose Hill (sometime haunt of the Kate Moss to Liam Gahllager crowd) next to Camden is your thing.

So you're out in London at the are you getting home? How much will it cost in a taxi? Can you walk? When's the last tube/train? Do you have to negotiate the Night Bus when the tube is done for the night (last tube to Richmond is 12.35am...two buses and an hour journey after that.)
posted by i_cola at 4:17 AM on January 18, 2010

posted by i_cola at 4:23 AM on January 18, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, so much. I actually feel a lot more prepared and less flaily now!
posted by mewithoutyou at 9:44 AM on January 18, 2010

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