Because I found my current flat through a friend who was already living in the building I knew nothing about finding somewhere to rent in London until 3 weeks ago. The tool we used- 'Rightmove' and 'Zoopla' although my personal preference is Rightmove. We went to a total of 2 viewings before finding a flat we really liked- we put down a deposit and started the security checks until it transpired that the landlord was unsure about us (as we are young) and wanted 6 months rent in advance with 3 months worth to be paid before the contracts were signed. At this point the estate agent handling us said don't go any further he's being ridiculous. We made the decision to pull out (retaining our full holding deposit because it was the landlord kicking up a fuss).
The day that this happened was hard. I was at work and handling phone conversations in gaps (luckily my employer was very understanding). The estate agent asked if we wanted to see a different flat that evening that had just come up - her colleague was taking the pictures of it that evening. I went and it was great- new, clean, reasonably sized for a one bedroom, and in our price range. We are currently going through the reference checks for this flat and hoping to move in next weekend.
Things I have learnt:
- Do not assume the deal is done until you have a contract signed and a moving in date
- Get your reference information all lined up before you might want to take something (previous landlord reference, employer letter, character reference)
- If you are moving to start your job make sure your bank statements for the previous 3 months are clean and do not go overdrawn if possible (you will need these to prove financial stability)
- Flat hunting is rather like job hunting- you have to get involved to even stand a chance of getting anywhere but until you have an offer/contract sitting in front of you waiting for your signature there's no guarantee
- Make friends with your estate agent- they have first access to all the new properties in the area you want after all
I will do another post in a few days about ways to make the actual search easier- if all goes to plan myself and the boy only actually had to look at 3 properties to find 2 we could happily have lived in.