Life in London

The Ups and Downs of Flat-hunting in London

Here we are now, nearly at the end of our second week of flat-hunting. This week has mostly been a week of decisions and waiting rather than viewing flats. At the end of last week we paid a deposit on a flat we were interested in. Then it was a matter of waiting to see if we were approved and if the landlord was happy for us to have a six month lease. Earlier this week, we changed our minds and decided to go with one of the first flats we saw. There were a few reasons – it has a significantly larger bedroom, a nicer kitchen, double-glazed windows and is closer to a large supermarket. It is a bit further to the train station, but it’s a ten minute walk as opposed to a five minute walk, so it’s not exactly far.

So on Tuesday, we went to the real estate agent for the first flat to pay a deposit and put things in motion. We then had to call the real estate agent for the flat we’d already applied for, to cancel the application and see about getting our deposit back. We didn’t expect to get back the fee for referencing and credit checking.

The agent told us it was unlikely we would get any of the deposit back as the landlord had approved the lease, although nobody had actually told us that.  I’m not sure why that makes any difference, but apparently it does.

However, when we called the agent the next day, he told us we would get the entire deposit back! I guessed they hadn’t started the referencing process yet because they’d been waiting on the landlord’s approval for the six month contract. (We can’t have a six month contract with the new flat, but decided the positives outweigh that, and it’s in a good enough location that it’s unlikely we will get jobs too far away.) So we went from slightly terrified that we were going to lose the whole 550 pounds to over the moon that we were actually getting the whole lot back!

We penciled in an appointment for Friday with the new agent to sign contracts and make the rest of the payment and move in. However, we hit another hurdle – transferring money to the UK. We have UK bank accounts, but hadn’t yet transferred money into them. We each have one free money transfer through 1st Contact and wanted to make the most of that. So last week, Andre went online to change our maximum daily withdrawal limit on our Australian bank account. By Tuesday, it still hadn’t taken effect. So we used Andre’s free transfer to at least transfer the most we could at that point, and waited for the limit change to take effect.

The reason this was such a problem is that as we don’t have jobs, real estate agents require 6 months’ rent in advance. Normally it’s one month’s rent, plus a bond of 6 weeks’ rent which you get back at the end of your lease if everything is ok. We can afford the 6 months’ rent, but it was more that we could transfer under our lower daily limit.

Yesterday, the limit changed, and we used my transfer to transfer the rest of the money we wanted in our UK accounts. This was likely to take up to 3 working days to go through though, meaning we would not be able to pay our 6 months’ rent on Friday in order to move in. So today, we called the real estate agent to say we wouldn’t be able to pay it tomorrow, and would need to reschedule for Tuesday, which he was fine with. I was able to extend our stay at Carr-Saunders Hall until Sunday, but had to book another hotel for Sunday til Tuesday as students move back in here next week.

And then later this afternoon, we received notification that Andre’s first transfer had cleared. When we checked the account, it looked like too much money. And we realised MY transfer, from yesterday, had cleared. We received emails saying both payments have cleared, but Andre’s isn’t in the account yet. We’ll give it til tomorrow before calling 1st Contact, but even with my transfer alone, we’d be able to pay the 6 months rent.

We called the real estate agent at 2 past 5 and the receptionist answered, and was able to reschedule us for tomorrow afternoon! So provided everything else goes ok, tomorrow we should be moving in to our own flat! We will have mobile internet but might not be online much until we can get internet to the flat. Might have to find a good pub nearby with free WiFi!


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