Finding a new flat is a real struggle. It’s even worse when you have to be out of your flat within a few weeks because your landlord is selling the place… But unfortunately, from what I heard and experienced, it seems to happen a lot in London.
I was actually in this situation the past few weeks! (Yes, July has been a tough month)
Not fun… at all… I had 2 weeks to find a new flat. Challenge accepted! (I didn’t have the choice anyway you’d tell me!)
I learned so many things with all the movings I have done in my life, so I wanted to share a few tips and advice with you on how to find a new flat quickly. It might help someone who is in the same situation now, so don’t hesitate to share this post!
The best websites you should check to find a new flat.
No matter if you are looking for a room in a flatshare or a private flat for yourself, the websites I found below let you apply filters to narrow down the search to what you are looking for exactly and in the area you want.
1. Spareroom: Spareroom is probably the best option if you are looking for a flatshare. There are also some options for one or two bedrooms flat (private landlords generally use Spareroom when they don’t want to rent the flat they have through an agency). So you should check it if you want to avoid agencies (and their agency fees).
However, I would advise buying the Early bird access on Spareroom. The problem I encountered with Spareroom is that the nicest rooms (and newest ones) are most of the time on early bird access only, which means that you can’t contact the person who put the advert before a certain amount of time. Most of the time, the room is gone by the time you get free access to it (as you can imagine, the nicest rooms always go first!).
I tried to use both the free access and the early bird access and believe me, it makes such a difference! You should definitely get the early bird access! Spareroom gives you the possibility to buy it for a week or two only, which is generally enough to find a room.
When I used it, I bought 10 days of early bird access and contacted all the rooms I was interested in but couldn’t contact before. I tried to have as many viewings as I could every day and used the weekend for this as well. I tried to use the 10 days as efficiently as possible! And it worked! I found a flat within the 5 first days after I subscribed.
2. Zoopla: Zoopla is one of my favorites! The filters (price of the rent, number of rooms, area, etc.) make it really easy to narrow down your research for the perfect flat. Finding information on a room or a flat on the page is like a piece of cake (everything is really intuitive and user-friendly) and connecting with the agencies/landlords is pretty straightforward: you just have to click the button, write your message and press send. You can find here everything from a room to a flat share to a full house, you can find places to rent and even places to buy.
What I also love about Zoopla is that you generally can also see a Floorplan of the flat and if you scroll down the page, you will also find a break down of the total cost of the flat (which helps to have a better idea of the final amount you’ll have to pay). On this graphic, you can see a break down as follows: Rent, Energy, Water, sometimes Council tax (not always, so make sure to double check) and eventually the home insurance.
This website is from far my favorite! It’s easy to use and really user-friendly. I emailed a lot of agencies through this website and most of them replied and we organized a viewing for the flat they were featuring. You also have access to the phone number of the agencies on Zoopla, which can be quite useful in some cases.
3. Rightmove: Rightmove is my second favorite website for a flat search. Here again, you can look for both flatshares and one bedroom flats to rent or to buy.
Here again, you can filter with the price of the rent, the number of rooms, the area, the property type, the added date to the site, etc. Once you found the dream property, it’s really easy to organize a viewing or contact the agency. The website is here as well very intuitive, user-friendly, so it’s really easy to use.
What I love on Rightmove is that you can also send the property to someone, add it to your favorites, print it (if you want to take it with you for the viewing) or even add notes to it (like questions to ask during the viewings, your thoughts on the flat after the viewing, etc.)
I used it to contact agencies a lot as well, but in comparison to Zoopla, I didn’t get as many answers (compared to the number of messages I sent). The agencies were not as responsive on this website than Zoopla. But don’t get me wrong, I got some nice viewings from Rightmove as well! I just found it harder to get answers from agencies.
4. Primelocation: Primelocation is also an option if you are looking for a flat to rent or buy. I did check on Primelocation when I was searching for a new flat, but I noticed that most of the flats I found were also on the websites I previously mentioned (Zoopla and Rightmove). So is it really worth it? I don’t know. I didn’t find it useful and didn’t contact anyone from there. BUT it’s an option as well.
The website itself is quite similar to Rightmove. The filters you can use for your research are the same. The only difference is that you can add keywords like “garage”, “garden”, etc.
The contact form is on the bottom of the advert you’re looking into instead of being on the sidebar (you have to scroll all the way down).
5. OpenRent: Openrate is for renting only! It connects tenants and landlords. It’s quite similar to Spareroom. However, the website posts its adverts also on Zoopla, Rightmove and Primelocation. I didn’t contact any flat from this website because I found it after I found Zoopla and Rightmove already. I personally didn’t see the point on using it as I found the advert in the others websites already, but maybe you will prefer this website to the ones I listed above.
I also thought that the website doesn’t list a lot of flats. In comparison to the other website above, the listing is quite small. I had the impression that it was also containing the options that were a bit more expensive. I found cheaper flats on the other sites.
However, I have to admit that the layout of the website itself is really well done! You have a map on the top of the search, so you can visualize the location of the flats you like straight away.
How to get ready for a flat viewing
I would definitely recommend you to prepare all the information you have on the flat and take them with you when you go to the viewing.
By experience, I can tell you that sometimes you request to see a flat, the agency organizes the viewing and you end up seeing a completely different flat! It happened to me a few months ago, when I requested to view a flat with an affordable rent (in my budget!). I ended up seeing a different flat.
The flat was really great but I was under the impression that it looked different from the pictures. When I double checked the information of the flat (rent, deposit, etc.) with the agent, all of the sudden, the rent was 300£ more. I mentioned that it’s not the information I had found on the website. His answer? This flat is the one upstairs, but unfortunately, it’s no longer available.
Lesson of the day: always double check your information with the agent DURING the viewing.
This is why it’s important for you to make sure to prepare all the information you want to double check with the agent/landlord during the viewing.
The easiest way is to prepare a summary with the price of the rent, the price of the council tax, the move in date, if the flat/room is furnished or not, amount of the deposit, etc.
I would also add the address, the time of the viewing, the contact name and details on the same paper as soon as I book the viewing. This way you can make sure that you have the right information about the flat associated with the right address and the right viewing time. Believe me, it’s a real lifesaver when you have 5 viewings or more a day!
To make it easier for you, I have a little freebie for you further down this post!
Once you’re ready, make sure to check how to arrive on time for the viewing (and don’t forget the summary with the information!). Now it’s time for the viewing. Here is what you should check and ask.
What you should check and ask during the viewing.
During a viewing, it’s easy to get excited and check the rooms, the furniture and the location, but don’t forget to check the following as well:
– the cleanliness of the flat (Is it clean? Does it smell good? Is their moist somewhere in the ceiling or in the corners or near the windows?)
– the temperature of the flat (Is it hot? Is it cold? Can you feel drafts near the windows? Is the flat well insulated?)
– the bathroom (Is there a window? Is there a ventilation system? Any moist in the corner, on the ceiling or in the shower? Is anything broken?)
– the noise (Can you hear the neighbors? Is the flat soundproof? Can you hear the cars outside if the windows are closed?). I would also check the windows as I already had the problem to be interested in a flat to only figure out later that the windows were broken (the agent pulled the curtains in front of it the first time I saw the flat). Luckily, I requested to see the flat a second time with my boyfriend and we saw the windows were broken.
– the area (On your way, did you feel safe walking in the streets around? Are there shops around? Good connections by bus, tube or train?)
– enough storage (do you have enough space to store your belongings? Is the wardrobe big enough for your clothes? Will you also have enough space in the kitchen?
– the appliance (Are all of the electrical appliances functional? Do they look new or old?)
During the viewing, you should also ask questions to the agent or landlord. Make sure that you don’t have any questions or doubts left when you leave the flat.
When I’m seeing a flat, I will always ask about:
– the information that I have from the advert: the first thing I would check is to make sure that all the information I have is correct. Double check the price of the rent, the price of the deposit, the move in date, etc.
– the deposit: You should always ask if your deposit will be secure in a deposit protection scheme (as required by the law in the UK). The landlord/agent has to confirm that it will be handled with legally (if not, then it’s up to you if you want to take the risk of not getting your deposit back… I personally wouldn’t play with fire!)
– the Wifi: Is the broadband included? do you have to install it yourself? If yes, is there already a box in the flat?
– How much is the council tax for the flat you are viewing?
– If the bills are not included, how much are they approximately? (in order for you to have a better idea of the final amount of the monthly rent)
– I also always ask what furniture is staying in the flat (the current tenant might own some of the furniture you will see, so double check what will stay if you move in)
– I would also ask about the heating (Is it central heating? electric heating?)
– I recommend you to also ask who you have to contact in case something breaks (if one of the appliances stops working, who is the contact person and make sure that it won’t be charged to you)
– By experience, I would also suggest you to ask if it’s ok to have family or friends coming over to visit. Some landlords are fine with it, but some others required to be informed in advance and you have to pay an extra charge per day for the person coming (to cover for the electricity, water and the stay).
– Finally, ask if the landlord/agent requires any references and if yes, which ones (so you can prepare everything quickly after the viewing if you liked the flat)
If you are interested in the flat, don’t hesitate to put an offer on it at the end of the viewing (tell the landlord/agent that you liked the flat)! In this case, you might be asked to pay a holding deposit (which should then be deduced from the deposit of the flat you have to pay). Flats (or rooms) are going and coming fairly quickly, so make sure that you’re not left with nothing!
Let’s imagine that you liked a flat and told the landlord/agent that you are interested in it. Before you leave, make sure that you have all the information you need and you know what are the next steps in the renting process (what references do they need? what paperwork needs to be done? when can you move in? etc.)
Now let’s talk seriously! I have a little present for you! I know that finding a new flat is complicated enough, so I want to make the whole journey easier for you! You remember I told you to prepare a summary of the information of the flat and get your questions ready? Well, here you go! Click here to enter your email address to subscribe to my mailing list and get access to your freebie!!!
Small preview of your “Prepare a viewing” sheet:
What you should do after the viewing
After the viewing, I would send an email to the contact person (the agent or landlord who did the viewing) summarizing everything that has been said and what has been agreed.
In this email, I would mention the address, the move in date, the price of the rent, the deposit (protected in a protection scheme), etc.
At the end of the email, ask the person to confirm that everything is correct and confirm what the next steps are (if nothing has agreed yet). If necessary, ask for the bank detail to pay the holding deposit in this email.
If the landlord/agent already told you that they need some documents, I would send them straight away in this email.
Here you go! Ready to deal with the admin part of the renting and move in! I hope this bunch of information was useful to you and will help you in your flat hunt. I’m now a bit curious, so I have some questions for you:
What was your worst experience in finding a new flat?
Let me know in the comment below!
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