Apart from talking about my experiences at work, there’s so much more that comes along that you have to deal with when you live in London or any place that is not home. And one of them is finding a place to live. Oh yes, I’m on a house hunt, if not a job hunt and given my budget constraints, its one of my biggest nightmares.
Quite inured to everything that comes with the whole experience, I know what to expect and the worst being dodgy landlords or sleazy men I can spot from just a telephone conversation miles away. I use websites like spareroom and gumtree but even though they guarantee security to some of the landlords/ advertisers, an important thing is never ignore your gut feeling.
It usually goes like this:
Me: I read about your ad on spareroom and I’m looking to move in two weeks, can I come for a viewing?
Him: Tell me a little bit about yourself
Me: So I go on to introduce myself, what I do for a living , how long I need the place for and the distance and time I need to commute and then I ask for a monthly rent figure instead of a weekly rate
Him: Yeah sure you can come for a viewing. What day and time? Once I meet you and get to know you we can negotiate the price and bring it down?
Me: Sounds good ( but in my head it doesn’t really) So I try to find out a little more about the number of rooms and who else lives there
Him: I’m from Morocco, the other is Russian and one English.
Me: Interesting! And what do they do ?
Him: I’m a real estate agent and the others in hotel industry I think. But mostly it is just me in the house
Me: (In my head, weird. Second clue and doesn’t sound good) So I go on to ask him, where are the others.
Him: Busy, I don’t see them very often. He adds, I really don’t care about the money if you are a nice person, we can work a better price for you. I saw your profile and you seem like a nice person, so I can give you a big discount
Me:(Really this isn’t working) Really how much ?
Him: I will bring it down to half the price, but as I said I can’t take any decision before meeting you
Me: So can my boyfriend visit ?
Him: You have a boyfriend ? And then he quickly goes on to say no boyfriends allowed
Me: Fine, I will have to think about it and get back to you
Him: Yes, but this area is in demand so the place is likely to go off soon
Me: Well obviously I’m not going to tell him this ( but clearly I don’t care) I’m already not thinking about it and its a big no in my head
End of conversation, I don’t bother to go for a viewing. Browsing through the photographs, the place did seem nice and within my limited budget. But from the conversation, I would be asking for trouble if I was to go ahead with the same.
Apart from this, I’ve also spotted several landowners that use their council flats to lease out accommodation. Being a foreigner to this place, I really didn’t know much about this. Council flats are government owned houses given to the jobless or homeless so they basically have a roof above their head. However, not much is known about these houses once they have secured a job or regular income and whether they bother to return it back to the government. On the other hand , they move on to buy other homes and lease out these homes, which they basically don’t even own to make extra money. They are often either found sleeping in the same flat in the hall and the bedroom is on lease and everything is done quite secretly.
I happened to spot one of the owners this way, as he said all dealings are in cash and there will be no paper agreement. He said its all based on trust. And he further went on to support his argument by saying I have an agreement with the university, during the term I give this out for one year and during the summer for three months. Clearly not, and by the looks and sound of it, everything just seemed very odd.
Not so long ago, I watched a BBC documentary on Panorama where Richard Bilton exposed the scam by tracking down council houses that were illegally sublet. And then I thought to myself, here is exactly the man standing right in front of me and I wouldn’t know it until I had visited the place and seen it for myself .
Anyways my hunt goes on, in the hope of finding something within my budget in the next two weeks. In the meanwhile, I will have to weed out all the scam operators, dodgy desperate weirdoes, depressed old women looking for company, who whine about everything right from what you eat to whom you plan to bring home and really hope for the best.