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24th Feb 2013 9:58am | By Michael Gadd
Finding a place to crash in London is something of an art. Let TNT be your guide
Getting a decent room in a not too crappy place/area should be easy, right? Wrong.
Sharehouse hunting in London is a bitch, as I knew too well and encountered again after my house got the better of me (a power cut when I was grossly hungover was the final straw) and I had to bail.
It was always going to be a mission but, after choosing the place before on the people alone (they remain lovely but the house wasn’t for me), this time I vowed to do it right.
My first London house hunt was time wasting personified. I didn’t know where I wanted to live – everywhere had ups and downs – so ended up traipsing about looking at places I’d never bother with now.
This time, having looked at dumps and places out of my league before, I knew what I wanted and used landmarks and criteria to break the list down.
I wanted to be within 30 minutes of my fave pub, which happened to be convenient for mates and a short hop from work. I also didn’t want to live with hipsters, teens, or in a place without a living room.
What I did want was a home with decent kitchen storage space, and within a 10-minute walk of the Tube – I didn’t mind which direction.
I also conceded, as anyone with a budget must, that I would have to compromise somewhere along the line.
If you think about all of this stuff before you even start looking – same applies for those looking to fill a room – you’ll save everyone a lot of time.
What we did before property websites was time-consuming chaos.
Sites such as easyroommate.co.uk (“number one on the web”) and spareroom.co.uk (“the UK’s number one”), which I found most useful, are brilliant if you fully utilise their features, such as instant email alerts when a room within your criteria is posted.
Their search functions are logical – commute distance from Tubes, travel zones, number of bedrooms, etc – and they give you a chance to show your personality and get an idea of who is advertising a room, provided they’ve taken the time to say.
You can use them for free, but the perks of paying a small fee – jumping the queue, basically – is worth it if you’re struggling.
Gumtree or Craigslist can be fine, and are free, but aren’t as closely monitored or easy to navigate as the others.
You may get lucky with an old-fashioned “room for let” sign on a notice board, but be very wary of scams.
My original Spareroom ad had the bare minimum detail and got a response it deserved, a stack of calls from pushy agents for dumps with no living room and where those who I’d be sharing with had no say in the process.
Precisely what I didn’t want. Then I posted a photo and injected a bit of detail, such as likes and dislikes, where I’m from and that I’m not going anywhere else soon, and specified ‘no agents’ and a preference to meet those I may be living with on inspection.
The contacts flooded in. And this time, the vast majority were from people with something close to what I was looking for.
But the best example of someone getting what they wanted from their ad was Max Sendak and his mates, who were looking to fill a room in Limehouse.
It was cheap at £412pcm, so would be popular anyway, but their headline, “Billionaire vigilante seeks additional flatmate”, got extra attention.
The rest of the ad was just as amusing, especially their most excellent graphic and superhero references (see illustration above). It also had good info about the three guys who lived there – self-deprecating in a trendy kind of way.
These guys were not my cup of tea at all, but from the ad alone I knew that – perfect result for both parties.
As suspected, Sendak got a cracking response: “We found five people we’d have gone for in the end – so the decision-making process was tough.”
They also posted a normal ad, but the wacky one got 10 times the interest and from “people who were more our type”.