I’m now 99% confident that I have everything sorted out for my new place to live – I’ll be moving sometime in September to Villa Street, Walworth [map], and Helena will join me there from late September. This is in the Camberwell and Peckham constituency, so Harriet Harman will be my new MP – far better than Kate Hoey! The flat I’ve found is run by Octavia Hill Estates / Pathmeads, and is part of a whole area of properties previously owned by the Church Commissioners. Not sure – as an atheist – what to think of that, but when you have little cash and need a good place to live, you can’t be too choosy. The place is a proper 1 bedroom flat, so guests will be welcome – we’ll put a sofa bed in the living room.
OK, I have a place to live in, but what have I learnt from the process of finding a flat?
First, things move super-fast. For the flat I’m moving into, I arranged the viewing at half and hour’s notice on Friday last week, confirmed I wanted to rent it that evening with an answer phone message, and had the credit checks forms sent off first thing on Monday.
Second, price seems to depend a lot on proximity to a tube station. One bedroom flats were out of my budget in Clapham or Brixton, but in Walworth or Camberwell things were more manageable. Walworth is 15 minutes by bike for me from Victoria – could not be better! But maybe my needs are unusual.
Third, estate agent firms vary enormously in quality. Ludlow Thompson wins my prize for the top quality service; the approach of Emmanuel in their Oval office was exemplary. Living-London gave a decent viewing of one property, but did not seem too keen to find me any alternative locations. Keating Estates were remarkably rude on the phone, firing me all sorts of probing questions when all I wanted was the details of one particular flat, and then stating it would not suit me anyway! That’s my choice, not their choice.
Fourth, start searching with Gumtree. It’s simple (but a bit basic) to use, and the sheer quantity of places listed there is remarkable, including private landlords. That way you can avoid the Ã‚Â£120-Ã‚Â£200 admin charge levied by the large estate agents.