"It’s impossible to rent an even half-way decent flat in London for
under £100 per person per week" stated a rather smug London-based
friend of mine. Being new to the capital I was inclined to believe
him…lets face it, sometimes it seems impossible to find a pint for
However, it was a challenge and one I was going to have to meet if my
two flatmates and I were going to be able to live here. Plus, you are
always hearing urban legends: "A friend of mine is paying £85 a week in
Notting Hill." Or "My brother pays £75 in Camden." And "My boyfriend
pays £5.27 in Mayfair" – some of them must be true.
The first challenge, of course, is choosing an area – London is far too
vast to just go house hunting. The decisions are endless: do I pay less
on rent but more on travel and time; am I prepared to go south of the
river; where is good to hang out? Our decision of Shoreditch/Bethnal
Green fitted the bill –the cheapness of an East Finchley or a
Walthamstow but in Zone 1 and with loads of action right on the
It would seem an easy decision to make but for the constant attempts by
estate agents to change your mind:
Agent: I’ve got a lovely property for you in Shadwell.
Me: But I’m not looking in Shadwell.
Agent: You really should see it.
The only purpose going to view this property served was to confirm my
desire not to live in Shadwell!
Over the past 10 years every estate agent in the city has been
searching for ‘the new Islington’ and will be desperate to convince you
that an area is ‘on the up.’ This tends to mean it is currently a
shit-hole. Whilst investing in property in Bow, Stratford or Elephant
and Castle might be a good idea, if you are only renting then the only
benefits when the Tuscan deli, Café Rouge and 10 variants of Starbucks
arrive will be a doubling of your rent. You need to be able to live
there now…not in 10 years time!
Even though most estate agents will tell you that you can only really
offer on rentals a couple of weeks before you want to move, it is worth
putting in some ground work. Getting to know your area, what you should
be getting for your money and the local estate agents is vital if you
are to get the best deal.
The Internet is a great starting point for this. Websites such as
findaproperty.co.uk, rightmove.co.uk and thisislondon.co.uk are all
useful. However, they’re rarely up to date and you will find most of
the property has gone when you contact the agent. There are also
constant inaccuracies (especially on thisislondon) which led me to
viewing a lovely 2 bed flat and asking a bewildered agent where the
other room was. We also saw a property that wasn’t £300pw but £300,000
The internet is great for the groundwork – finding estate agents
without wandering aimlessly around your area, getting a feel for the
market without traipsing through flat after flat and seeing the
property before a viewing. However, it still seems as though the world
of property relies very much on old technology. Even the SMS systems
that I encountered were crap – 4 bed, Whitechapel £520. Yes, thank you,
that fits all my criteria!
So eventually it was just down to spending our Saturdays being driven
around in Ford Focuses by estate agents seeing nice flats in shit
locations and shit flats in nice locations and waiting for the two to
combine. And eventually, on flat number 35, they did. And it’s strange
when you find it – it might not fit all the criteria and you might have
nagging questions in the back of your mind but you just stand there and
it feels right. 3bed, Shoreditch, £270pw. So yes, it is possible to
rent a nice flat in London for under £100 per person per week…and
without resorting to a crappy area or a horrible flat.