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The subtle art of finding a house in London - PART 1

I am at my second home in London at the moment, and I know this will not be my last. 
As time goes by, needs change, situations change, and adapting and packing is just part of life. Specially if you live in a city like London, where if you rent, there is never a certainty of how long you'll stay there.
Ever since I moved from Crystal Palace to Streatham Hill I thought that making a post about 'how to start a new life in a new home' would be a great idea. 
But not only did I turn my move into a big mess, as I don't think that with only one home change experience in London I'd be the best person to give you tips.
That is why I thought of Lidia, or Lili as I call her. 

Introducing you to my guest writer for the day

Lili is my best friend. We met at work 10 years ago, and since then, we've been each other's 'sistas from another mista'. Lili was one of my bridesmaids! That's how much I love her.
You can find her online on her blog too if you follow all her adventures on Life in Lili. Soon you'll understand why she is one of my life Yodas.
As funny as it sounds, life brought us together again now, and I mean REALLY CLOSE, when she also joined our home in London, renting the room next door to mine.
Lidia has been living in London for almost a decade, and according to her, she "could write an entire book on the subject."

Lidia's experience in house moving

London is just a chapter of a long line of house moves for Lili. Change has always been the only constant in her life. 
"Sometimes, I moved because my parents/educators/carers decided such on my behalf; Other times, I decided that my time in a certain place with certain people had ended, or I was just “invited” to leave.
So far, I have lived in about 28 places during my entire life. 
I have lived in rooms, flats, and houses. I surfed my friends’ couches and even ventured to sleep at a train station with homeless people in an attempt to beat my fear of becoming homeless. 
Moving is both an exciting and intimidating experience. It is about letting go and starting fresh. 
I personally don’t know which one is the hardest."

Lidia's tricks and tips for a smoother move

According to Lidia, her views are based not only on her personal experience, but also on her professional experience working as Professional Organiser in more than a hundred homes in London.
She has actually worked everywhere, from multi-million pound mansions to council flats. And as an interesting fact, she adds, "you would be surprised to discover that people in different social settings still have much more in common with each other than they think." 
But let's get to business, and from now on, Lidia is doing all the writing.

Planning the move 

Most of us naively conceive the act of moving from one place to another as a linear and straightforward process like booking an Uber to take us from point A to B. 
The fault might be in our TV and Netflix shows, where everybody moves into amazing houses that look pristine and where everything is ready to be unboxed at our will.
What nobody tells us is that in order for a move to land smoothly, there is a lot of planning that goes into vacating your last crib and making sure that everything arrives nicely at the new mansion.

Start with 'WHY?'

If you are going to move, the first question you might want to answer is 'WHY?'. 
Why are you moving? 
Trust me when I say that there will be times when you'll question your decisions and your own sanity, specially when you face the clutter you have accumulated over the years. 
Knowing the purpose of your move can give you resilience in challenging moments.

Then go with 'WHAT'

The next question is 'what exactly are you looking for in a room/flat/house?'
To avoid disappointment, it’s good to clarify your expectations so that you don’t give up after viewing some disgraces during your search.

Allow me to share my experience on how I go about this:
Once I am clear about my purpose, I write down a list/table of contents with the criteria that matters the most to me in a house/flat/room.
See table bellow.

(Here is a printable version if you think my criteria is helpful)

My purpose for my most recent move, was to find a place that was safe, lively, green, diverse, with relevant social and leisure amenities and good connection links to Central London. 
I wanted to live with people who were mature, respectful, kind, funny, generous and inspiring.
I kept the table at sight during the online search. Once I'd selected a couple of potential places, I contacted them and booked the viewings if they were still available. 
NOTE: The trick here is to compress all viewings into a single day, two or three days in a row.

The table with the criteria was always on me during the viewings and I made sure I'd fill it out straight after, but you can also fill it out discreetly during the visit.
With the overall results I'd take from my table, I would make sure I'd choose the two places/houses with the higher scores, no matter how fix and set my opinion about the first option would be.
This is London, and relying in one single option is the difference between having a place and becoming homeless.
This table has been helping me for quite a while now, and I hope it might help you too!

But there is still a very important research you'll need to do:

You can visit the area during the day and night times, and ask people on the street a few simple questions. 
In my case, I try to target every demographics. People are usually open and honest, because remember, they don’t know you and have nothing to lose for telling you the truth.

- Ask white folks, specially mothers: Is this a safe neighbourhood? They will know for sure, because they wouldn’t be there if that was not the case.
- Ask black and brown folks: Is this a tolerant neighbourhood? If you don’t see diversity, that should be a sign to read.
- Ask hipsters/youngsters: Is this a cool place? They wouldn’t hang around if it wasn't.
- Ask young females: Do you feel safe to walk home alone during night time?
You can also ask about crime, transport, entertainment, whatever matters to you. 
Remember that you can also ask local businesses near where you are moving to. Usually a street populated with “for sale” or “to let” can be a double-sided sword.

If I get at least 3 yesses, then I know I have some evidence to start with. 

Final tips on finding your home

  • Trust your instinct

During every single viewing, I notice how I feel. I try to imagine myself living in that place and/or walking down the street. If there is no chemistry, it's a big NO for me, no matter how high the place scored on my list. This is a very important aspect as at the end of the day it is about feeling at home!

  • Have everything on paper

Once you find the place of your dreams or whatever you can afford, make sure everything is agreed and is in written. I used to have a lovely boss and he taught me this lesson:
'Nothing is valid unless it is written on papyrus'. This is to say, no matter how trustworthy the landlord and the Real Estate Agency might sound, get them to put the fairy tale promises on a piece of paper and make sure they sign under it. 
Make sure there is also evidence to back their authority, meaning 'who are they in relation to this place?'

  • Keys, keys, keys!

Another simple thing but that accounts for many stories of scam on this island: no key/contract, no money. I personally, believe in the power of the written word.

Because I already dished you enough information to process, I am going to leave you to it.
As you might have noticed on this blog post's title, this is only Part 1.
The next time we see each other, I'll share with you tips and tricks on:
- How to be prepare the move
- The best way to pack your belongings and get them in your new home
- What to do with your post and bills
- Settling down in the new address without much stress

That's all from me folks. Hope this was helpful to you and wish you a happy search for a new home!
Stay well. Enjoy life.

Find me on my personal blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
[Photos by Dreamaker]


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