Finding a Flat - Part 2: Spreadsheets & Decisions

The next chapter of our flat hunting journey with an abundance of options and two indecisive people - us!

3 October, 2020

⏲️ Realisation that time flies

Always thinking that it was so far away in the distance, it suddenly became apparent that move out was in only a couple of weeks' time. Despite having used a chair as a dining table for two weeks, we had still failed to register that there was any need for urgency. It was not until I realised that there wouldn’t be enough time to warrant opening a new container of tomato sauce, that I knew the time was too close to wait any longer.

Jumping onto SpareRoom, the search sprang to life. Hundreds of responses flowed in from the initial ad post by Simon and a similar wave of messages once I reluctantly created an ad too. Most messages were irrelevant and could be filtered out into B, C and even instant ‘Automatic Reject’ D tier categories.

🏘️ A Week of Viewings

Spotted: S and K power walking to their first flat viewing. What will their verdict be? Will they find the house of their dreams? Send me all the deets. - XOXO Gossip Girl.

Ok so we're not going full Gossip Girl here but from henceforth, anywhere I used a name has been replaced with an initial.

  • West Hampstead 1 bedroom flat

    Greeted by a friendly agent into football and a not-so-friendly current tenant (the type that make you feel like every question is a dumb one), we discovered that the living/dining/study room doubled as the bedroom with a bed that folded into the wall and a wardrobe reached by a pole with a hook. The bathroom was old, the kitchen cramped and there was uncertainty around whether the main windows even opened. We didn't get a great vibe and it was costly so...

    Verdict: Would rather not go for it.

  • Kensal Rise flat share during the week

    Met R who worked in media, had an eleven-year-old daughter with her husband J and was transitioning into moving to the countryside. The flatting situation would be that her husband would stay at the flat from Monday-Thursday, leaving the place free over the weekends. The flat had been AirBnb’d out but R and J were exploring the option of having longer term tenants. The proposed option to do an initial two-month contract with a two-month rolling contract after that was a big appeal. The flat itself was in great condition; it had been done up by R over the years and had a super swish kitchen which would be great for cooking. It was a great price in comparison to basically all other places. A text afterwards increased the price for a couple but was still reasonable. The downsides were the noise of footsteps from the flat above and the street view from the living room.

    Verdict: Shortlisted

  • Kensington 2 bedroom flat

    29-year-old C in the hotel industry was looking for someone to fill the bigger of the two rooms currently occupied by an Australian couple. We had a weird experience with the concierge of the building who insisted that the flat was not on the market and then after bypassing him to go up the lift, accidentally cut him off with the lift doors shutting in his face. Awkward. The bedroom was a good size with natural light and a study desk. There was an ensuite with a catch (if you forgot about the latch); it was a Jack and Jill ensuite with entrances from each of the bedrooms. The living/dining space looked great and the view out over the Kensington street had a distinct Londony feel to it. Only real downside was the small dated kitchen with a half-sized fridge.

    Verdict: Shortlisted

  • St John’s Wood (try not to follow that with the voice off the 139 bus “St John’s Wood, Lord’s Cricket Ground”) flat share with ??? people

    A questionable excuse from the real estate agent saying that he had an “urgent family emergency” to attend so could no longer make the viewing meant that one of the current tenants (about to head off to Sweden) had to show us around. (According to the current tenant, the real estate agent had actually just double-booked and invented an excuse). What we saw was basically just a kitchen space to be shared with a billion unknown people and no living room. The downstairs bedroom with an ensuite wasn’t terrible but was below street level and looked a bit grubby. There were supposedly two single rooms on the same floors with mysterious unknown tenants and then ??? bedrooms on the floor above with couples (or something like that). Who could we end up living with? That’s one secret I’ll never tell...oops I promised no more Gossip Girl.

    Verdict: Nope.

  • Kensal Green flat share during the week

    Met the flatmate who just moved out and his friend who seemed like good ol’ young lads. The flat owner D. aka “Spreadsheet Man” couldn’t be there but the situation was that he would be at the flat during the week and then join his girlfriend in their new house out of town in the weekends. The kitchen was pretty good and the balcony looked like it would be a winner during the summer. Downsides were that there was a lot of junk and no real living room space since it had been partitioned to make an extra single bedroom.

    Verdict: No but keen to meet “Spreadsheet Man”

  • Maida Vale 1 bedroom flat

    Owned by T (and his partner) who had recently split. T, a lawyer, was keen to move elsewhere to start somewhat afresh. Located on a beautiful street, we felt like we were stepping into a scene from ‘The Good Place’ episode 1 and that at the click of our fingers, Janet would be there with a ‘Perfectly Removed Sticker’ flavoured frozen yoghurt. Kids skipped merrily down the street as adults conversed outside the local artisan bread shop about pony riding lessons. Ok snap out of it! You get the picture. The flat was on the top level and had views out over (currently bare) trees and houses from each side. It had a separate living room with tv and a dining table, a good-sized kitchen, bathroom and bedroom and was well-furnished. Downsides: the slight dog pee smell (but the carpet was due for a full clean) and the price being at the upper end of our budget. We later negotiated the price down to include all bills so this became a viable option.

    Verdict: Shortlisted

  • Maida Vale 2 bedroom flat

    A ten minute walk down the road from the previous flat. Still in Maida Vale but definitely not as nice. Met two Brazilian ladies - one who was a teacher and the other, who showed us through the house, was dressed in attire only a Brazillian lady could pass off as casual wear ( was not). The flat was a bit small but had a decent kitchen, bathroom and did have a living space. We would be staying with one of the Brazillian girls at a time as they went back and forward between here and Brazil. The slight language barrier and lack of feeling ‘on the same page’ during conversations were downsides that meant it didn’t feel like the right fit.

    Verdict: Pretty sure nope.

  • Paddington 2 bedroom flat

    This one sounded like the ideal fit seeing it on SpareRoom. An Aussie couple were just leaving and the lady A organising the flat viewing sounded super friendly. The price was solidly mid-range out of this set of viewings. The street looked very Paddington-Londonesque with all white period buildings lining the street. There was some work being done on the roof over the next week but we were reassured that it would be completed before the move in date. The bathroom was nice and there was a decent kitchen. There was even a secret attic where a “friend” could accidentally get trapped in if someone were to remove the ladder after they’d climbed up. The bedroom and living room were okay but nothing exciting. Main problem was that the lighting in the house wasn’t the best so it seemed pretty dark. We talked for ages with A and her Kiwi husband which was neat but by the end we still couldn’t understand why we would be paying for the flat through them and not the landlord since they were just previous tenants and didn’t own the flat. Unknown factor: The “super chilled dude” who occupied the single room but wasn’t there during the viewing.

    Verdict: Shortlisted

  • Notting Hill Out-of-our-league 2 bedroom flat

    Originally when this appeared on SpareRoom, it was advertised as £2000pcm for the whole flat, which divided by two parties sounded like such a bargain. After messaging though, it was discovered that this was the price per room which meant ruling it out instantly. Several days later, SpareRoom messages popped through to each of us offering a lower price through negotiation. In the area anyway, it was worth having a look at the fancy-pantsy place with zero expectations of actually being able to move in. After awkwardly waiting at the ajar front door for ten minutes, suddenly came a warm welcome of hugs and ushering into the house from V. Met with a huge master bedroom, one would not be able to resist the temptation to imitate Aragorn entering Helm’s Deep in slow motion every time you entered. The wardrobe doors in each bedroom were lined with strip lighting, the kitchen tap had a boiling water setting, and the fridge even had a button which adjusted the heights of the shelves (what the…?!). The kitchen was split into a ‘z’ shape bench and a bar stool island bench. There was an outdoor area perfect for hosting a barbeque in the summer. Ok so back to “reality”. “Reality” being that the offer of a drink meant beer, coffee, and when refused in place of “just water”, meant bottled pure spring water. V explained the family’s situation of wanting to move to Sweden for 5 months and needing to find someone to help cover the cost of this place for that specific time frame. After Simon and I nutted out some figures, consulted with V's husband, weirdly held her baby, got served fresh coffee, and at least ten times shot discreet looks at each other going “what the?”, V and her husband agreed to discuss a compromise on the price and also search for a couple to fill the other room.

    Verdict: Shortlisted


🤔 Decision time

We created a spreadsheet of the long shortlist of five flats and analysed the details down to the metre of distance from our workplaces and most importantly the Aldi. I reckon even "Spreadsheet Man" would've been given a run for his money. Pros and cons of each were discussed and winners selected in each category from price, to best kitchen for cooking up Nadia Lim storms, to the ease of having friends or family to stay. Strangely we couldn't even whittle the list down to a top three as each place had its merits. A couple of days of indecision followed.

  • Re-visited Kensal Rise flat share during the week

    Again we made the 37 minute walk through the rain to Kensal Rise, this time to meet R’s husband J. Warmly welcomed and taken through to the living room, it was clear that some intense buttering up was about to ensue. With the offer of coats to be hung up to dry, being served fresh ginger tea and some weird marmite (but worse) tasting nibbles, and not only candles in the living room, but even in the bathroom, we felt like this had the opposite to desired effect of making us feel a tad uncomfortable. Basically the evening involved a lot of conversation about how easy a commute would be to work from this location, the perks of living in the area, and 101 dad jokes as J and R each pitched that they were still young.

    Verdict: On the fence but leaning away...

🎉 Aaaaand the winner was:

Maida Vale 1 bedroom flat!

After having negotiated the price on the Maida Vale flat down, a text came through during the walk home from Kensal Rise saying “The flat is yours.” Stuck between this and the cheaper offer of the Kensal Rise flat share, we both discussed with our parents who agreed that the 1 bedroom Maida Vale place sounded like the one to go for. Before I could even reconsider this and go back and forth for the millionth time, Simon had sent the text. The flat was locked in.

You know something is the right decision when you immediately feel flooded with relief and end up singing ‘Ease on Down the Road’ through miserable London streets on a Monday night. Now the hard part: informing all the people waiting to hear back from us that their flats were not the best fit. A loosely arranged beer catch-up with the unknown “super-chilled dude” from the Paddington flat was the first easy cancellation. Harder to reject was the flat we'd just visited so we put that off until the next evening. Thankfully we generally received friendly responses but were ghosted completely by V in Notting Hill and C in Kensington.

🧳 Relief and packing

Finally a few days to return to the peace of normal day-to-day life without the desperate flat hunting occupying 50% of the day and 99% of our thoughts. All that needed to be sussed now was somewhere to stay in between moving out of West Hampstead on Tuesday 17th March and moving in on Saturday April 4th, which could just be AirBnb.

🪑 As close to work as you could get

At the end of the week, Simon learned that his company office would be closed until at least the beginning of April. This meant that the temporary place would ideally have a desk or table to work at. A lucky find on SpareRoom provided short term lodging only four mins walk for me and a five second roll out of bed for Simon. Not bad.

Unfortunately the next chapter of our flatting journey was not smooth sailing.

I can sum it up for you in four digits:


Find out what happened next in Finding a Flat - Part 3: Hunting for a Gem

Residential street in Islington