Apartments in the UK

I’m sitting on my hotel bed reflecting the past week, that went by so amazingly fast.  The day after the funeral, I got on the plane to London together with my boyfriend. To look at flats and get me settled here in Oxford. This morning, he left.

I’d like to describe this flat hunting tour in a little more detail to you. In Summer, when it was clear that I’d be coming to Oxford now, I sent some emails to letting agencies and to some friends in the UK to ask when the best time would be to look for a place to live. Most of them agreed that I can do that last minute, as in a week before starting. So I did. Last week, I sent emails in response to flats found on Rightmove and Zoopla. The next day, letting agents started calling me, mostly along the lines of “we’re sorry, but that property has been let already”. I didn’t mind that too much, as I had sent out these emails more or less randomly in between organising flowers and music for the funeral and didn’t really have a flat I absolutely wanted to get…

Wiser from this experience, I now looked up the different letting agents in Oxford and started to send them emails along the lines of “I’m a postdoc looking for a flat with minimum this criteria, do you have one?”. And again, some started calling me the next day. Some offered to show me some properties, which I accepted without having seen them, as I was now busy collecting addresses of people to be invited for the funeral… I simply didn’t have time to check the properties offered and thought they’d generally fit the criteria I had emailed before.

On Monday, we had our first appointments. Simply put, I was shocked by the first one. The windows looked like they would collapse with the first bit of wind. The lettings negotiator then remarked that “renovations are planned”, but couldn’t say WHEN that would happen. I pointed to some crooked kitchen appliance and he replied that he “just noted that too and would write it down”. I told him I wasn’t interested and we left.

We were absolutely stunned, wondered how they’d dare show something like this for the price they asked. It turned out that every single flat I was offered to take a look at, was in this category. They all tended to tell me how this is the only one bedroom flat they have and that they think it’ll be let fast. To me, it was obvious that they all weren’t very good, in any case not the place where I’d want to spend two years.

However, I still needed a flat… So I tried something more desperate: I wrote down a few addresses of letting agents and visited them in person. My boyfriend is becoming very good at driving left, as he had to drive between the different offices. I told them I need a flat ready to move into and up to a high standard. Asked them if they maybe have some flats that haven’t appeared on the internet yet? Got pretty tired of telling the same story over and over again.

This last desperate measure turned out to be the right thing – I was shown a few flats that I could imagine living in. I wrote down all the good and bad aspects of the different flats and decided to try to get one of them. Haggling on the conditions was a bit exciting, now that a new home was in sight…

In the end, I managed to get what I wanted: a contract for 12 months, with the option to back out after 6 months. Just in case I don’t like it after all… Hopefully I can sign tomorrow and move in by Monday, so that I can get out of this hotel (which even serves vegetarian sausages for breakfast!) and move on!

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