Hey there! How’s everyone doing? Honestly, you guys may have noticed – but, since our move to the big city and getting the boys over – I’ve been laying pretty low … and it feels pretty dang good. I miss chatting with y’all on Stories as often as I used to and I’m doing my best not to feel guilty about posting less on the blog, but at the same time, I’m trying to honor this slower season. The last year has been a whirlwind. I have so much to be grateful for and I feel like I always prioritize work and being ‘on’ and, right now, I just feel called to slow down, allow myself to slowly process all of these life changes [because while it’s what I wanted, it can be a lot … I don’t know how to explain it] and really relish in this time with John and the boys. That’s just the season I’m in right now and I hope you understand if I’m a little less active on here as we get our new home in order, I continue to chip away at all of the annoying things that need to get done regarding banking, finances, etc, and also settle in to our new London life, among all things COVID. Okay, wow .. that was quite the intro, hah! Let’s move on to what I wanted to share with y’all today …
Despite all of that, I do, of course, want to share any lessons or tips with y’all along the way, especially as it comes to moving to a new country, the immigration process, moving animals, moving in with a signifcant other, and as of today, lessons in finding the perfect place in a big city. Obviously I don’t have all the answers here. This is really my first time looking for a place in a big city [other than my stint in London a few years ago].
John and I have both lived in smaller towns for a while now, him here in the UK and me in Florida, so the big-city search was pretty new. It came with its challenges [pricing, availability, different preferences between the two of us, etc] but I will say I think we found our perfect little spot. Here’s what I would suggest if you’re currently looking for your next home in a big city or want to in the future. Oh, and for ease of readability, I’ve broken it down into ‘During the Search’ or ‘During the Viewing’ so you can jump to whichever section best accommodates you.
DURING THE SEARCH
MAKE A LIST OF NEEDS AND WANTS: Make a list of your NEEDS [non-negotiables] and WANTS [things you could budge on but would like] and set your search filters on websites based on that then, when you find one that catches your eye … go down the non-negotiables list FIRST and if it doesn’t have one of them … move on, no matter what! Ours were parking, a garden for the boys [private], and at least 1,000 sq ft. And, of course, we took our budget into account. We created searches for different neighborhoods with the filters checked for ‘parking’ and ‘garden’ and the first thing I’d always check was the floor plan and judge it against the price as well as the other features of the property and my non-negotiable list.
BE OPEN: Look outside of the neighborhoods you idolize and know you love. We found that those areas we had on our list, didn’t have options that made the most sense for us, and we ended up finding the perfect place in an area that wasn’t even on our radar. It’s not the ‘fairytale’ neighborhood I had in my mind but it’s eclectic and there’s TONS of variety, which I always appreciate.
KEEP FURNITURE IN MIND: Keep in mind some places come furnished and some don’t, especially when looking at photos. If you love the sideboards and tables in the house you’re looking at … remember they might not be there when you move in. The landlord or estate agent [listing agent in the US] should be able to get you an itemized list of what stays or goes.
NEGOTIATE: This might not be how everyone rolls but I looked for places that were just a smidge above our price range because, you know, negotiations. I didn’t necessarily want us to be at the top end of our budget at the end of negotiations but I did want to see ALL the options that MIGHT work for us and, I’ll just say … if I hadn’t done it that way when I was searching … we would have never found this place — and we did stay within our budget! I know negotiations on rent aren’t as common in the US, but it can’t hurt to try. You can always be accommodating yourself with offering to move in earlier, offer to take over landscaping instead of the landlord paying, or something you could ‘swap’ in order to get rent down.
DURING THE VIEWING
MEASURE AND PLAN: If you already have quite a bit of furniture, ALWAYS bring a tape measure to your viewing to ensure that the place not only looks great empty but will look great with the furniture you already have. It’s not always a big deal for it not to fit [depending on your financial means, it’s sentimental value to you, and how much you paid for it initially] but something to keep In mind if there’s furniture you DO want to bring with you.
LOOK OUT FOR YOURSELF: Remember the estate agent isn’t your friend. Be kind but firm and don’t be afraid to follow up as much as you’d like to ensure you can see things progress. It is their job to facilitate the conversation between you and the landlord. The landlord pays them to get their place rented so don’t feel bad when you feel like they’re not getting back to you fast enough and you’re constantly following up. Obviously, be courteous in regard to WHEN you send your message but just remember it is part of their job to be in communication with you if you’re really interested and / or making an offer.
KNOW THE PLACE BEFORE SIGNING ANYTHING: Take note of the area and take in the vibe. Is it what you were hoping for? Does it make you nervous? Why? In the home or apartment / flat itself, be sure to look at all of the openings to see if there are any signs of damage and don’t be afraid to ask about previous break-in’s. I’ve never lived on the first floor before so the fact that this place has a security system gave me an added sense of security so look for or ask about that, as well. If there isn’t one in place, would they allow you to install your own or your own locks? More than that, take a look online at crime stat’s for the area AND walk around the area. Get to know it before you agree to this place. Make sure that it’s somewhere you can see yourself calling home. Does it have restaurants and cafes and shops that you could see yourself popping into?
UNDERSTAND THE TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS: Public transport in a big city is always something you want to be close to, especially if you have to commute in for work [which, I realize is not a big thing at the moment but bare with me], so take a walk to the nearest tube stations [important to see how many there are around and how far each are in case there are closures, as there are sometimes] as well as to the nearest bus stations so you know what your transport options look like and what that walking commute would look like. I wanted to be close to the tube but it wasn’t super high on my WANT list but, we happened to get really lucky. We are 6 minutes from one tube station and a 20-minute walk to another one. Not too bad at all!
DON’T FORGET WINDOWS: Make note of the efficiency rating and ask about the windows. One downside to our flat is that the efficiency rating of the house is E [the lowest rating] and we have single glaze windows, which means that they are thinner and therefore, in the heat of Summer and the cold of Winter, we will feel it A LOT more inside the house. This also equates to higher utility bills in the Winter trying to keep our place heated and comfortable for living. In an apartment building, single glaze windows will mean noise will not be filtered out as much so if there is that restaurant with outdoor seating downstairs or a bus stop, that noise will carry inside a lot more.
CONSIDER TRAFFIC, NOISE AND PRIVACY: When you arrive, look at where it’s located in the area. Is it near or over a bus stop or a bar where the sound could carry or there could be people outside your home frequently? Is the bus route on your street? Can you hear church bells loudly? Can people walking by easily see inside your private bedroom? Do you have above neighbors that you share an entryway with? Are the footsteps loud above? Don’t be timid about asking to come back a couple different times to assess the space at different times of the day or the week.
TAKE NOTE OF UPKEEP: We’ve all heard landlord horror stories so this is a good time to note the upkeep of the unit. Does it look well-maintained and tidy in terms of the garden, overall updates, appliances etc? If not, it’s a likely sign that you’ll have to deal with some of this stuff on your own.
NOTE ANY HIDDEN OR ADDITIONAL COSTS: Here in the UK, we pay council tax and they are separated into ‘bands’. I don’t know how they determine what area or what property pays within what band but every band is a different amount of money that you pay annually. So, make sure you ask about what council tax band you’re in so you can see if that also works for your monthly budget.
LIGHTING: See where the sun rises and sets in this house and how the light fills it based on that. This might not matter to everyone but, personally, being that I work from home and have to take photos in the house quite a bit … lighting is important to me. It improves my productivity, energy levels and overall mood so, if you’re similar, I’d definitely recommend viewing the property twice at different times of the day just to be sure It will work for you.
CONSIDER MOVERS: We knew we wanted to work with Fantastic Services [@fantasticservices] to help move us and I was adamant about working with a company that seemed trustworthy and reliable. If you feel the same, make sure that the company you want to work with goes to the area of the city you’re considering. Luckily for us, Fantastic Services did, but I’m glad I checked! See more on their Home Removals Services right here if you’re looking to move around London!
KNOW THE UTILITY SITUATION: If you are picky about certain internet or cable services, love certain delivery options or services, etc. see if they work within the perimeters of the neighborhood you’re looking it. It might not be a deal-breaker, but it could help sway a decision if you’re looking at two places.
Alright friends, I’m sure there’s something I’m forgetting so if you have any other tips, please let them for readers below. Again, our search definitely took patience, lots of questions, and a few tears [not gonna lie!], but I’m so glad we were so particular with our search. Big cities can feel competitive and overwhelming, and I think keeping this list in mind will help you find a place you’re truly happy with. Best of luck with your search! xo.