Discover how these friends went from best mates to flat mates
“When we realised we were both on the hunt for somewhere to live at the same time we decided it was meant to be.”
For best friends Lily and Amy, timing was everything. Amy had broken up with her boyfriend who she shared a flat with in Clapham, South London and Lily’s tenancy at her flat in Hackney, East London, was coming to an end – it seemed obvious to them both that they should be looking for somewhere to rent together.
The pair had originally met through work and then became really good friends – so much so that despite only knowing each other for a year they decided to become flatmates. “And for the time being the flexibility of renting really suits us both,” says Amy.
When it came to their search area the girls were pretty flexible. Lily had always lived in East London and Amy had remained south of the river, so they were happy to stick to those two areas with Lily concentrating on the East London search and Amy focusing on the South.
“Luckily we are freakishly almost the same person,” laughs Amy, “so we decided on identical criteria for our search.”
The dream was a two double-bedroom flat within a period property that had a garden, its own front door, was close to a tube station and was within their budget of £850 a month including all bills. And then there was Sir Basil, Amy’s cat – any property they considered would have to allow pets.
They began by scouring the internet and ended up with a spreadsheet that short-listed the properties they found with potential which they then whittled down and started viewing. Lily finished work earlier than Amy so she would often look at places in the evenings and Amy would wait until the weekend.
“It was quite stressful not being able to look at places at the same time” says Lily, “because we always had to wait for the other one to see it before either writing it off or committing.”
As the search progressed it became apparent that Streatham in South London had potential as an area (they would get more for their money there than either Clapham or Hackney) and it wasn’t too long before they found a place there that ticked all the boxes. “Although it almost didn’t happen!” admits Amy. “I was actually late to the appointment and the estate agent had left but I rang him and begged him to come back, which luckily he did, because I fell in love with it on the spot. Lily then went to see it and fell in love with it too.”
Not only did the flat have its own front door and a small private garden, it was also unfurnished (which was perfect as Amy had acquired a lot of furniture over the last few years) and they both agreed it really felt like a home. The only compromise was that it wasn’t near a tube, but the size of house and the affordable rent outweighed that and the room mates soon discovered that the transport in Streatham was amazing, so no real compromise after all.
Having viewed the flat three or four times in order to take measurements to ensure their furniture would fit (“I think we did try the agent’s patience!”), the friends put themselves forward for tenancy. The only snag was that they both had to give almost two months’ notice on their existing properties. Thankfully, once they had expressed their interest with the agent they got to meet the landlord herself and they’re convinced this helped their cause as it gave them the opportunity to let her know how much they loved the property and what kind of tenants they would be.
“We explained that we would treat it as a proper home – not just somewhere to live – and I think that was as valuable to her as the ability to pay the rent. I think she also respected the fact that we wanted to honour the notice periods we’d agreed with our existing landlords. It made her realise we would be responsible and reliable tenants.”
And this positive relationship continued to pay off when Amy and Lily moved in. Their landlord was happy for them to put up their own pictures and mirrors and other little touches that really made the place their own – and of course allowed Sir Basil to join them.
“I keep touching wood and keeping my fingers crossed but everything so far has worked out brilliantly since we moved in. We’ve styled each room and have been able to put our own stamp on it, so although it is rented it does feel like ours. Sitting out in our own private garden in the evenings is lovely and it feels like a proper home without us having to step up to the massive commitment of buying.” says Amy. “We get on really well with our landlord and we get on really well with each other. Moving from just being friends to being flatmates has been an easy transition. Every night Lily and I are just idiots together, laughing on the sofa, cooking each other dinner.”
Lily agrees. “I’m at my happiest lounging on the L-shaped sofa with Sir Basil while Amy is baking in the kitchen!”
So now that they’ve nailed it, what advice would they give to others looking to rent in a competitive market? “Don’t be closed-minded to areas you might not have considered before, don’t panic and grab the first place you see, and don’t get disheartened if you end up seeing loads of places that aren’t right – we were looking for four or five weeks, doing three or four viewings a week, so be prepared to put the work in. You may not find somewhere straight away – but be confident that the right place is out there for you.”
Need some pointers on how and where to find your dream rental? Check out our renters’ advice page, here.
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