I think it can be safely said, if you’ve never had to find a room in London with a limited budget, your house-hunting woes will never compare to those who have. My last viewing was for a very ‘cosy’ flat and had 15 other people all there to view it too, all having reached various degrees of desperation.
The viewing before that should never have been viewed at all. I had misgivings as soon as I arrived and found the dirty outside door to the block unlocked and then let myself in to be greeted by the stench of urine; human or otherwise, I didn’t like to consider. But I’d made it that far and so I braced myself and went in. The overzealous agent showed me straight to the room which was perfectly fine in itself but the other rooms remained closed off mysteries, with who knows what behind them. I did however manage to sneak a glance at the bathroom which even from several metres away told me all that I needed to know. The agent gave me his card, insisting I be quick in calling but I like to think we both knew at that point that that was never going to happen.
There was another proposed viewing that I never actually managed to find, I wandered for ages looking for the elusive number 35 when as far as I could see only 1 – 34 existed. Other rooms seemed to just dissapear before I’d even managed to write down the contact numbers.
It may well have been these despairing events which led to me turning to the somewhat unconventional idea of Speedflatmating. Surprisingly popular evenings, they involve a bunch of people who need rooms and (considerably less) people who have rooms all turning up in a bar, drinking and generally mingling. It can seem a daunting prospect to turn up on your own to a place full of strangers but in fact it was very laid back – after all most people were in the same situation. Some people, however, clearly hadn’t been able to face it alone and had brought along a friend for support.
When I arrived I was given a pink name sticker on which I wrote my ideal location and budget. Those with rooms were given white stickers and told to fill out the relevant details. With the formalities out of the way and a drink in my hand I made my way, somewhat difficultly considering the crowd, around the room searching out those with white name stickers. Cue slight embarrassment and nervous smiling as I tried to get a closer look at people’s chest areas to read what it said on their labels.
Unfortunately demand far outstripped supply and although I came out with various numbers of possible buddy-ups and even a possible date, I found I was no closer to finding a suitable room. Despite that I think it is definitely an event worth going to. My search continues. Maybe next time.