Things to Check Before Choosing a Sharehouse
You've been pounding the streets of London looking at shithole after shithole and have finally come across a place that is in a good location and doesn't look like it's about to collapse. The people giving you the tour say if you want it, it's yours but before you jump at the chance, make sure you ask a few questions or your seemingly great houseshare could turn into a nightmare.
How the Bills are Paid
Nothing can divide a once friendly household more than arguments over money, and bills are usually at the root of it all. Have a brief chat to the person giving you the tour about how bills are dealt with. There are usually two systems in place: pay the bills as they come in, or pay a flat monthly rate into a kitty and use that to pay the bills. Paying into a kitty seems to work the best because everyone knows how much they owe each month but you have to make sure the person in charge is on top of the bills and is trustworthy.
Paying the bills as they come in can create problems because many of the largest bills (gas and electricity) are paid quarterly. So if you've just moved into a place and all of a sudden a £250 gas bill arrives a couple weeks later, it's pretty unlikely that the people who've just moved out will have left any money. This means that you could have to pay up for months that you weren't even in the house. Some places might make you pay only a portion, but then this leaves the other housemates having to pick up the slack. If a kitty system was in place the money for the bills would have already been collected from the people who moved out.
Landlord and the Lease Situation
Moving into a place with a useless landlord that takes 100 years to fix anything is fine if nothing ever breaks. But in the world of sharehouses this usually isn't the case so ask to see if you can get an idea of what the landlord is like. It's good to have an attentive landlord but you don't want them hanging around all the time either.
One of the most important things to check is when the lease expires and if it's likely to be renewed. You don't want to move into a place, pay £500 in bond to the person whose bed your taking only to find out that the lease is up in a few months and nobody intends on renewing it. This will mean that you'll have to find a new place in three months and that you'll have to deal with the landlord in order to get your bond back, rather than just getting it from the next person to move in. To get your bond back you'll have to hope that the house is in the same state it was when the original people moved in and you'll also have to give it a good clean before turning it over to the landlord and hoping they don't deduct £10 for a missing fork or £100 for an overgrown back yard. It's always easier to be out of a house before a lease expires, just try not to be the sucker than moves in.
If you're a light sleeper then you probably won't want to move into that place with the rail track running right beside the house. Same goes for buses… they can be noisy so if you're on a main street you might not want to be in a room at the front of the house. Watch out for churches too. On a Sunday morning they're evil, pure evil! Why some of them insist on ringing their bells 50 times before noon will remain a mystery. I think it's to torture those sinners who dare want to sleep off a hangover on Sunday morning.
Safety at Night
As nice as your potential new house might be, you'll also have to consider how nice the surrounding area is. There's no point moving into a place where you'll be a prisoner in your own home after dark. Having to go to the shop in pairs to get a pint of milk after the sun has gone down is just not cool. Getting mugged on the walk back from the night bus to your front door at 2am is even less cool. Nowhere in a big city like London will be 100% safe, especially after dark, but do a bit of research before committing to that house in Harlesden or across the road from a massive council estate.
As important as all of the things listed above are, nothing is more important than choosing good housemates. It'll be difficult before actually moving in, but there are a few things you can try to suss out before you commit. If you're a clean freak, have a look around the place and try to get an idea of whether your fellow housemates are slobs, tidy or somewhere in between. Most houses will tend to have a big cleanup before showing people around so this might be a tricky one to figure out. But the really messy houses don't usually put in an effort, so what you see is what you get. So if you're a messy bugger then a house like this might be more up your alley. There's nothing more annoying than feeling like a guest in your own home because you have to clean everything you touch two seconds after using it.
Try to have a chat with as many of your potential housemates as possible to try and get an idea of where they all are in their London lives. People can tend to go through different stages during their two years in London generally starting as party animals and then gradually moving towards quieter times as they try to save up for trips abroad or for going home. If you've just arrived and want to hit the Redback every weekend, you won't want to be living with a house full of people who spend their weekends watching DVDs because they're saving for their trip back home. Or the opposite, if you're looking for a quieter place to give your liver and bank account a rest, you won't want people blasting the music till 4am and leaving the place looking like a bomb site every Sunday morning.
MONEY & COSTS