Start your search early. Far too early. Take a cursory look at Gumtree and Spareroom and find loads of properties that match your reasonable requirements. Confidence level: 100%.
Then start your search for real. Find all the good places have gone, but that’s okay, because there’s still time. There’s still time to be choosy. Laugh scornfully at adverts boasting ‘Lovely and good’ or ‘Cheap and nice’ rooms. We all know what that means. You’ve got standards, thanks very much. Confidence level: 90%.
Go to a few viewings. Find that the rooms are not anywhere near as ‘gorgeous’ or ‘spacious’ or even as ‘good-sized’ as the ad description suggests, but that’s okay! It would be unheard of to find somewhere decent straight away, right? It’s London! Confidence level: 80%.
Go to more viewings. View several houses with palatial ensuites that can only be accessed through a partially open door as the adjoining bedroom is a cupboard. View a house occupied by pasty, translucent boys that all but wet themselves shaking your hand and ask if you have many single girl friends. View a house with giant pictures of vaginas all over the walls and be scolded by the landlord for looking at them. View a house where the available room is advertised as having its own conservatory but find that it’s basically a lean-to featuring a clogged toilet. View a house where the door is opened by an imposingly large Turkish man who yells ‘YOU A CLEAN GIRL, OKAY?’ in your face. Confidence level: 50%.
Eventually, find a place you really like. Text the tenants to express interest. Hours, then days, pass without a reply. Become wracked with self-doubt as your self-esteem takes a battering. Maybe you came on too strong. Maybe your joke about baking a chocolate cake was interpreted as needy, or mental, even. WHAT’S THE BLOODY ETIQUETTE FOR THIS SHIT? Struggle with the idea that the tenants have put you in the same league as sweaty hands boy, or mad vagina lady.
Spend hours and hours on room share sites. Destroy your phone battery by hitting refresh every five minutes. Send hundreds of awkward ‘I’m super cool and normal!’ emails to people who never respond. Find dozens of gorgeous houseshares advertised by awesome-sounding people requesting gay applicants only. Damn the gays and their beautiful mould-free houses.
Manage your expectations. Broaden your search parameters. You don’t really need a garden. You don’t really need a living room. Sure, you can work from your bed, and it’ll be fine sharing with four couples. Fun, even! Confidence level: 30%.
Lament your woes to your friends and listen to them wax lyrical about how hard they found that one week they spent searching for a flat, or how they had to view ‘like, six or seven!’ places before they found their current house, or how it actually took them upwards of two months to find somewhere because the lettings market in London is completely fucked and they’re not telling you this to dishearten you, but ‘you know…’.
And you do know. You ‘know’ to the point that you’ve started viewing rooms that have been advertised without pictures and wishing some kind of property Lemon Law existed so you didn’t have to spend whole hours traipsing around an inhabitable dive answering questions about what you do for a living and listening to fucking News of the World jokes. You ‘know’ to the point that you’re starting to think that an advert mentioning the fact that the room’s radiators have valves is probably pretty useful to know actually, and you ‘know’ to the point that you’re seriously considering responding to the likes of these ‘Cheap and lovely’ adverts you’d previously pooh-poohed.
Confidence level: 5%
And then one morning, three and a half months and 23 viewings later, sit in the bedroom you’ve come to hate and load up Gumtree for the millionth time, and find a new advert. A new advert with pictures, and an adequate description written by people that sound sane, and go into your message drafts and copy/paste the same tired message you’ve looked at five times a day for the last 117 days. Send it off. Expect nothing. Don’t even allow the smallest sliver of hope or optimism into the dark, rough void where your soul used to be, for only disappointment resides there now.
Receive a reply straight away. Go through the motions, arrange a viewing. Plaster a smile over your tired, lifeless face and trudge to the address. Ring the bell and take a deep breath as the door opens…
Confidence level: 100%.