At nine am we started ringing agents about rentals near the Angel Islington, first of the sky blue properties on Monopoly. Monopoly has The Angel Islington rent listed at £100, HA HA HA, more like three times that. Per week.
We lined up a viewing of a one bedroom flat in a converted church. I took one look at the stained glass windows and arched doorways and had to have it. Unfortunately I am not naturally skilled in the art of negotiation. Nato and I had the following conversation in front of the agent:
Nato: “So what do you think, do you want to look at a few other places?”
Ninja: “No, I love it, let’s get it.”
Apparently I was supposed to act undecided and unimpressed so Nato could beat them down on price. Why was I not briefed beforehand?
We put in an application and were told to stick around in the area as we would hear back that afternoon and would need to pay a deposit to secure the property. We went to a nearby Starbucks and found a couple of comfy chairs, I immediately fell asleep (curse you jetlag), but it was possibly not a bad use of the time. We waited, and waited, and waited. At five minutes to closing time we dropped back in to the agency to be told “probably tomorrow”.
Rather than spending another day napping in Starbucks we headed to the London Eye to see London from the air. It provides a sedate ride, (the Ferris wheel at the Brisbane Ekka is more exciting) but the views are spectacular. It was here that we received the call from the agent saying that we had been successful and as soon as we paid the deposit the flat could be taken off the market. We trekked back to Islington where we paid the deposit and we’re given a sheaf of forms to fill out. Back at Starbucks we completed all the paperwork and got it back to the agent before closing time, so she could email our previous landlord in Australia and have a response the next morning.
The agent decided to wait until Wednesday morning to email Australia for a reference. Unfortunately this was Wednesday evening in Australia, so she didn’t get a response all day. We stopped at hotel reception to extend our stay.
“I can extend your stay until Thursday, but we’re full on Friday” explained the receptionist.
“Thanks, I’m sure we’ll be able to move into the flat by Friday” I replied, hoping it was the truth.
On Thursday morning the agent called to say she had heard back from the Australian landlord, however as we had not rented in London before she would require six months’ rent in advance. This was the first time we encountered the ‘if it happened in Australia, it doesn’t count’ attitude, but would not be the last.
Without me to accidentally weaken our position, Nato was able to negotiate the agent down to four months rent in advance, still a decent chunk of change. We had this money, but the next hurdle was accessing it. Our combined credit card limits and daily transfer limits were not enough. So we did the traditional ‘Australian in London’ thing and called the parents to ask them to send money. They quickly did and emailed confirmation to us to pass on to the agent.
It was at this point that our main email server died. It was located in the US, where it was two am, so it was unlikely to be fixed any time soon. After a flurry of phone calls, the emails were rerouted and we emailed the money transfer confirmation to the agent.
With everything looking peachy we headed to IKEA to buy a doona and pillows, linen and towels so we could sleep at the flat. It was interesting juggling four large IKEA bags on the tube, but we managed. We were now ready to move in so we called the agent and asked for the keys, to be told we could have them as soon as the money cleared.
Apparently it takes 3-10 working days for an international transfer to clear. I’m not sure what the heck the money is doing, having a two week beach break perhaps? It would be faster to fly home, withdraw the money and fly back.
With the hotel completely full we had no choice but to check out, leaving our luggage and IKEA bags in hotel storage. The receptionist had called around other hotels in the area but as it was a Friday night in high season, everywhere was full. Unless we could deposit four months’ rent in the agency account in the next couple of hours, we would not be moving in until Monday at the earliest. What we needed was someone with a UK bank account, who would lend us four months rent until the transfer cleared. So we did the other traditional ‘Australian in London’ thing, and asked a London mate to lend us some money.
Thankfully a friend obliged, we are in his debt (literally and figuratively) as without his intervention we would have been down and out in London. The bemused agent called us in to sign paperwork and collect keys. Three trips later we had wheeled all our cases and IKEA bags to our new home. All we wanted was to have a quick shower and crawl into bed.
There was no hot water.
Lacking the energy to be annoyed or even surprised at this we had quick cold showers and crawled into bed. We were both asleep the moment our heads touched the IKEA pillows.