Photo by Derek Davis/Staff photographer

How to find a place to live in London

If you really have to

Artillery Row

Give up all hobbies and interests. If you wish to live somewhere big enough to fit items like clothes, children and books, you will have no space for anything else, such as the larger varieties of cooking pots, coffee table books or furniture with more than three small drawers. In fact, you may have to compromise on one of the children. Go with your instinct. You know which one you really want. This goes double for pets, which is why you see so many animal shelters in London these days.

It would be unfair to bring a child into this world

Better yet, have fewer children in the first place — or none! This may seem like a compromise between the current and future happiness of you and your partner (if you have one!) and the knock on effect of a lonely, ageing society unable to pay its bills, but it will enable you to consider renting somewhere with a separate bath and shower. 

If you find this difficult, contact a friend who believes in the irreversible and apocalyptic effects of climate change and have them depress you with exaggerated doomsday statistics so that you can tell yourself, like the sort of stock character in a second-rate movie you dream of being, that it would be unfair to bring a child into this world. This is in fact the leading theory of why so many people with otherwise easygoing carefree lives (mostly comprised of watching TikTok) believe they only have a decade left before the world burns.

Read Seneca and the other stoics, who advise you to dwell every day on the worst things that can befall you in order to ready yourself for any eventuality. In the event that something awful does happen, you will in this way be prepared to accept tragedy calmly without upsetting yourself any further. This is the best (and indeed the only) preparation you can make for dealing with estate agents. 

Practice with children. There is no chance that you will find an estate agent capable of understanding direct instructions or picking up on a hint. We do not need statistics to tell us that the school system is inadequate to the demands of modern life. We have estate agents for that. If you tell them, for example, that you have a pram, are unable to use stairs, or require them to turn up within half-an-hour of the agreed meeting time, they will mumble amiably in the way people do when they want to placate their interlocutor without listening to them. They may as well be on the old people’s table at a wedding for all the difference it would make. Negotiating with the nearest four-year-old who is deeply absorbed in drawing on the walls will be invaluable training for your patience in this regard. Even better if they happen to be soiling the rug.

Expect misery. We live in the age of self-improvement. Smoothies, yoga and guided meditations are supposed to improve your resilience. They will be of no use to you on this quest. Estate agents are capable of greater depths of indifference than you have hitherto been aware of. It is better to adjust yourself to life’s basic realities than to seek to overturn them. In London flats there are kitchens without windows and bedrooms with boilers in the corner. Guided meditations do not go well when interrupted by unventilated cooking smells and a boiler clicking and gurgling every twelve seconds. You might as well have kept the child for all the peace you will get.

This diary will be a reminder of just how lucky you are

Take the opportunity to sharpen your wit. Everyone enjoys stories about ordinary life events such as What Happened To Me During School Drop Off or The Dispute I Am Having With The Woman At The Council About The Bin Collection Timetable — or least everyone tells such stories and there is a tacitly agreed upon social convention that we will all pretend to find this interesting because therapy is an expensive way to get yourself an audience. You are being given an opportunity to stand out in this crowded market. When estate agents tell you that these rooms are a normal height or that this sink doesn’t smell deathly, practise your retorts. The best technique is to be indirect. Great writers focus on effects not causes and so in like manner you can say loftily, “My uncle will be relieved to hear that it’s healthy to smell like that” or “We don’t want the children growing up to be tall, they’ll only look down on us.”

When your witty remarks fail to cut, start reciting the climate statistics you learned from your friend. Repeat slowly until their eyes widen.

Keep a diary. If you are living the sort of boring sensible life that ensures happiness, this will be a uniquely difficult time. It will be a source of light relief to have a record you can read aloud when you have to spend the first three weeks in your new windowless studio flat without wifi. For those of you who live exciting and interesting lives, this diary will be a reminder of just how lucky you are to be able to spend your time drinking mocktails on the roof of a car park or debating socialism over smashed avocado. If you do make the rare sighting of an estate agent with more than nine months’ experience, it is nice to record it as you might with an endangered species.

Cancel Netflix. Not just because everyone else is doing that right now but because it is commonly believed among the older generations that this is all that stands between the dissipated young and the glories of owning stairs and a spare bedroom. These advisors not only own their own homes, but are keeping their Netflix subscriptions. The more of us who cancel our subscriptions, the more the price is likely to rise for them. When it does so they will inevitably be forced to sell their homes and thus the market will be flooded, prices will adjust downwards, and this whole problem will solve itself.

Remember to be charitable. Once the market has adjusted, and you have used your advantage as a non-Netflix watcher to buy the dip, the older generation will need somewhere to live. You may feel like taking revenge, but remember that renting out your spare room at an exorbitant price is only unkind if you make them deal with an agent rather than negotiating directly.

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