Flatsharing heads to the Fringe

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We’re excited to announce SpareRoom’s partnership with Rent Girl, a hilarious and brutally honest comedy about the life of a renter, written for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Rent Girl is the latest project from actress and writer Maddy Anholt and follows the success of Diary of a Dating Addict, which enjoyed a sell out run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and transferred to London’s Soho Theatre this year.

Previews start this month and run across the UK throughout July, before the show heads up to Edinburgh for the Fringe.

Here’s what Maddy has to say about Rent Girl:

Hello, my name is Maddy Anholt and I am a rent girl. I’ve been a rent girl for the last ten years in London. I worked out the other day what I’ve spent on rent in London over the last ten years. £136,000. That’s not a typo… £136,000. Pretty vomit-inducing, isn’t it?

The fact is by 2025 only 26% of young adults will be on the housing ladder. That means 74% of us will be rent boys and rent girls by 2025. Rent goes up and up and our salaries stay the same so we don’t have much choice in the matter.

But is it possible to have an enjoyable renting experience? An experience where you could leave food in the cupboards safely knowing it’d be there when you got home? Where you didn’t wake up to your flatmate watching you sleep at the end of your bed? Where you didn’t find questionable hairs in your toothbrush?

It all started in 2009 when I first came to London from a remote countryside town to try and build my empire. I put up an advert looking for work: “Young, fresh girl seeks any part-time work… excellent typing and oral skills”. You can imagine the responses I got.

Rent Girl is Sliding Doors meets Pretty Woman … was I better off taking the job as a children’s entertainer ending up with two broken toes, or should I have sold my underwear for £800 a pop to afford my rent?

Rent Girl previews opened 26th June at The Comedy Room, Camden and run throughout July. For full dates and tickets see: www.maddyanholt.com or find Maddy on Twitter @maddy_anholt

Rent Girl will be at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, The Gilded Balloon, 17:30, 3rd – 29th August. www.gildedballoon.co.uk

How to find flatmates to ‘banter’ with

One of the delights with a website as large and complex as SpareRoom is that it’s often our customers who show us interesting ways to use it that we’d never thought of, but that really strike a chord with other users.

Case in point: Map search. It’s been on the site for a while, and once we launched it we didn’t really have much to say about it. It works, showing rooms on a map rather than in a list, so you can make a beeline for ones in the precise area you’re looking in, much more easily. Beyond that we really didn’t think it would rock anyone’s world.

Until @nickw84 tweeted a link to a map search he’d created, which showed a spark of genius. He’s used SpareRoom’s map search to show all the rooms in London which included the term ‘banter’ in the ad, which seem to cluster around South West London. So whether you love a bit of banter between flatmates, or this kind of thing fills you with abject horror, you can quickly identify parts of London to head for or avoid.

Flatshares which include banter in the description


Nick’s tweet went viral yesterday, and appeared in an article about online trends in The Independent this morning. Since then, people have got busy creating flatshare maps of vino drinkers, “LOL” users and those who are anal about cleaning – apparently these are rarer the further north you go. Why not create a flatshare map of your own? Use the advanced search tool on SpareRoom to search by keyword in an area of the UK, and then show results on a map, and share with the world! You never know what insights it may lead to.

How to solve the Housing Crisis in London

SpareRoom attended the Future of London Housing debate hosted by the Evening Standard on Wednesday 20th March, in a packed room of over 1000 attendees. Housing is clearly a subject that is close to the hearts of many Londoners and the debate and following Q&A session became quite heated – showing the passion and emotion involved.

All of the panellists, including thinkers and politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, agreed that more housing supply was needed to relieve the housing crisis enveloping London. Deputy Mayor for Housing, Richard Blakeway called for London’s share of stamp duty to be ploughed back into a massive house-building programme. Whilst the MD of Berkeley Housing proposed a simplified planning process, the former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone’s call was to provide council housing for mixed communities, so there is less segregation between rich and poor in London. Alain de Botton, philosopher and writer, suggested a blueprint for attractive, affordable design that could be repeated easily and efficiently across London, removing some of the hurdles in the planning process, whilst the broadcaster and architectural graduate Janet Street Porter called for high density building, across railway lines and over car parks, like in New York. Possibly the biggest applause of the evening went to Evening Standard columnist Rosamund Urwin’s suggestions of disbanding Foxtons, banning Kirsty Alsopp and deporting the Candy Brothers. Standing up for ‘renty-somethings’ she focused on her own case of being shut out of home ownership, and renting with family members.

Whilst many of their suggestions were valid and probably will help to resolve the housing crisis in a few years to come, if more intensive building programmes do get underway (we’ve only built half the number of homes we need for the last 20 years and have a lot of catching up to do), there was a distinct lack of focus on the here and now. With so many thousands of people on housing lists in London, and the capital attracting workers and students like never before, there is an imperative need to offer practical solutions to today’s housing crisis, before London becomes a place that no real people can afford to live and work in.

Sharing existing resources seems to be the elephant in the room that nobody would mention. Amongst the talk of pressing empty properties and even offices into homes for the needy, there is no mention of the thousands of under-occupied properties that can help to ease the crisis. This is already happening – as teenage children grow up and move away, ’empty nesters’ are starting to rent out their spare rooms in their thousands – but we need to see more of this, to make an impact. What could the policy makers do to help encourage this trend?

We would suggest a raise in the tax free limit homeowners can earn through the Rent a Room scheme for starters – it’s been at the same rate since its introduction in 1997, whilst rents have been rising dramatically. Why not make it more attractive for people with spare rooms to take in a lodger, and help to remove the pressure on the limited supply in the private rented sector, and the social rented sector too? We’ve been pushing for this with our Raise the Roof campaign for some time, and hope that the Chancellor may see fit to increase the tax benefit in his next budget, even if it wasn’t included in last week’s.

Other ways to increase supply include removing some of the hurdles involved in turning a property into an HMO. This will promote more efficient use of existing property, and help young people to find somewhere affordable to live in the here and now, rather than being told to wait for houses yet to be built.

Do you agree? What do you think could be done to help solve the housing crisis sooner, rather than later?

Sharing is the new normal

Today’s release of National Census figures from 2011 reveals that sharing has become a more common way of life in England and Wales.

Households that fall into the “other” category – not single people living alone, or a single family together – make up 8% of households, up from 6% ten years ago. This doesn’t include “other households” with people over 65 living together, which would refer to those in a care home or hospice.

The statistics reveal where flatsharers are likely to be living. In London, house-sharing is at double the national average (15%). Inner London has the highest concentration of house-sharers, at 18% and the borough of Tower Hamlets is revealed to be the top borough for house-sharing – 21% of households are sharers. This accolade is joint with the Borough of Brent in outer London where the same percentage of households (21%) are made up of people sharing.

That London comes top for sharing is not surprising, given the pressures on London housing stock, the cost of living, and the relentless rise of rents.

The region with the lowest proportion of sharers is the North East, where only 5% of households are living with non family members.

The Census figures do not cover Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Rising costs force couples to put their lives on hold

A new survey carried out by SpareRoom has shown that couples are struggling to be able to afford to rent on their own and are having to put their lives on hold as a result. Because of the rising cost of living, and the difficulty faced in getting onto the housing ladder due to stringent deposit requirements, more and more couples are struggling to rent on their own and save for their future.

SpareRoom’s latest survey has revealed the impact that sharing with flatmates has on couples. Almost half reported that they are putting their life on hold – getting married and having children is not on the agenda. Where you live is perhaps the most important factor in feeling settled enough to take such steps, and the horizon doesn’t look too bright right now.

Because people can’t get mortgages without a huge deposit, they’re forced to rent, increasing demand on the rental sector, which pushes up rents, which in turn makes it more difficult to afford to save, or even to pay the rent. The Money Advice Trust reports today that a record 12,000 tenants who are struggling with rent arrears have contacted them for advice this year.

So it’s not surprising that couples like Kimberley Grant and Matthew Thursfield, as reported in today’s London Evening Standard, have put their wedding plans on hold. The couple, sharing a four-bedroom house in Bromley, are living more economically than if they rented a place of their own. Their rent comes in at £480 a month, inclusive of bills, which is far less than the £750 average they’d need to pay to cover a one-bedroom flat just for the two of them. But even so, they’re struggling to save for their future, and so have yet to set a wedding date, although they got engaged this summer.

With 44% of couples responding to our survey saying that their housing situation is affecting their aspirations to settle down and start families, it seems clear that the housing crisis is making people feel trapped by their circumstances, and having a long term impact on their life-choices.

13% of couples said they don’t think they’ll be able to afford to rent a home on their own, never mind buy their own place, for the foreseeable future.

Flatsharing as a couple comes with a range of additional complications that the single flatmate doesn’t face. Just finding somewhere that will accept couples is tough for starters, without the added strains of trying not to make their housemates feel uncomfortable around them, the lack of opportunities to be alone with each other, and  just finding enough space to store all their stuff in a rented room.

It’s a sad state of affairs indeed. If two people sharing a room in a flatshare can’t save towards their future, what chance do the rest of us have?

4 great ways to find a flatshare in London

London flatshare search options

There have always been several ways to search for a London flatshare on SpareRoom but they’ve been a little hidden away – until now.

With a bit of design tweaking we’ve been able to create a much easier way for you to access them. Here are the 4 ways you can search:

  1. Location – Simply type in the postcode or name of the area you’re looking in and away you go. Easy
  2. Commute time – Select your ideal commute time, let us know which station you work nearest to and tell us your budget. We’ll show you all the flatshares you can reach in that time
  3. Travel zone – Looking in a specific zone or, say, between zones 2 & 3? Cut out rooms in places you’re not interested in and zone in on the relevant ones
  4. Tube line – If you want to live on a specific tube line tell us which and we’ll show you all the best flatshares you could be living in

We hope these tools make it easier for you to find a London flatshare. Happy hunting!

Matt & the SpareRoom team

Brand new Croydon Speed Flatmating event

new logo sqLooking for a flatshare in Croydon? Have a spare room you need to rent out? Come along to the very first Croydon Speed Flatmating event at Tiger Tiger this evening.

Croydon is the latest in a series of regular ‘local’ Speed Flatmating events, catering for people who want to live in specific areas of London. Other events include: Angel, Camden, Clapham, East End and Hammersmith, plus our regular Zones 1-3 event and our new LGBT night.

Tonight’s event is completely free to attend – you just need to register in advance.

Fancy flatsharing in an award-winning home?

For those few people who still hear the words ‘lodger’ or ‘flatshare’ and think immediately of Rising Damp or The Young Ones here’s proof (if any is needed) of the fact that there are rooms out there in some really lovely properties.

Take, for example, this flatshare in Dulwich, for which the owner and live-in-landlady Ann was awarded ‘Ideal Home Interior 2011’, presented by Linda Barker at the Ideal Home Exhibition.

Great new London area info tool

Where to live in London

Choosing an area in London can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you’re new to the city. Most people either end up in one of the few areas they’ve heard of or choose somewhere based on where their frinds are or to be near work. There’s nothing like a bit of local knowledge though when it comes to living in a new city – luckily, with hundreds of thousands of Londoners using SpareRoom every year we’re not short on local knowledge.

So, to take advantage of this (and make things easier for you), we’ve now added a new ‘area info’ feature to SpareRoom’s London ads. This shows you the average monthly rents for a single and double room in the area (including bills), plus a handy list of the tube and train stations you’ll find there. The best bit though is information on what each area is like based on real feedback from SpareRoom users who live there. Whether you’re looking for somewhere leafy, chilled, good for pubs or multi-cultural we’ve taken the recommendations of thousands of Londoners to help you decide where to live.

Every London ad on SpareRoom now has an area info link (next to the postcode at the top of the details):

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Click the link and it’ll take you to the info for the area in question (in the example the area is Brixton).

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If you know the area already there’s even a link so you can tell us what you think.

Happy hunting – don’t forget to come back and let us know what you think of your area once you’ve moved in!

Cheers

Matt

How to advertise for a flatmate part 7 – Speed Flatmating & viewings

In the final part of Rick’s guest blog for us he looks at the usefulness of Speed Flatmating and shares his thoughts on viewings

Speed Flatmating

I’ve been to a few Speed Flatmating events in my time, and as odd as the concept may sound to some, they’re an incredibly useful way of meeting potential flatmates face-to-face and sizing them up in a way that reading someone’s advert doesn’t really allow for (whether you have a room to let or are looking for a room). As undeniably useful as they are, the strangeness of turning up at a social event to basically ask people if they’d like to come and live with me is something I’ve always found a bit stressful; for example, as a man pitching the spare room in my two-bedroom flat to a woman, I have to give off an unspoken assurance that I’m not some sort of weirdo and that they can feel safe and comfortable if they were to move in. Still, printed copies of my ad and the video tour I mentioned earlier ready to view on my phone make for an impressive pitch, so there’s no shortage of interest. And it works – my current (female) flatmate was found at a Speed Flatmating event in Fulham.

Viewings

I’ll not presume to tell anyone how to conduct themselves at a viewing. But the one thing that caused me no end of annoyance and inconvenience whenever I’d arranged viewings was people simply not turning up without so much as a text message to let me know they weren’t coming. It’s rude, it’s inconsiderate, and it’s a colossal waste of my time. I once scheduled eight viewings over one weekend, and only three of them turned up. Two non-attenders texted me half an hour or so before they were due to arrive to say they weren’t coming, the other three didn’t bother. A whole day, during which I had plenty of other things I could have been doing, completely wasted. Politeness, consideration and good manners cost nothing. Well, perhaps the cost of sending a quick text in this case but simply not turning up seems to be considered acceptable. It bloody is not!

Viewings can sometimes be awkward experiences, though. For example, one person felt the need to make it very clear to me that he intended to be massively sexually active should he move in, in such a way that left me in no doubt that what he actually meant was that he intended to pay for the privilege, if you get my drift. That, as well as evidence of a drink problem and some frighteningly ‘old-fashioned’ attitudes regarding race and women, had me keen to wrap things up as quickly as possible. I didn’t fancy the prospect of an angry, tooled-up pimp kicking my front door in during the early hours, for one thing. Another person had a go at me as soon as I opened the front door, telling me that he hadn’t realised how ‘far out’ my flat was (despite my ad and the directions I’d given him being perfectly clear on the location), accusing me of deliberately misleading him, before turning heel and storming off. I was quite startled, I can tell you.

As I said, back at the beginning of this series of guest blogs, the search for a flatmate is usually an uncomplicated process, and hopefully you won’t encounter any of the potential complications I’ve described. This little blog isn’t meant to be taken 100% seriously, but I hope it’s been in some way useful, if not entertaining, and at the very least kept you from doing any work for a few distracted minutes.