Even though I was mostly focused on finding a job before moving to Manchester, my first priority was to find a place to stay. And to avoid any problems in the future and make myself feel less home-sick, I was looking for a permanent place – a place to call home.
Before moving over, I had been in Manchester three times visiting friends. All these times I was staying in a neighbourhood called Chorlton-Cum-Hardy, or simply Chorlton, which is located South of the city centre. It’s a really nice and green suburb to live in, but it also offers a pretty rich cultural scene and vast nightlife opportunities. For me, it seemed obvious to look for my new place right here.
Having a limited budget, I opted for what most young people around here opt for – flat- or house-share. Even though I had little experience living with people I am not related to, I pretty much had no choice. But don’t get me wrong – I was willing to give it a go and pretty excited too. Being new to town, this would be a great opportunity for me to meet new people and get to know around better.
Where To Look For
There are several sites you can use to find your new home, and personally, I think it’s a better way than dealing with agents (which usually means – commissions!). Here’s what I used in my search:
- EasyRoommate – browse existing ads with available flat-shares or create your own flatmate ad telling what you are looking for
- SpareRoom – offers better options with your self-promotion giving the chance to create a pretty detailed ad (see picture below) which then gives you better options to buddy-up with others and ease your search; this one has a quite usable mobile application which is worth the try if you’re on the move a lot
- Flatshare – this service gathers ads with rooms and roommates from several other sites; I soon forgot about it as I got the same information on previously mentioned sources
- Zoopla – supposedly it’s the ‘leading’ online property resource in the UK; loads of realtor activity, and therefore I forgot about this after a few searches
- Rightmove – another ‘number 1’ resource for property in the UK; pretty similar to Zoopla
- Gumtree – I was told that Gumtree is the ‘local eBay’, however, this one allows you to put up ads with rooms to rent; not bad at all, but the content is not very high quality, might be the same as on EasyRoommate and SpareRoom with the only difference that people seemed to be lazy to answer
- Flatshares UK – the design and functionality of the site was completely unappealing to me so I never really used it, but you can give it a try (just don’t blame me)
- RoomPik – I loved the concept of the mobile app, however, it was completely unusable on my phone (iPhone 5 with the latest iOS update if the devs are reading this) – loads of annoying app crashes
You might not have the time or nerves to exhaust all these resources on a daily basis, therefore I suggest you pick 2-3 which seem the best for you and stick to them. The ads do repeat themselves, so there really is no use of covering them all.
How To Do The Hunt
Before you roll up your sleeves and kick the hunt off, make sure you have defined what is that you are really looking for. Here are a few questions it’s worth answering:
- Where do I want to live?
- Or better yet – where can I afford to live? Do an initial research on your desired areas and you’ll get a clear picture on prices and how they vary across different neighbourhoods. When it comes to choosing between two (or more if you’re lucky) properties within the same price range and suburb – use Google Maps to find out what services, shops, transport links you can find there and which combination suits you best.
- Who I want to live with? Is it guys or girls, professionals or students, younger people, older people, just one roommate or 5 or even more? Loads of variations to think about!
- Furnished or unfurnished? I think this again is a question of what you can afford. I suppose, if you’ve just moved to another country you won’t have a bed or a wardrobe hidden somewhere in your suitcase. And if you can’t spend a fortune to buy all those things, a furnished room will be a better starting point for you.
When you know all these answers, it’s time to create your own ad. And don’t skip on this! It really helps and you might get offers to buddy-up even if you have gone a bit passive and don’t have much time for the hunt. Just make sure your ad is thorough and gives a good (but honest!) impression about you. It’s worth adding your hobbies as well, as people tend to be in better relationships with people they have common interests with.
What To Expect
Just like job search, hunt for your new home won’t be easy. After all – you’re looking for a place where to spend most of your free time. It has to be cosy, it has to feel like home, and you should get along with people you share the living space with.
Let me share a few lessons I learned along the way:
- Even though you’re trying to avoid realtors, they will contact you if you have created your own ads. Sometimes it’s worth looking at what they are offering, but mostly it will include commissions and a pretty complex process.
- People will want to meet you! Either it’s the landlords or realtors, or it’s your future flatmates – people want to see you in person. For you, it is a chance to see your possible future flat, while for them it’s a chance to know you better and see if you’d be a good fit. Therefore the process might get quite complicated if you’re not on the spot while you’re searching.
- Not everything is what it seems! The pictures on the ad might draw the perfect picture of your new home, but in reality, they might be a few years old. It is best if you can go and see the property with your own eyes to make sure it’s what you want.
My Happy Ending
In my case, SpareRoom won it for me! I had created a nice ad with details about myself, my story and what I am looking for in my next home and what I expect from my flatmates. It worked really well as I got quite a lot of offers to buddy-up, however, most of them had no real options lined up which meant that there’s still a long way to go. As the time to move to Manchester was approaching, I became quite desperate as it seemed like a total mission impossible.
Then one day a guy named Tom wrote me a message – he and his friend Shaun had found a great flat in the very centre of Chorlton, a really good price, in very nice condition, and the guys seemed cool as well. They needed a third mate to join in, and it didn’t really matter to them that I was still in Latvia and they weren’t able to meet me. They even didn’t need a Skype video call to make sure I’m a real deal.
So now I, Tom and Shaun all live in a really cool place in the best possible part of Manchester. That place I call home now.
Note: This post originally appeared on Expat in MCR (expatinmcr.com) blog which has since been renamed to Dream Chaser (dreamchaserwrites.com).