Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Home searching

Home searching has been quite hectic since moving to the US and the UK starting in 2000. When we moved to the Bay Area then, the occupancy rate was 99%. Literally an accommodation was taken up the moment it was emptied. It is like the hammering game – You are holding a hammer in front of a table with many holes. Something, like a fake mouse will pop up from one of the holes and you have to react quick enough to hit its head to get a point. Home searching was similar to that at that time. I felt that I could not drive fast enough to put my deposit to any place, decent or not! It was a crazy time, but I survived.

It became better afterward when we moved to San Francisco after the Dotcom bust. It worsened again when we moved to London in 2002 at the peak of this property cycle. Everything was so expensive in London. We had to work really hard in a short period of time to find an affordable place for three of us, without knowing London very well. We did find a place in Wimbledon in the end, with a week to spare.

We moved within Wimbledon once. It was a problematic move since the housing agent has screwed up the move-out date. In the end, we had to move one week earlier, meaning that we had one less week to find something more affordable.

Moving from Wimbledon to Glasgow was relatively easy, although we had a very short fixed time. We were extremely efficient. In less than 72 hours, I had to see around 18 houses and made a decision. After seven months, we had to leave that house. That was another chaos. We started our search relatively early, but we could not find any house big enough for us. It was amazing considering the time of the year. Well actually, it was probably because of the time of the year (in July, by the end of the summer) that made it difficult to find a decent place. Most landlords would have let their house in early summer. So we had to settle with a half decent one.

Now, we are moving back to London. It is no easier than any of the previous rounds. The property market has been staying high in the past memorable years. People are talking about a slow down, but the rental market is staying hot. A small house with 3 bedrooms anywhere in the outskirt of London can normally rent around £2000 each month. It is not even within central London. So it has been a lot of hard work for me.

Having to work in the morning, and then to view properties in the evening, and to achieve these without having a car, is in fact extremely energy draining. To add to the complexity, we have to find a school for Ashley. So we have to find a location with good schools around. In London, the level of school can vary a lot, and school places are limited. It is a ridiculous system. I am sure I will talk about it some day. So everyday I was exhausted in the evening when I am back to the hotel. I could hardly enjoy any evening at all.

Finally, I have seen a few places today, relatively affordable, though at the high side. Nevertheless, there are a few options. Nothing is finalized yet. It will be soon, however. The next thing is to negotiate the rent. Hopefully the home searching will come to a conclusion in the coming few days. The next thing to struggle is finding a school for Ashley. Oh dear …

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