I live with Karina, a communications co-ordinator at a design agency, and Laura, who works in fashion PR. The three of us met at university and we all graduated last year. Having lived together before, we decided to adult our life up a bit and rent a house together. Being 23 years old and fresh out of university, the ever-growing rental prices that came with the gentrification we’ve contributed to meant we had to review our Hackney living situation.
To some, £1,900 a month to rent a three-bed in London is cheap. To anyone outside the London bubble it probably seems pricey, but it’s the cheapest place I’ve lived and the best by far. I could move back home to Sussex and save to buy like all of my friends. It’s a sacrifice I grapple with every month when I get paid and spend 50% of my monthly wage on rent and bills, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I’ve been renting in London for around four years, and until earlier this year I’d lived in various flats with various people in and around Hackney in east London.
The move south of the river might not seem a drastic change, but for Londoners it can be a pretty big deal.
Karina and Laura and I gave ourselves a good four months to find the right place. There wasn’t a long list of demands as we know you can’t be that fussy in London, but we heard rumours about getting more for your money in south London so decided to have a look for ourselves. It started out as a relaxed process, sitting in the girls' Dalston flat with a bottle of wine and browsing through Rightmove, filtering homes from high-low instead of low-high. This quickly escalated to frantically screenshotting houses and sending them on the group WhatsApp chat.
In the back of my mind I hadn’t planned on actually leaving Hackney – we hadn’t done any viewings so it didn’t seem serious, and as summer was just around the corner I was sure the allure of sunny days in London Fields was too much for Karina and Laura to walk away from. The move south of the river might not seem a drastic change, but for Londoners it can be a pretty big deal. Think of it like A Place in the Sun but instead of crossing oceans you’re Ubering all your belongings the other side of the Thames.
The thought of moving got slightly more real when I realised I’d be saving over £150 a month. At 23 and on much less than the average London wage, money was the key motivator for the move. When I lived in east London, my share of the rent was £830 pcm (inc bills) for a double room in a three-bed flat. The decor was dated, there was no garden and it was slap bang on the main road. So when we started to look in the south, all we wanted was some peace and quiet, not living on Hackney’s busiest road or opposite a police station again, and more living space in the house. Too much to ask? Not at all apparently!
I also miss east London Bumble; since moving south I’ve had to broaden my horizons (and my radius) on my quest for 'the ones'
The next time the three of us had a Sunday with nothing planned, we hopped on a train to Brockley to see what the area was like, all the while wondering 'What’s the catch?' After a coffee at Browns of Brockley (try it) we walked around for about an hour. We passed an old telephone box that the locals have converted into a free library, stroked hundreds of the best dogs ever in Hilly Fields park and got a good community vibe that we found east London was missing. From this point it was a quick turnaround. We set up Rightmove alerts on our phones so we’d be first to viewings. Renting in London is so competitive and places will go off the market before you’ve even arrived for the viewing so we took a divide and conquer approach. We trusted each other's tastes so didn’t need to all be present at every viewing, just whoever was available. After three or four viewings we found the place we now call home, in Brockley.
It’s a lovely terraced house with a separate kitchen and living room and three big bedrooms. There’s storage in every crevice, enough to store all the crap we’ve collected over the years. It’s the loveliest place I’ve ever lived in, but it’s by no means perfect. The bin men come twice a week before 6am and pull up right at our front door. The walls are so thin I can hear Laura breathing in her bedroom, and everything is magnolia; I advocate white walls. Show me a .gov petition banning landlords from painting every wall magnolia and I will rally the troops!
We got what we asked for and more when we moved into the house, but we’ve had to sacrifice slightly on lifestyle by moving area. The good community vibe I mentioned earlier means that there’s less...something. I can’t entirely define what it is – maybe 'grit', the summer trash smell, the twentysomething singles walking small dogs and everyone drinking in parks, a vibe that’s a bit rougher around the edges and less picture-perfect. Whatever it is, I miss it. I also miss east London Bumble; since moving south I’ve had to broaden my horizons (and my radius) on my quest for 'the ones'.
In the meantime, to be back living with the girls is the dream. Everyone who has done it will know the many benefits of living with your best friends but for those of you who haven’t, they extend far beyond borrowing clothes. When you’ve had a long day at work, they’ll save you dinner for when you get in. They’ll tell you 'Nah just wash it tomorrow, it looks fine' when you can’t be bothered to do your hair. There’s a constant stash of tampons and pads so no need to panic when you’ve run out. They don’t moan when you blare out the same Drake track repeatedly on the speaker. Like I said, it’s the dream.