Flat Hunting: The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy

Confession: When I was in high school, and I didn't have any weekend plans, I would stay in at night and watch House Hunters International on HGTV with my mom until we both fell asleep on the couch.

Normal? Maybe not. But I did learn a decent amount about 'house hunting' from watching those shows, among others (Property Brothers anyone? Let's just say my mom and I watched for more than just the properties...).

A quality show hosted by some quality men.

And what did I take away from spending hours of shows like this? Well, for one thing, I learned that when looking for a property, location is the most important feature. I also learned that you should look beyond the clutter, and see what the property really has to offer. 

But there are some things that watching TV shows about houses and apartments doesn't prepare you for when looking for your first rental property. You know, especially when you're 18 years old and 3,000 miles away from your all-knowing parents. 

While my three friends and I did eventually get our hands on a flat (and a lovely one at that), I can't say it wasn't stressful. From disgusting rooms, to insane flat viewings, to the hassle of sorting out money among four people, we had a lot to deal with. 

Our search started out where everyone's flat hunt starts out: online. We combed through tons of listings, ruling out the ones that were too far from campus or simply to expensive for our budget. Then came the phone calls to letting agencies to set up a viewing. Now, there are two types of flat viewings (at least, that we experienced): the first is an application process in which the prospective applicants send in forms for the agency and the landlord after viewing the flat. The second type is first-come-first-served. I'll get to that later...  

Funnily enough, I wasn't at our first flat viewing; I was a good student and went to my class instead. And maybe it was for the best. Online, the flat was bright, beautiful and spacious. But according to the two who could make it to the viewing, the place was a hot mess. It was supposedly absolutely gross to the point where it couldn't be saved. 

Lesson learned? Don't always trust the pictures online. 

Still can't get over how beautiful this area is. 

And then came our second viewing- which I couldn't say was much better. We were completely in love with this second flat when we saw it online: it had gorgeous bedrooms, a nice size kitchen, and even came with a piano! Talk about perfect. But getting this 'flat from heaven' wasn't going to be smooth sailing- it was a first-come-first-served process. 

In this type of flat viewing, all prospective renters show up at the property at the same time to view the flat. We were the second group there. By the time we were allowed into the flat, we thought there were maybe only five different groups looking at the property. But oh no were we wrong. 

There had to be about 40 or 50 students frantically running around that one four bedroom flat at the same time. We quickly peeked into each of the rooms, before asking the agent a few questions. We loved the flat (though it was a bit darker and smaller in person), and all we had to do was call the letting agency to put down our deposit. 

Of course, my friend who was calling wasn't receiving any service up on the fourth floor. So we all ran down the winding staircase and into the street, only to find that the group of girls who arrived before us were already on the phone, securing their deposit. 

Lesson learned? Don't get involved in first-come-first-served viewings unless you're 100% prepared.  

Getting a flat by the Meadows was clearly the best idea ever (Disclaimer: it is usually gray/rainy)

We were heartbroken. I never thought you could have emotions about a flat, but now I know it's entirely possible. But we marched forward in the process, looking at even more flats online, setting up more viewings, and lowering our expectations. 

Our next flat didn't seem too promising online. The location was ideal, but it looked cluttered and cramped. We went to the viewing (which was an application process), I with very low expectations, and ended up being pleasantly surprised. The flat was spacious, bright, and, aside from the clutter, quite beautiful. And the best part? There were fireplaces in nearly every room. 

And whaddya know- a week and a half later, the flat was ours!

Lesson Learned? Consider all your options and don't give up. 

Speaking with some of my older friends who are in flats this year, my group doesn't seem to have had the worst experience ever (some of my friends didn't sign a lease until June!). But we still had our fair share of struggles. 

The entire time we were looking for flats I kept thinking about how young I felt. I didn't think I was ready to be looking at properties or handling money. I mean, I'm only 18, and most of my friends at home will be staying in dorms for at least another year. 

If you asked me a year ago if I saw myself living in a flat in Edinburgh during my second year of University, I probably would've said no and proceeded to call you crazy, thinking that I would be living in a dorm in America at this point in my life. But sometimes, things in your life turn out drastically different than you expect, and you have to just go with it. 

Now, back to watching Property Brothers...       

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