Sometimes you don't get much notice of when you need to move home. Or sometimes you only have one free weekend for flat hunting. Or maybe you just don't like flat hunting and want to get it all over with in one day. Whatever your reasons for wanting to find a new flat in a hurry, this Entry is here to help you.
Preparation is important. Internet research is very useful, looking at property sites to find flats in the area you're moving to, the level of rent you can expect to pay, and the quality of the flats, including whether they're generally furnished or unfurnished. This can help to avoid unpleasant surprises when you actually see some flats. It's also a good idea to get some references organised, from your employer and your current landlord, as you'll need these when you come to rent your new flat.
Another vital piece of preparation is working out what area you'd like your new flat to be in. Does it need to be within walking distance of the shops, or close to the train station? Or would you rather be out of the centre of town, with off-street parking and a garden?
A further consideration is whether you're happy to be on the ground floor, or whether you're happy to climb seemingly endless flights of stairs1 to reach your home. It's useful to have a picture of the right location in your mind, although be prepared to have a degree of flexibility about this, if possible.
On the Day
On the day set aside for flat hunting, leave home early to get to the estate agents as they open. You might need the whole day to find a flat, and you need to give yourself as much time as possible. You might have researched which estate agents you want to visit beforehand, but don't let this stop you from having a drive2 around the area to see what estate agents there are, in case you need to visit them all.
Take a tape measure with you, especially if viewing unfurnished flats, so you can measure up for furniture and fittings.
When in the estate agents, tell them exactly what you want, being as specific as possible. But make it clear that you can be flexible. The more flexible you can be, the easier it'll be to find a flat. If they offer you a visit to a flat, it's wise to go and have a look. Even if you don't think the flat will be right for you, it's always useful to have seen a few for comparison purposes. Just because the estate agent's description makes it sound less than perfect, it doesn't mean you won't like it when you see it.
If the current tenant is in the flat when you look around, it might be an idea to have a quick chat with them. Ask them which furniture is theirs and which stays in the flat, so you'll know what you need to bring with you. Ask them about any problems they've had in the flat, if the neighbours are noisy, if pets are allowed, and what the landlord's like3. Try all the taps, both hot and cold, as you don't want to move in to find the water pressure in the shower is non-existent.
If you've time, it's a good idea to see the area your potential new flat is in at night, to see if you'll feel safe there. If not, have a look at the street lamps (or lack of), especially if you know you'll be walking around the area after dark. If you don't drive to work/university, it's also a good idea to try out the trip from your potential new flat, as a journey that looks easy enough on a map might involve five changes of bus, or crossing a main road that takes half an hour each morning and evening.
Never go for the first flat you see. It can be tempting to sign up there and then, as you're in a hurry and this flat is perfectly okay. However, it's wise to view at least one other flat, even from a different estate agent, so you've something to compare the first flat with.
Take your time to think things through over some lunch, and decide whether you want to take one of the morning's flats or continue the hunt in the afternoon. It's useful to have someone with you while flat hunting, so you can bounce opinions off each other to help you to decide which flat is for you. Having a look around the area surrounding your potential new home is also a good idea. You might be happier with a less-than-perfect flat in a great area than your ideal home miles away from the shops, or right next to a motorway.
When you decide on a flat, you'll need some paperwork with you. All estate agents are different, but generally it's wise to have your references, latest pay slip, some photographic identification (like a passport) and your bank account details on you. You'll also need your cheque book or credit card details4, as you'll probably be asked for a deposit at this stage.
Once everything is signed and sealed, you might want to ask if you can get into the flat again, to take measurements for any furniture or fixtures you may need, if you didn't do this during your first viewing. This might not be possible, especially if there's a tenant still in residence, but it's worth asking.
So you've chosen your new flat and now you're back home in your old flat thinking about it. Don't think about it too much - you're bound to start doubting yourself. Just remember, it was the best of the flats you saw, and you didn't have time to view any others, so therefore you made the right choice.
You can now begin to buy anything you might need to furnish your new flat, thinking about how you're going to move all your stuff, and start the process of telling all your utility companies and friends that you're moving5.
All that there's left to say is: good luck with the move, and enjoy your new flat!