Sunday, February 28, 2016

House Hunters International

In my last posting I promised to tell you a little more about the process of moving to Scotland and specifically about the "joy" of house hunting:  

On Tuesday nights we have a show on TV that is called "Goodbye Deutschland" and is about people who decide to leave Germany to live in a foreign country. Sometimes you have perfectly normal people doing logical things like a young doctor and his wife and kids moving to the North of Sweden because they pay young doctors really well there. They plan, they move, they settle in with some ups and downs and all is good. This is kind of nice but does not make too exciting TV and so most of the people going expat on the TV show are chaotic human beings who randomly choose a spot on the map, pack their things and go to a place where they have no job and do not speak the language. Usually they have no money left after moving to make it all a bit more thrilling and of course there is a lot of dramatic music in the background. I hate-love this show. 

Everyone who knows me a little also knows that I like to plan out my next steps and that I am good with it. So to no surprise I am planning this move to Scotland for a long time already and every time I went through my to-do-list I was like "I need to organize this because we aren't at Goodbye Deutschland here." When it comes to the basics it is pretty easy to beat most folks in the show though. I do speak the language. Well, let's say I understand most Scottish (took a good while but I am getting there) and I do speak English. I also have a job. I am really well prepared with all the boring stuff like bank, insurances, pension funds, move logistics and budgeting, too. I hate Excel but god damn ... I make good use of it at the moment. 

I also tried to plan the most crucial piece of the puzzle a bit ahead and that was finding a new home. It is hard enough when you try to move within your own town but if you try to do so in a different country it becomes a real challenge.
I started the process a few months ago by staring at Rightmove adoring flats I could not rent because my move was still many weeks away. My idea was that this would help me to figure out what I could get for my budget and where. And it worked. Kind of.  

The thing is just that moving in the UK is a pretty short notice thing. Most flats are available right when they go online or become available within the next max 4 weeks. That is different from Germany where all is a bit more planned ahead. So for example the viewings for my flat are next week although it becomes officially available not before May 1st (I move for April 1st but I have to leave time for renovations which is much more in tenant responsibility than in the UK). That is how far in advance it often goes in Germany. 

So looking at Rightmove told me I would need to go to Glasgow in February if I would want to rent from March / mid of March, which I wanted because a bit of overlap helps tons with the logistics and so I did. 
Before I flew to Scotland I collected a whole bunch of paperwork like landlord reference, work reference, character reference, work contract, last three pay slips, a few utility bills, scanned copy of ID and passport, certificated translation of my German credit history report and score. These things are important if you want a flat and even more important if you have no credit history in the UK and the referencing companies have trouble tracking you down. We are not at "Goodbye Deutschland" here ;) and I had researched that before and it indeed helped. I also knew about the energy efficiency rating scale, council tax bands, broadband readiness, utility costs and I also know Glasgow quite well. House hunting should be a piece of cake, you'd think, with all this ... .

A few days ahead of travel I started to shortlist properties and to call letting agents. Forget emailing them - almost no one ever answers. Sadly between me calling and me traveling I saw a lot of places on my list becoming let agreed because house hunting in the UK is really a day to day thing, but I still had a few appointments for viewings set and I had the Rightmove app on the phone to get all interesting new entries. Oh ... and one thing is important to say:
Against all odds I was looking for unfurnished flats although UK citizens barely ever rent unfurnished, but I am German. German people NEVER rent furnished. It is not usual here and the idea of sleeping in someone's bed and napping on someone's couch creeps us out. We also do not buy as easily as UK people because buying property especially in big cities in Germany is completely unaffordable. Cultural differences ... 

On Monday the 15th I finally started my viewing marathon. It was sunny and I was full of optimism. The first flat was not located too badly ... a few blocks away from the Kelvingrove Museum down towards the river. Not the nicest place in Glasgow but still okay. The flat was freshly renovated which was great but although it had two bedrooms I swear it was not bigger than my one room studio at the moment. I was bumping into walls all the time. The house itself was also not in a good shape and smelled damp. So maybe  ... not so much.
Next stop was a flat I had high hopes for. It was just in my range still and in a pretty high scale city center apartment building. When I arrived I was really excited about how central it was. If I would rent this one I would never ever need to join the taxi queue again. Then the letting agent opened the door and what I had to see there cannot be unseen. Two student boys were still living in the apartment (they were not home) and the whole place was knee high covered in rubbish. There was no place to put your foot on. While me and the other people attending the viewing were standing there jaws dropped the panicking letting agent said something about potential and deep cleaning but this got irrelevant latest when we opened the door to a poo covered (I am not kidding) bathroom. We all ran outside. It took me hours and lots of soap and intense hand cleaning before I could eat again and I had lots of high voltage drinks to make sure my body was clean from the inside, too.

The next day I started with a fresh portion of good spirit and went to a place close to St. George's X.  The flat looked bright and big on the pictures. I got out of the subway and smiled down Great Western Road towards Squid and Whale and walked on. One block, two blocks, three blocks. Hmmm ... there it was - a fairly well maintained apartment building, 10 min walk from the subway. The flat in this case was really bright and big, BUT ... the house was surrounded by quite big high rise buildings and although just minutes walk away this was not pretty West End anymore at all. I am no chicken but it was not a good place to be at day and I could not even picture going down there alone by night. I will also work from home and the "quiet" in the description did only count with closed double glazed Windows because almost right above the house was the M8 which made for a beautiful sight also. Not. 

At this point I started to panic because new offerings were dropping in only very very slowly that week, too. The next day I decided I had to start to look at furnished apartments as well to maybe find a home for the first six months and to keep looking while living in Glasgow already and so I expanded my search.
One place was in a good location but it was really run down because the poor flat was obviously seeing new tenants every six months. At least the letting agent there was nice and gave me tons of helpful information. I also scheduled one more viewing in for Saturday - my last possible day to find something. It was a flat in a good West End location and although it was furnished it looked doable, but as you can imagine the timing creeped me out. Last minute is not my style really. 

I kept looking. One highlight was for sure a big furnished flat right on Byers Road. That is no location I would want to do long term but for the first few months? Why not. Well .. well .. The house was great but the flat looked like a bulky waste landfill. I carefully asked the letting agent if the sacks of rubbish and all the broken furniture like the stranded wreck of an office chair would be removed. He said "No."  Okay. After a little break he told me that no tenant had ever complained and that this would rent in no time. Right. Good for you, letting agent. I lost it though when I looked in one of the bedrooms and was greeted by a dead cockroach that had done its last breath on the dirty mattress and was now rotting there on its back with its tiny feet pointing to the ceiling.
The afternoon was a bit better because the little flat in Thornwood I viewed was surprisingly cozy (and unfurnished) and I liked the neighborhood a lot. It was not exactly perfect but much better than all the other places and so I kept it on the list. 

When I met with a friend for drinks and dinner in the evening my balance sheet for the week did not look good. I had nothing anymore on the list than the not really right Thornwood place and the furnished place to view on Saturday with no guarantee I would get it if I would like it. I tried to make "Plan B" and "Plan C" to not freak out and I admit if I would have not had my loved ones - family and friends - supporting me over the week and cheering me up there would have been lot more tears and panic. They also encouraged me to take the leap of faith if the situation could not be resolved while I was in Scotland.

Little did I know I was only one sleep away from pure magic. 

Friday morning I woke up with no plans for more flat viewings. I was just looking forward to meet my friend in the afternoon and to watch Aidan Moffat's movie at the Barras in the evening.
While I had breakfast I decided to update my Rightmove search one final time. And there it was. THE FLAT ....  that beautiful flat. Unfurnished, freshly renovated, tenement building, high ceilings, dark wooden floors, walk in wardrobe, beautiful new bathroom - and in my budget. I looked at the address and made weird shrieking noises because I was staring at a dot on the map right behind the Botanic Gardens 5 min away from one of my fave AirBnB places to stay at in town.
I called  the letting agent and she said they would get the keys only Friday night and there were no viewings at the weekend. That is when I went full force and high speed explained my situation and begged for mercy. Thankfully she had a heart and agreed to meet me at the flat on Saturday 11.30 am.

The rest of the day was wonderful. I spent quality time with my friend, watched an amazing movie ("Where You're Meant To Be" - go watch it!) with friends at the wonderful Barrowlands.  I enjoyed the live set of Aidan Moffat and his special band for the movie and event including James Graham of The Twilight Sad. There were lots of laughs and hugs and it was all I love so much about Glasgow. 

Saturday then I went to see the furnished flat and it was really okay. Then I stopped at the Smile Cafe on Queen Margret Drive, which is the best place in the city for real Italian coffee, and had a chat with some lovely local ladies. I told them that I was trying to move to the neighborhood and they sent me with crossed fingers to the viewing.
I walked down to the flat along the Kelvin Walkway. It is SUCH a beautiful neighborhood really. In front of my house I waited for the letting agent. She arrived and we tried to get in. It was like in a movie. There was me being really desperate and none of the keys worked. We had to ring doorbells and then fighting TWO big doors before we finally made it after 30 minutes into the flat. It was still as beautiful as on the pics. It was just IT and so I of course applied. 

On Sunday I went back to Germany and on Monday evening I got confirmation - the landlord had accepted my application. THE FLAT is mine.

I will go back for a week mid March to pick up my keys and organize things and then right after Easter I move. I have found a new home - the place to live and it is all I wanted.


Ready for summer - the communal garden of my new house: 

1 comment:

  1. "Where you´re meant to be" - could´t think of a more perfectly fitting movie title for Tina in Glasgow, especially during that week ;-)