Thursday, September 4, 2014

Against All Odds

We didn’t exactly make our quest for a new flat stretch out as long as four seasons of Downton Abbey, did we? And that’s a shame, because I was anticipating a months-long odyssey that would give me something to write about for a change—even if it was just apartment hunting—but then we went and found a flat.

7PM Thursday: Learn of random evictions by new landlord
8PM Thursday: Start looking for flats
11AM Friday: Make appointments to view flats
9:30 AM Saturday: Take the first flat we see

Oddly, we found our current flat in a similar way—went to Horsham on a whim, walked into a random letting agent’s office and was shown the flat we’re in now—but we couldn’t expect to be so lucky twice in a row, especially with the paltry pickings available to us.

Thanks to our laughably-small target area, our initial search rooted out only four flats that we thought might be suitable. One seemed too good to be true—large double bedroom, balcony, parking, nice location—but the others were sorta, eh. Still, it was all we had to look at, so I went to the letting agent to arrange viewings.

It turned out that the flat we had deemed too good to be true was, indeed—as these things so often are—too good to be true; someone had already rented it. So I made appointments to view the consolation prizes and went home somewhat disheartened.

The next morning we met the letting agent and went to our first viewing. We were not optimistic. The flat was part of a complex built just after we moved to Horsham. Being new, they were sure to be tiny and expensive and shoddy. They were also in one of the ugliest buildings I have ever seen, and they all had balconies that overlooked Sainsbury’s Car park. My wife didn’t even want to see it but I have always wondered what the flats looked like inside and, since the viewing was free, I made the appointment anyway, figuring I could satisfy my curiosity and then we could move on to the flats we actually might like.

But when we entered the flat, we were stunned.

Dominating the large living room/kitchen area were glass doors leading to a balcony and the subsequent view beyond, not of Sainsbury’s but of the lovely and leafy historic section of town. We both stepped onto the balcony to admire it and then noticed that, even though we were both out there—along with a small round table and two chairs—we were not crowded at all. In addition to that, it was blissfully quiet. The balcony and the view encouraged thoughts of sitting out with morning coffee watching the sun rise over the town, or enjoying amenable summer evenings with a cup of tea and a good book.

From that moment on, we were both thinking, “We could live here.”

The rest of the flat turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as well. It had large, bright rooms, was solidly built and came with an allocated, secure parking spot (you have to live in Britain to understand how that can make you nearly giddy with delight).

To be fair, there were disadvantages: it seemed, overall, smaller than our current flat (turns out that was just because of the way it was laid out; it's actually larger), there was also a lack of storage space and it had two bathrooms.

It’s a two bedroom flat, not a guest house! What is the advantage of two bathrooms? Although I can see how convenient that would be--if you need to visit the loo in the middle of the night, you can just go to the en suite instead of taking, say, four more steps out the bedroom door to the toilet in the hall. In my opinion, the en suite would be better used as a walk-in wardrobe.

Just to be sure we weren’t falling for the first pretty face to come along, we viewed the other flats, which convinced us that taking the first one was definitely the right thing to do.

And so, we have a flat, not simply near the town centre, but pretty much in the town centre, with parking, a view and a walk-in wardrobe that doubles as a shower.