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The Harsh Lessons You Learn Flat-Hunting in Your Late Twenties

Hello, to loss, denial, grief and crucially: realising you’re old, and looking for a new place on your own.

by Hannah Ewens; photos by Emily Bowler
16 August 2019, 8:44pm

Like Sally Rooney’s two plants sharing the same soil, you and your mates have always houseshared. They’ve understood that every three months, you’ll become depressed and have to be delicately prompted to return all the bowls and plates from your room, with a postscript WhatsApp message to wash some of your pants, mate x. You’ve understood that they’ll have sex loudly every other night and that they somehow don’t quite wash the tines of forks. You’ve had group Christmas dinners, made cleaning rotas after someone could never be arsed to take the bins out. You’ve spent most of your twenties growing up together in this most tawdry and unscrupulous way.

And then they all get serious with their other halves, or their dead grandparents leave them a six-figure inheritance for a deposit and they’re really leaving, ascending into adulthood. You think, trying not to slip into an existential hole, 'OK, we’re here again, and this time, we’re uglier, grumpier and crucially: older.' We’re flat-hunting, solo.

As I've found – and soon, some of you may too – once you hit your late twenties, looking for a roof over your head becomes a different game. Let’s go on a journey of what you've been through or what awaits as you try to flat-hunt, solo, as a legitimate adult.

It loses appeal with every new move

There’s nothing wrong with renting. Well, besides the initial concept – that hierarchical relationship between tenant and landlord scum – and a woeful lack of rent regulations. But when you’re younger the insecurity is easier to frame as fun. You've got freedom of movement! You're out on your own, on your (landlord's) terms! Traversing other people's mess is a character-building laugh. In your early twenties, living with passive-aggressive idiots turns into something of a holistic learning process. Now you’re too hooked into the discourse and radicalised by years of renting problems to be 100 percent excited about it all.

You’ve been priced out of your age range

“650, 700 all-in per month,” you say to yourself, getting back on Spareroom with all the trepidation of a divorceé downloading OkCupid. You adjust the search filters and look at what’s on offer. Panicked, you re-join all those rental groups on Facebook. Quickly you realise that those your own age – like your mates – are coupled up or paying off mortgages while renting out their lush extra bedroom (no, you can’t afford the extra bedroom).

You start viewing flats, and the barista working for their PhD in Creative Entrepreneurship, who looked cool and surely aligned with your general vibe and political views, is returning your stare like you’re a washed-up crone. Your presence starts to serve as a timely warning to her against considering a career in the media and arts industries. The realisation comes that just as living with students is a hideous prospect to you, living with you is a grim idea to anyone under-25.

The bottom line – at some point in your hellish capital city, you’ve gotten older and your salary has only risen to meet inflation in a back-alley. Something tells you this problem isn’t going anywhere.

renting as an adult

The people your age… are just as bad

Spiritually, you believe all people to be connected and no one person better than his fellow man. But absolutely fuck living with this lot now.

Accepting that you’ll live with couples is the only way

There are two types of heterosexual couples in the ‘Western’ world. First, the enviable ones with good jobs and skincare regimes who look like they were carved out of cocoa butter for each other. Then, sadly, the vast majority who should break up – you know, the men who look like they have toe fluff and the women who constantly scream at the men about the fluff.

You’ll have to live with a couple now because that’s all that’s left if you want a decent quality of life – make sure your emotional intelligence and powers of observation are ramped up high during viewings, so you don’t get left with the latter.

There will be no bonding

You’ve been around the block so many times, have so many mates and group chats on various platforms, that to add another gang to the rotation would be unreasonable for everyone involved. No – you’re tired, you’re busy. So, you know you want to live with exquisite humans if you have to live with anyone at all, but also aren’t going to bother to invest fully, for another 12-month lease. Brilliant.

The absolute outskirts of town start looking attractive

To live alone would solve all your problems, so here you are trying to justify three-quarters of your monthly salary on a one-bed 13 miles out of the city. By this point you look at VICE Rental Opportunity Of The Week or similar millennial banter posts about poor, cramped, expensive housing on offer and see a warm hearth and cosy Sundays with the supplement.

Small rules will make you red with rage

Once you would have eye-rolled at an anal boomer landlord stating "no pets, no wall fixings." These demands have never felt more infuriating and emasculating. “What do you want, here, Margaret?” you imagine asking. “A mature and active member of society who just wants to own a few fucking plants and have their film posters in frames, or a stinking student who’ll have house parties and smoke weed with the windows shut?” Plus, if you can't pretend you're going to get a dog soon (you obviously aren't), there’ll be no reason to live anyway.

'Very occasional house parties/after hours gatherings, nothing too hectic – will give lots of notice.'

HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHHAHAHAA. Absolutely not.

renting in your twenties

Note to self: no depressive episodes until three months in

It’s all very well letting your misery flag AKA recognised medical condition fly when you’re around mates. Now you’ll be with grown adult strangers or acquaintances who have their lives together; you have to be on best behaviour. A quarter of the way into the tenancy seems fair to unleash the beast (yourself).

You have to reaffirm all your lifestyle and career choices

You have a degree or internships and a head on your shoulders – like everyone else, you could likely sell out and work for an evil business for a lot of money. You could start getting very interested in relationships and engagements and babies. You could just fucking move out of the city that’s around your neck like an albatross. Your current predicament is, within reason, a choice of your own.

Increasingly the Secret Rich around you will be coming out of the woodwork saying things like, “I just got sick of throwing money at renting, you know?” (we will lose some of our most vocal leftist soldiers this way). None of this is going anywhere. Really, this current move is a timely opportunity to look at all of your pillars (work/career/friends/relationships/etc) and consider how much you care and if they still fit you. It's a time to be humbled by the crazy thing we call 'life', and happy that you will have somewhere to live when many do not.

At the very least, you don't have a slovenly live-in boyfriend with toe fluff. For that, you can be truly grateful.

@hannahrosewens

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.