What is it like to live in London? Hell. Here is proof, beyond any doubt, that renting in London is a nightmare.
What is? One of the rare ‘goodies’ we get that serves to add context to the rental market as a whole: this is what you could pay if you had an annual salary of over £100k, for some reason choosing to rent only rather than buy, and for some reason choosing to rent alone here. This is it, this is what it would look like.
Where is it? Arguably the city’s number 1 charity shopping destination: Notting Hill.
What is there to do locally? Every time I’ve been to Notting Hill I find it the only stuff to do there is watch girls in big coats staring at their feet as they pose for photos outside pastel-colored buildings or smack tourists with children walking the streets who stop abruptly every time they see a Paddington doll or a Paddington toy or plastic figure. from Paddington, which is once every meter and a half or so. Again: I go there to see if some extremely beefy rich guy has recently thrown away any decent brand name winter jackets to donate to Oxfam and then I’m off. I have nothing to tarry for in Notting Hill.
All right, how much are they asking? £3,142 a month, or £725 a week, which I’ll break down like this: The old rule of thumb, invented by boomers and never updated to modern standards of real estate and financial literary realism, dictates that you should spend a maximum 30 percent of your monthly rental income (I’ve never had such a low percentage figure in my life, and neither have you). The rule thinks that, including utilities, you should only spend a maximum of 35 percent. Obviously, I’m not going to dwell on how unworkable received wisdom really is, but bottom line: It’s not very fucking workable.
Anyway, for a monthly expense of £3,142, your monthly income would have to be just north of ten thousand dollars, and your annual salary would have to be around £125,000. As a game of imagination, I’d like you to imagine the steps you would need to take to get your salary up to £125,000 after tax.
Maybe you have to change jobs, and then again six months later, and then again six months later. You need to pull off a drastic double promotion or something. I think personally I would have to completely change careers and spend three years retraining myself as something really useful to society. But regardless: In this scenario, for betraying and licking your boots, you have your salary up to £125,000.
You no longer have to actively worry about your finances the way you’ve had to every day of your life up until now, and it’s nice. Your tastes have changed a bit. Can’t resist the price of neck oil. When you book a vacation, you actually pay a little more for flights that don’t take off at four in the morning. You have paid a lot of money for a very, very nice pair of shoes. This is who you are now, the £125k person. You feel good. You look good. You are thriving, socially, mentally and physically.
Maybe it’s time to move out of the flat they share back east with the mouse that outwitted the four of them so many times that he reluctantly became “their pet mouse.” Maybe it’s time to leave behind the crusty, moldy spot behind radiators from years and years and years of people drying their socks there during the winter. This house you’re in smells bad, I’m sorry. Smells like: sand, vinegar, stale cereal. A housemate, who has since moved on and deleted Facebook in a way that you’re a little afraid they might have. he died, I cooked a big pot of lentils in the kitchen in August 2020 and the smell of lentils is still, somehow, in the air, ingrained in the foundation of the house. It’s time for you, the £125k person, to stop smelling like lentils. It’s time for you to strike out on your own.
This is the imagination scenario we’re going with.
Now if my version of a reasonable amount to spend on rent each month is “three grand, then a little”, my expectations have now become absurd. I want a pool table in the house, for starters. Every time I play scenarios in my head when I’m rich, this is the absolute end of riches for me: not driving a sports car into a swimming pool, not pioneering space travel, not hosting an extravagant wedding where Drake performs and not to fly. on a private jet. The outer reaches of my imagination begin and end with: It would be nice to have a room big enough to have a proper pool table.. If I’m spending three grand a month on rent, the apartment has to be exactly as nice, if not nicer, than Don Draper’s in his Zou Bisou Bisou it was.
Doesn’t need to be: this. It absolutely does not need to be: this.
Obviously we have to face the fact that vibe-wise the place is really nice. Bay windows are impossible to use, that’s a nice bare wood floor, the shade of white on the walls is a tasteful off white instead of the owner’s apple white, the mood lighting is warm and perfect, the accent green in the kitchen is nice, the mirror is nice. If I walked into this apartment, I would say the following word, out loud, with my mouth: “Nice”.
That said, it’s a mezzanine bed above a small walk-in shower/toilet/wardrobe that has been crammed into what was once someone’s nice if small front room. You have to tiptoe into bed via a set of shelves that double as a ladder, and you have to pay three thousand dollars a month for the honor of (tastefully!) sleeping about three feet from your bed. (with good taste!) Kitchen. Beneath you is a green (tasteful!) couch with a TV mounted at a completely unseen angle on the side of your shower/closet/bed unit.
Around the rest of your floor there is…nothing. You don’t have an oven. His microwave is mounted on his shoe rack. Her kitchen sink is a beautiful counter top sink that I suspect was installed at that height due to water access restrictions and not for purely aesthetic intent. I don’t see a washing machine at all. The total footprint of this floor is 259 square feet, and I’m not saying it’s small, but it’s not big and it’s Really not three grand a month grand. So this begins to beg the question: how much money do you have to earn in London to rent a place that is really good? How come £125,000 a year isn’t enough to have an oven, a separate bedroom and a way to wash your clothes?
All academic, this, anyway. You can’t afford it and neither can I. That’s good? it doesn’t feel good. Just exploring this feeling, now, actually. Just absorbing it into my body and interrogating it with my psyche. Just closing my eyes and really holding on to this feeling. I can’t afford to sleep on a shelf above my kitchen in Notting Hill because the kitchen I sleep in has been decorated too tastefully..
I’m beginning to wonder what, then, I’ll be able to rent, when kitchen sleeping shelves become unaffordable. what is what is worse than a sleeping shelf in the kitchen? What new horrors do landlords have in store for us? I am flying through the clouds and I am very calm. I’m whistling over moors and through the air. I am traveling at four hundred miles per hour and I am calm. My body hits the city like a missile. The end.