Getting a House in Cambridge

We rapidly decided that being roommates during this semester would be an awesome experience but we really didn’t know what we would have to go through before finally moving in our so-British semi-detached house.


Desperate search

We started our research in mid-July, thinking that a few days, websites visits and some emails later we would have found what we were looking for: a furnished three-bedroom property in the city centre of Cambridge. Result: one month later the three of us were about to go on holidays and we still had nothing! But it was not from a lack of trying! Let’s do a little sum up of how we proceeded to fail pitifully this way:

We had recommendations of a few safe websites where we would find property ads which would meet our expectations: Gumtree, Rightmove, Flatshare… More motivated than ever, we started by dissecting these websites. There were actually a lot of beautiful properties, but the first thing we were struck by was how expensive they were. And for good reason, Cambridge is the second most expensive city in the United Kingdom.

After gathering all the interesting ads we found, we contacted the landlords or the letting agencies by email in order to introduce ourselves and to know if it would be possible to rent the property for only 4 months. Meanwhile, being aware there was a lot of fraud concerning web ads, we investigated each agency or landlord to be absolutely sure we would not be conned. Because bad luck does not just happen to others: two girls in our class got ripped off.

During the following days, we received a load of negative answers: « Sorry, we don’t accept students », « Sorry, we can’t let properties for less than 10 months”. And even more surprising answers such as “We can only let to people who are relatives”, or “This is a three-bedroom property but we can’t let it to more than two people”. After a few days, we had received so many negative answers that we were way less demanding regarding the property: No photos in the ad? Well, we can’t afford to let even one matching ad vanish! We even tried to rent a 2 bedroom property, where one of us would have to sleep on the sofa…

Because we were getting desperate, we decided to step it up and make phone calls. Advice: do not underestimate the British accent! When you make a call, you pay a lot of money so if you’re not focused, you will not get what is said and will need to ask for repeating, which means more money spent!

After many setbacks, we finally found the Holy Grail – a property near the centre for the three of us.

An eventful move in

We arrived in Cambridge three days before the supposed moving in. We booked a youth hostel so that we could take our marks and visit the city. As soon as we arrived, we went to the agency to get the bank details so we could make the payment by transfer. The amount was very high so we had to do it from France. Therefore, we forwarded the details to our parents so they could go to the bank and make the transfer.

From that moment, we just waited for the D-day impatiently. Finally, it came. Confidently, we walked in the agency with all our – very heavy – luggage to get the keys of the property. The letting manager told us to sit to fill in the last papers. He called the agency’s bank to check if payments had arrived, but they had not yet. As a matter of fact, we had been stupid enough not to anticipate that the period for an international transfer was much longer than a regular transfer.

Here was the problem: we became homeless! They did not want to hand over the keys as long as the payments had not arrived and the youth hostel was fully booked for the night. We had to cross the city to find a place not too expensive to crash. We ended up in a “Bed & Breakfast”. If you can’t measure the height of the situation, just picture three French guys who paid for a house they could not get in to, experiencing one of the oldest institution of the United-Kingdom: the pub. After sleeping two days in the pub surrounded by drunk and noisy men, we got the keys at last.

Now, you need to know something: the word “furnished” in a property ad does not mean the same as our word “equipé”. In fact, when we entered the house, there were three beds, some furniture,  but there were no kitchen utensils – not even plates, forks, fried or sauce pan … – nor duvets and pillows. So make enquiries about what they mean by “furnished”.

Despite all of these unfortunate events, we are so glad we have this house. It is very convenient when we have to work in groups or to organize a party before going out. Even if there was much trouble, it was worth it because we can share this experience and rely on each other very easily.




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