Hunting for a room to rent at the moment is sort of like looking for something to eat in a near empty fridge. Open the door, have a look at the few grim options, give up for a while, lower your standards and repeat until you’re able to ignore the mould.
After two months of searching on the mean streets of Cork’s rental market, I’ve finally found a room, and survived to share the step-by-step guide to signing a lease on your own slice of rental paradise.
Step one is to become intimately acquainted with every room-sharing website, noticeboard, Facebook page, Twitter hashtag, carrier pigeon and smoke signal you can find. Push and email notifications should be put on full blast.
Your phone will ping about 5-10 times a day with new listings and posts, but don’t worry, half of these will be false alarms, usually being so nauseatingly expensive that you can rule them out straight away.
For rooms within a “reasonable” budget (that’s still looking at about €400-600 per month), you’ll want to be responding almost instantly. These rack up hundreds of views within a day, and if you’re not at the top of the list of responses you’ll be lost in a tide of emails to the landlord.
If you happen to get the ping while you’re at your phone or computer to respond immediately, proceed swiftly to step two.
The second step is to peruse photos of the room. What you’re deciding at this stage is not whether the room is nice, but whether it exists at all. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is, and you can easily fall for a scam if you’re not careful. Beyond determining if the ad is genuine, looking at photos is a waste of time, as they tend to be few, cleverly angled away from anything scary, taken 10 years ago, or not even of the right bedroom.
Step three is to go straight to the reply section, copy and paste your pre-prepared response that gushes about how much you love the room and what a model tenant you are, fire it off, and pray for a response.
Some landlords go by first-come, first-served, so if you're quick you’re in. A lot of the time, it’s a pure fluke - you were the first reply they randomly opened, or they just latched onto your name because it's the same as a previous tenant, distant relative, or long lost pet.
If fate is on your side and you get a viewing, see step one: drop everything you are doing to arrange a time at their earliest convenience. If you’re not first in the door with a pen and deposit at the ready to nab the room, someone else will be.
Step four, you’re in the door, and the real fun begins. At the viewing, keep your eyes peeled for damp, cramped conditions, cold, mould, creaks and leaks - you’re pretty much guaranteed at least one but if you’re heading towards more than half of them, it’d want to at least be a good price.
Then there’s the housemate interview, where your every habit and daily movement is on trial. You’re grilled on how much you socialise, what you do in your spare time, how often you’ll be home, even what you eat (I’ve been rejected from more than one vegan household for my bacon-eating sins).
And of course, the pandemic adds the extra awkward layer of having to find out whether people are vaccinated, or how closely they follow public health guidelines. Plus for many working remotely, you’re not only looking for a room to sleep in but one that also fits as a home office (which, surprise surprise, is not many).
If you haven’t lost your mind yet, congratulations, you’ve made it to step five. You like the room, the housemates like you. You hand over a fat deposit and hope you don’t get conned out of it on the other end. If you’re really lucky you even sign a proper lease, and it’s home sweet home.
If you squint, you won’t even really notice the mould.