Update: I’ve posted an updated review after being here for 18 months.
The following is a review of my thoughts so far about living at East Village, the former Athlete’s Village at the 2012 Olympic Games. My landlord is Get Living London and this will be from the perspective of myself as someone I imagine typical of a renter here – a young professional working at a firm in Canary Wharf in the technology field. I have moved back to after spending half a decade in Japan, so my taste in living space might be a bit skewed towards modern city life.
This really is now a gorgeous part of London. The Olympic Park is just next door and there are acres of parklands available for public use. There is even a wetlands area with ducks! The site has a security team in East Village fleeces looking after the place and gardeners (although I haven’t seen them).
Nice things nearby
The following is all available within walking distance of my flat:
Sainsbury’s Local – 30 seconds walk
The Neighborhood Pub that serves a mean rotisserie chicken and Asahi beer! – 35 seconds walk
The Stratford City Westfield Shopping mall – one of the largest urban shopping centers in Europe (with a cinema, casino and an Apple Store!) – 4 minutes walk
Stratford International Train station – you can get to Paris in 2.5 hours – plus a DLR station that gets me to work in 20 minutes – 3 minutes walk
I have not included the Olympic Park legacy facilities above – the swimming pool, cycling velodrome etc – simply because I haven’t had the chance to go yet! There is also an NHS doctor’s surgery and a school on the site.
Commuting to work
On a good day I can get to work door to door in 30 minutes on the DLR. This is in stark contrast to the hour long slog through the Tokyo rush hour that I used to endure. The DLR is amazing – daylight throughout, mobile phone signal all the way (unlike the Tube) and no drivers. I spend about 80 GBP a month on pay as you go tickets via my auto-top up Oyster card (1.50 each way) – this is cheaper than the Zone 3-2 travelcard, which is over 90 GBP per month. If you work from home even one day a week, the travelcard doesn’t make sense.
In Japan, commuting costs are paid for by your employer, not you, as quite rightly the cost of getting to work is a necessary, deductible business expense. Not so much luck in the UK. If you decide to buy or rent a house in Sussex, say Brighton, you will have to pay an eye watering 460 GBP per month out of your own pocket for the privilege of getting to work on the worst train in Britain that was late every day for a year. No thank you. For those that say renting is “throwing money away” – this annual 4,800 GBP is definitely tossing money down the drain, or could at least be put towards the rent or a mortgage of somewhere closer to work.
Renting through Get Living London
When I first made enquires into renting in London I was absolutely appalled by the state of the market – companies like Foxtons appear to be almost deliberately misleading in the fact there is no way of knowing up front how much it will cost to move into somewhere when you view an ad as the total rental cost does not include fees. Between “Admin Charges”, “Contract charges”, “Check in fees” and all sorts of other nonsense that of course vary between rental agencies, there is no way to actually properly compare the price of listings on places such as Zoopla and Rightmove. This is likely by design. Scotland has outlawed rental agency fees, and even airlines are forced to show all hidden costs upfront in the advertised price to protect consumers. Plus there is the horrible fact that most of these rental agencies are outlets for Buy To Let speculators that could want to cash out on that flat they picked up for a bargain in 1996 at any time, kicking you out.
The Get Living London management office
Get Living London is not your standard landlord, but is part of the growing Private Rental Sector (another private rental company in other London locations is Fizzy Living). They own the buildings you are renting. There is no middleman taking a cut. And with Get Living London – there are NO FEES to move in. At all. No check in fees, no admin fees, no debit card fees, no inventory fees, nothing. You pay the rent and the deposit and that is it.
Lets compare how much this actually changes the effective cost over an example 12 month tenancy agreement, where someone moves in with you after six months and thus needs to get added to the tenancy agreement:
|Foxtons (source)||Get Living London|
|Administration Fee for creating the tenancy agreement||420 GBP||0 GBP|
|Admin Fee for adding someone to the tenancy agreement||210 GBP||0 GBP|
|Checking out||150 GBP “Inventory Check Out Fee”||0 GBP|
|Total fees for the year||780 GBP||0 GBP|
|Cost per month spread over 12 months:||65 GBP||0 GBP|
The fees alone at Foxtons would make your rent the equivalent of an extra 65 pounds a month in this example. Who knows what this value is for other rental agencies.
What are you getting for that 0 pounds a month at Get Living? Very good service from my experience so far – I emailed the dedicated property manager about our heating the other day and he phoned me back in about 3 minutes. Try getting that sort of service from your amateur Buy To Let landlord.
Lets look at the flat
I love the place. It is modern, with underfloor heating, an awesome “winter garden” balcony area and an en-suite even in two bedroom flats. Plus, Get Living London do not charge any extra for a furnished flat – the furnishings are pretty awesome and were very welcome after moving halfway around the world. My only gripe would be that its apparently not possible for them to take, say, a bed away, so you’ll have to find storage for the bits you don’t need yourself.
An example of some of the furnishings – plus the friendly chap who showed us round.
There is no boiler and no gas mains (so no British Gas to deal with) – the heating and hot water is supplied via East London Energy who “constructed a centrally-managed energy centre that produces all of the areas heating and hot water requirements and distributes it to homes and businesses via a network of highly insulated pipes” (or so I’m told). The kitchen hobs are therefore induction. Electricity has been super cheap so far, at about 30 GBP per month. In Japan it cost three times as much because of the air conditioning we needed.
All the East Village flats are served by Hyperoptic broadband. This means:
- 1 Gbps Fibre To The Premises – (not to a cabinet up the road and a dodgy bit of 1960s copper between you and the box like BT claim their “fibre rollout” is)
- 1 Gbit Ethernet cabling throughout the flat
- A router is provided but you can switch your own in – there is a pure Ethernet jack in the wall that dishes out public IPv4 addresses
- No landline (there is a VoIP service available)
- No BT line rental required (saving you about 15 GBP a month!)
I thought my broadband in Japan was good at 100Mbps, but the 1Gbps that I get from Hyperoptic here is absolutely nuts (and this is going through a Thunderbolt Ethernet connector and a router. I’ve seen it faster but I think I am saturating the upstream on the test servers in London):
Note that Get Living London residents get a free 20Mbps service from Hyperoptic, with the 100Mbps and 1Gbps costing 10 GBP and 20 GBP a month respectively. Even the free 20Mbps tier saves you at least 30 pounds a month that you’d otherwise need in a home wired by BT (ISP charge plus line rental).
Living here is awesome – the location is perfect for work, my family loves the area, the facilities are brilliant and the cost is very reasonable when you factor in how much I save in commuting charges; let alone rental fees, copper phone line rental fees and other nuisance costs that should just not exist today. Compared to the nightmares I had of moving back to the UK – old 60s terraced council “housing stock”, begging BT for 4Mbps ADSL, an expensive awful commute, being shafted by letting agents – it’s been a wonderful surprise. For anyone working in East London and looking to rent, I don’t think you can find somewhere better.
If you have any questions about living in East Village or renting through Get Living London, drop me an email and I’ll be happy to respond.