If home is where the heart is, you will always find Nancy and Kunle Olaoye in London, England.
The two are Canadian-born, but for now they have settled into a two-and-a-half-bedroom 1,600 square foot apartment in Greenwich, a royal neighborhood in southeast London. The 1850s flat is unique in appearance, and also a bargain: the married couple are paying just £1,750 – or around $2,140 – in rent a month.
That’s about $1,100 less than the average two-bedroom apartment in their area, according to real estate website Zoopla — and 650 square feet more, too. It also has rare amenities for a city apartment, such as a covered parking space and a garden.
“I don’t know many people who have that much square footage and would pay that little,” Nancy, 31, told CNBC Make It. “We have Greenwich Park next door. We have an easy connection to central London. It’s an amazing space.”
Nancy moved to London in 2017 to pursue law studies. Kunle moved to Paris around the same time to get his MBA. The couple married in December 2018 and moved to England, mainly because they were equidistant from their families in Nigeria and Canada.
Before moving to Greenwich, the Olaoye lived in a 20th-century flat about 15 minutes by train from central London. After a disagreement with their landlord, they decided to move. That’s when chance struck: in mid-2021, a real estate agent reached out and put the spacious, budget-friendly apartment on his radar.
When they visited the property, Nancy says it was love at first sight. The agent recommended the couple send a personal letter with their offer, warning that “the competition is really high”.
It worked. Nancy says they even negotiated their monthly rent down from her listing price of $2,564. Now, with rents rising amid rising inflation, she estimates the property would otherwise rent for $3,300 a month and sell for $1 million.
The price of a dream apartment
Before the couple moved into the four-unit property – which Nancy says was built in 1850 by a British lord – they had to pay the first month’s rent and a hefty security deposit equivalent to around five weeks’ worth. rent, for a total of $4,610. .
This left enough room in their budget to decorate the flat with a DIY wardrobe, Facebook market furniture and a $2,000 sofa from the famous British store Made. The couple estimate they spent $7,361 furnishing the apartment with their own artwork, bookshelves and a custom pink office space.
The Olaoyes pay a flat rate of $250 per month for electricity and gas. This price will double this month because their fixed rate with their energy supplier ends, probably because the UK government lifted its energy bill ceiling this spring.
“We join the millions of other people in the UK who will be struggling with super, super high public services,” Nancy said.
The couple pays an additional $250 a month for other utilities, including Wi-Fi, water and a “municipal tax” – which is a neighborhood tax that covers “garbage collection, schools, police forces,” says Nancy.
Taken together, the monthly cost is high and about to increase. But it’s still a bargain, given the low rent. And Nancy and Kunle’s high-paying jobs — Nancy works as a global marketing and events manager for a tech company, and Kunle is a strategic consultant — make their cost of living “definitely manageable,” Nancy says.
“It’s old, but very charming”
Nancy says the historic vibe of the apartment is very much her style. Some of its charms include a skylight, a built-in vanity in the master bedroom and a drying machine – what it says in London luxury.
However, it has some drawbacks. The toilets and the shower are in two separate rooms, and the toilets are particularly far from the bedrooms. There’s also a crawl space, which Nancy says she avoids, and windows in the living room that refuse to open.
“It’s old, but it’s very charming,” says Nancy. “He has his little inconveniences.
The natural light in the space compensates for these inconveniences. Nancy says her favorite rooms are the kitchen – which has “beautiful Sicilian lemon wallpaper” and ample counter space – and the living room, which houses her sofa, family photos and home office space.
The neighborhood is also well suited. Close to several trails, Nancy and Kunle can run, go to the park and get great views of Canary Wharf and central London.
Nancy and Kunle plan to stay in their Greenwich apartment for at least a year or two: ideally they would like to buy a house where they could start a family, but they don’t want to move while inflation is high in UK. In May, the country’s inflation reached 9.1%, a high of 40 years.
Even once they’ve moved, they’d like to stay in London: it’s convenient for most of Nancy’s work trips, and it “has some of the best schools in the world,” she notes. Plus, she adds, the city has culture and history — and its infamous weather really isn’t that bad.
“Paris is actually wetter and darker than London,” says Nancy. “Brits tend to complain, but coming from Canada when it’s minus 15 degrees most of the year, we don’t care about London weather.”
The prices in this story are calculated based on the conversion rates between the US dollar and the euro at the time of filming in June 2022.
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