Whether you’re a fresher looking to move off campus, or a post-grad studying in a new town, finding somewhere to live can be tricky. There’s a lot to think about – Who are you going to live with? Where are you going to live? How much can you afford to pay? And while you’re scratching your head in the planning stage, everyone else has already grouped up and moved in, right? Nightmare! But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you start the process early, and make your choices carefully, you’ll be absolutely fine. To help you out, here’s a five-point plan for landing that perfect student house:
Work Out Your Budget
This should be the first thing you do. There’s no point finding a potential housemate only to discover that their budget is way above / below your own. Work out how much you can afford to pay in rent each month for a typical twelve-month contract.
Rent can vary widely, depending on location, house-size, and so on. It’s usually going to be tough to find anywhere where you’re personally paying less than £350-£400 per calendar month. The most desirable properties will tend to cost you £650-£700pcm. Remember, you also need to set aside some savings for transport, food, and utility bills. Utility bills are often in the region of around £50 per person per month, although it depends on how often you turn the heating on!
Pick Your Housemates Wisely
Once you know what you can afford, you can start looking for people with a similar budget. If you’re currently an undergraduate, chances are that you’ll already have some people in mind. But be warned – friendships come and go in the first couple of terms at university, so it’s best not to commit too early. And while moving in with your partner, crush, or FWB might sound like a great idea, it’s almost certainly a bad move. Relationships invariably get messy, and you don’t want to bring that mess home with you every day.
If you’re a postgraduate student, you’re less likely to already have a group keen to move in with you. It can therefore be a good idea to get online and look for housemates on sites like spareroom. It’s definitely worth filling out a profile yourself and seeing whether anyone contacts you. It’s fun – kind of like online dating.
Finally, genuinely think about the kind of people you want to share a house with. There are mates, and then there are housemates. Housemates share your standard of cleanliness, your partying/studying schedule, and don’t use up all the hot water before you’ve had a shower.
Think About Location
Location is extremely important. Living in the city centre close to campus can be convenient, but noisy, cramped, and expensive. Living a little further out might mean you have to wake up half hour earlier each day to catch the bus in for you lectures, but what you lose in sleep you might make up for in rent and living space. It’s a tough call to make. Think about what’s important to you as a group – easy access to nightclubs, coffee shops, libraries, supermarkets, or parks?
When you’ve got your budget, your housemates, and a location, you can start your search. The easiest way to find a place is to look online. Sites like OnTheMarket.com and rightmove list hundreds of student properties all over the UK, and you can filter your search down to the postcode, price, and number of bedrooms.
In addition to looking online, you should ask around. If you’re a fresher, ask some students in their second or final year for recommendations – after all, they’ve been in your situation themselves. If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to take over their contract when they move out!
Once you’ve found a place you like the look of, get on the phone and book a viewing! Contact details are normally available on the site where you found the property. Viewing a property won’t cost you anything, and you can schedule multiple viewings in advance. Sadly, houses which look ideal online have all too noticeable flaws when you see them with your own eyes, so it’s vital that you do check out a place in person before making any kind of commitment.
During the viewing, you should ask any questions you like of the agent showing you around. There are no stupid questions – “when does the tenancy begin?”, “how often are the local buses?”, “where is the nearest store?”, “which furnishings come with the house?”. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.
If, in the end, you decide that a house is for you, you will need to contact the agent so that they can arrange for you to sign a contract. The letting agency usually handles all the administration for a fee. Before you sign anything, make sure you know understand how much the agency is going to charge. Some unscrupulous agencies think that they can get away charging first-time renters extortionate amounts for photocopying a few pieces of paper. You can find plenty of advice online about what’s reasonable and what’s unreasonable for letting agencies to charge. *Always* read your contracts carefully.