Looking for off-campus private housing can be challenging when you’re a university student. There’s so much to consider! Finding the best place to live isn’t easy, either.
While this can be stressful work, take the long view, which means don’t give up. Instead, persevere through the process. You’ll eventually find the right place! And if one home doesn’t work out, then there are more places to live.
We’ve created this guide to help walk you through the process of finding the right place to live.
Things to Do Before You Start Looking for a Place
Many students wonder when they should begin looking for a place to live. Consider the fact that many homes are open for new renters between December and January. In other words, more houses are available at the end of a term. So, you may want to consider house/flat hunting at least eight weeks before the new term begins.
Next, consider that housing options are more affordable in smaller cities. And remember that you’re not the only one looking for a place to live. The competition can be stiff.
If you’re looking for a home for multiple people (such as friends), then your housing preferences and needs may make the process a little bit longer. The larger the number of people, the more challenging it is to find a home that will be the right fit.
Now, there’s the tendency to make a quick decision on a housing option that may not really be right for you. Try not to feel pressured when in the search for accommodations. One way to avoid this problem is by choosing five homes that you really like. Then, number these housing options from 1 to 5, with the first one being your favourite choice. Next, start the application process. If you’re not accepted, then move on to your next favourite place, and so on. This way you won’t feel so pressured and will have the time to make the right decision, rather than a rash one.
One note we’d like to add here is that many student unions offer a contract-checking service. They read through the contract to make sure you’re not going to be taken advantage of in some way. If you’re new to rental housing contracts, then this may be a great help.
What if You Need Housemates?
It can be challenging if you don’t have housemates already lined up. And you’ll need housemates unless you can afford to pay the rent and all utilities each month!
Even if you do have people in mind, now’s the time to start the conversation about renting a home together. This should be done before your start looking for a place, of course. Ask your friends if they already have housing arranged. If not, then you can see if they may be interested in sharing a home.
You can find housemates in other ways, too. These include friends from halls, friends from clubs and societies, as well as your university’s social media channels.
Deciding on Housing Preferences
When you have housemates lined up, then it’s time to have a conversation about what everyone wants and needs in a home. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, here are some questions to ask:
- Does anyone need/have a preferred area or neighbourhood?
- Does anyone have a car?
- What’s everyone’s idea of fun (this includes checking for nearby pubs, bars, restaurants, and shops)
- Does anyone need to travel often? (the goal is to find transportation links that make traveling easier)
- Which supermarkets and other amenities are needed? (you want to make sure the preferred grocery stores are in the area, plus other needs such as a pharmacy, gas stations, and more)
- Everyone will definitely have their own preferences, so it will take good communication, along with a good pinch of compromise to determine what’s best for you and your housemates.
Letting Agents & Landlords
Choosing to go with a landlord directly saves you money. However, choosing an agency provides more security. If you choose an agency, then be sure they’re registered with one of these three government-approved redress schemes:
- The Property Ombudsman
- The Property Redress Scheme
- Ombudsman Services: Property
The agency may belong to a self-regulating body, as well. These can include the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS). This makes sure the agency follows established codes and practices.
How to Arrange the Property Viewing
You can find landlords and letting agents in various ways. For instance, you can check with friends to see what well for them.
If you choose an agency, ask your older school chums which agency worked best for them, or which ones they are using. They will have some experience with this and can guide you to the best options.
Another option is to go online and view the properties available with the letting agents. When you find something that looks interesting, just call the agent’s name listed on the site and ask if the property is available.
Let the agency or landlord know that you prefer looking at properties that have no tenants. This is because the place may be dirty, and all their personal items will be there. This can make it difficult to “see” yourself in the home.
When it comes to what to look for in a home, here are some tips:
Now it may happen that not all your housemates will be able to attend the showing. So, it’s a good idea to take pictures of the property. And if you view more than one property, you’ll have images that help you track the features of each one.
What to Look for When Viewing a Property
Here are a few tips on what to look for in a property:
Damp or mould: you may detect a musty smell and see signs of damp on the walls, under the sinks, and more. Mould is bad for your health, so steer clear of any homes with this problem.
Rent: you’ll want to find out how much the deposit is, as well as the rent. Then you’ll need to ask what the rent covers. The best deal is all utilities included, which means you’ll save money. Otherwise, you’ll have to look for a cheaper place to live.
What’s included: you’ll want to find out if the rental includes various appliances such as a fridge, washing machine, furniture, and more. Finding a place that includes almost everything will keep you from having to buy furniture and other items on your own, which can become expensive.
Type of contract: you’ll either have an individual contract (for each housemate) or a joint tenancy agreement, which is for the entire property. Remember, if you choose a joint tenancy contract, if someone fails to pay their share of the rent, you could all be thrown out!
Next, you’ll want to ask about the length of the contract, as well as when the current tenants are moving out.
Summing It Up
Persevering through the house-hunting process isn’t easy. But if you stick with it, you and your housemates will have a great place to live.