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House hunting for students

Published Wednesday, 26 November, 2014 by Beth Bradshaw

Around this time last year, my current housemates and I started the search for our new digs for second year. Traditionally second and third years will move out of university halls and into a private student home with a letting agency. Some universities will recommend ‘student approved’ letting agencies that deal specifically with student homes, for example, my university endorses Liverpool Student Homes.

Think it’s a bit early to start looking? You’d be surprised, plus it saves any unessaccary stress later on in the year when you’ve got exams and deadlines – naturally the good houses get snapped up pretty quickly, so get organised early so you can make sure you get a good deal on your new digs for next year. I was lucky enough to meet four girls that all agreed on living together next year, and so we could get the ball rolling quite early on. Not everyone is that lucky, but here are a few top tips for searching for your new home and new housemates.

  • The most important in my opinion – don’t be too picky. Student homes, in most cases, aren’t anything fancy. Think about the battering they go through year in, year out! And anyway, I don’t know about you but living in a house in pristine condition would take some of the homeliness out of it. At the end of the day, if it puts a roof over your head, a bed to sleep on, a bathroom, living room, kitchen and a place to call home then anything else is just extra bonus. We went for a more basic house at just £54 a week per person plus bills (which averages at about £15 a week per person) and savse £40 a week compared to our halls’ rent last year! Some other friends of mine went for slightly fancier houses at around £90-100 a week and instantly regretted it. As nice as the houses are, they now realise they can still get a nice house but for so much less.

  • Don’t be put off by landlords that don’t include bills in their rent package. As convenient as it is, it’s easier than you think to sort bills out for your house yourself. Our agency recommended we use Glide, a bills company that specialises in shared housing and basically sorts all the bills out for you! That’s no exaggeration, they split the total bills between however many housemates you have and bills you each, monthly for your share in the bills. No one person has to pay for an entire bill, so it’s equal and fair therefore avoiding any arguments. The customer service is excellent, whenever we’ve had a slight problem they’ve sorted it out as quick as.

  • Have a look at different areas in the city. There are often a couple of well known student districts in cities, so see which one suits you and your housemates. Remember to consider transport links into university and town, distance to local supermarkets and safety/security.

  • Try searching for houses outside of the city to really cut down on the rent bills. We’ve got a great house located out of the city but situated near trains and buses that go every three minutes into town. Occasionally we miss the ease of living in city centre halls, but are more often glad of the peace, quiet and space!

  • Whilst I recommend starting to look around for houses now, I would also say put off signing any final contracts until after the Christmas holidays. Students can get quite carried away with the excitement and end up signing a legal contract before they’ve really had a proper chance to think seriously about it. A lot can change from now till September, so make sure you’re 100% happy with who you’re living with and where before you put your name to any contract.

  • Most student homes will start their contract from July onwards, when the previous tenants move out. Unfortunately that’s often part of the contract, and even though you most likely won’t be moving in until September you still have to pay. Enquire about paying half/discounted rent over the summer with your landlords or letting agency to try and save as much as possible.

  • Don’t sign a contract for two years – like I said before anything can change so just sign for one year and see how you go.

  • Rent doesn’t come out in three month instalments like in most university halls, so you have all that money floating around very precariously in your bank account… I highly recommend setting up a bank account specifically for rent and bills, so as soon as you get your student loan in calculate how much you need to cover you until your next loan and set aside in that bank account. That way you won’t end up coming up short for rent/bills at the end of semester because you’ve spent it all – on what? Nothing probably!

  • Don’t get mugged off by dodgy landlords. They do exist, and can often use students as their target for cash cows as we don’t often have our heads screwed on properly (let’s be honest!). Check out reviews online and stick to landlords and letting agencies your university recommends.

  • When booking viewings, ask agencies to alert you if any similar properties come on the market as this will keep your options open.

  • Don’t be disheartened if the first house you go to see is, well, a bit pants. The first house we went to see had a hole in the kitchen roof. We were horrified! But take it from me, there is light at the end of the tunnel!

  • Share responsibilities. Don’t let one person organise all viewings and search for all the houses. If everyone chips in then you are more likely to find a house that everyone likes!

  • Go into every viewing with an open mind.

Happy house hunting!

Have you got any tips or experiences you want to share that may help first years start the search for their new digs? Don’t forget to comment below!

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