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Student House Hunting for Dummies

Published Sunday, 26 January, 2014 by Amy Murnan

If you haven’t already been bombarded with leaflets, free lollipops and invitations to join absurd promotional events, you are obviously lucky enough to live in a University with non-aggressive letting agencies nearby. For those of us who do, the mad rush to find a student house to live in for the next academic year could hardly have gone unnoticed. Hunting for housemates, signing contracts, paying deposits… the whole thing is all a bit bewildering.

But finding a house sooner rather than later is important if you value…well, anything. The last thing you want after being excited to move in with your friends is to find that the bathroom door doesn’t lock and the walls are paper thin. Or, worse still, there are no houses big enough for all of you, so one of you must go it alone.

If you know what you are doing, though, the whole process is relatively simple and can be over and done with quickly. Get your friends together, look around online and make a note of the letting agencies you trust (or find online testimonials). Arrange a viewing for the houses you like the look of, and keep these questions in mind:

  • How much is the deposit?

    Deposits are payments that secure the property so that nobody else can rent it. This means that you have to pay the full amount, which will vary drastically from place to place, up front and in full. Before committing to anything, make sure you know how much each person will need to pay.

  • How much are the agency fees?

    Some letting agencies don’t charge fees for the services they provide, but many do. Again, the cost of these can vary, so it is important you know how much they are in advance of signing anything and know you can afford to pay up.

  • What can we afford?

    It might be awkward asking your friends whether they have enough money to pay the rent, but if you’re living together it is in your interest to know. If it turns out that they can’t afford the house you went for, they won’t be able to pay the bills – and somebody has to. So, before you end up falling out over it, just double check everyone knows exactly what their budget is.

  • Is the building safe and secure?

    It may not be as interesting to think about as having house parties, but a flimsy front door or rippling wallpaper could end up having an impact on your health and safety. Keep a look out for these signs of mould and damp and scrutinise the doors, windows, locks and any alarms fitted in the property.

  • Will bills bleed us dry if we live here?

    Most people don’t know the answer to this question before it is too late, but looking around at a few simple features in your house might give you an indication of how easy it will be to heat and power your house. Double glazing, carpets, curtains, well-sealed doors and windows all make it easier to keep that precious heat inside and save you money. Ask your agency or landlords what the building’s energy rating is if you want to go the whole hog. Boring as it sounds, the type of boiler in your house and the way you will be paying your bills are also very important – meters, for example, are cheapest when you are being mindful of the energy or water you are using.

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