The secret to finding your perfect student home
Everything students need to know about finding accommodation
So, it’s that time of year when every student is thinking about their new dream home for the following academic year. Whether you’re completely new to the game or are looking for a place to settle in your final year, finding a student house will always seem daunting. But never fear, I’ve got some tips to help you find the right accommodation for the right price.
Find some housemates
Firstly, a word of warning: the nicer student houses can disappear fast. But don’t let this scare you into choosing housemates you’re not 100% sure you want to live with. First year is probably the most difficult for housemate hunting as you’ll find yourself committing to people you’ve only known a few weeks. But think carefully, choosing the right housemates can make a big difference to your student living experience.
If you decide that, actually, you’d like to be independent, don’t worry. There are lots of studio apartments and single rooms out there, too. You should still follow the advice below, as well!
Decide on your budget
Once you’ve found your housemates, it’s time to talk money. Everyone is in different financial situations, and you must always be mindful of this when choosing a house. What is cheap to one person, may be the absolute limit to someone else. Talk. You don’t want to find yourself, or your friends, stuck for money because your rent is too high.
Decide where to live
Location. Location. Location. Take a note from Kirstie and Phil, the professionals, location is so important. Don’t fancy a long walk before 9am? Choose somewhere close to uni.
Now I know, you’re probably thinking ‘who is this girl? Telling me ‘tips’ that are all so obvious?’. But trust me, the adrenaline of choosing somewhere quickly may cloud your judgement of what it is that you really want.
Have a chat with your new soon-to-be housemates and decide what you need from your accommodation. Do you need to be close to shops, or a bus stop? How many bathrooms will you all need? Remember, you’re unlikely to find a house that meets a huge list of criteria, so decide what is a must-have and what’s a bonus.
Find some places to look at
Once you’ve decided on housemates, budget, and location, it’s time to wander the streets (or better, search on websites) to find your perfect student house.
There are three important things to remember when house hunting:
1. Explore! See as many houses as you can. You never know what hidden gem might lurk behind a normal-looking terrace doors.
2. Take photos! After visiting several houses, they will soon merge into one. You’ll want to remember which ones you love, and which ones you want to avoid.
3. Ask questions during your viewings! Write down everything that you want to know. I hope it’s not just me who turns into a goldfish when someone asks, ‘any questions?’. So be prepared! The more you ask, the more informed your decision will be.
Perhaps most importantly of all, decide as a group. Each and every housemate must be happy with the cost of rent, the location, and the house itself. It will help stop disagreements and falling out, once you’ve all moved in.
Landlords and letting agents
Just a quick side note about landlords/letting agents. Do you want to know a secret?
None of them are perfect.
To one group of students, a certain landlord/letting agent will evoke traumatic memories. Whereas to other groups, these landlords/letting agents will have been their saviours. All in all, if you’re not sure – ask.
You can check whether they belong to accredited organisations, like ANUK which accredits private student halls, or the Residential Landlords Association. Membership of these organisations shows that they take their responsibilities seriously.
Don’t be afraid to ask the landlord or agent what their procedure is if you have to report maintenance or what to do if you need to complain. They should have things in place for your welfare as their tenant.
Ultimately, you have to make your final decision based on the accommodation you want, not the letting agent or landlord.
If you do want some help deciding, visit student lettings on campus or go to the guild lettings website for more advice.
You can find friendly help and advice at the following places:
University of Birmingham’s Guild Office.
Birmingham City University’s Student Union.
Aston’s Student Union.
University of Bristol’s Accommodation Office.
University West of England’s Student Union.
University of Nottingham’s Student Union.
Nottingham Trent University’s Student Union.
The crucial bit of student accommodation
Now, you’ve found the perfect house, but before you commit…
READ your contract!
This can be intimidating, but it explains exactly what responsibilities you have and what you can expect from your letting agent and landlord. This means contracts can run to pages and pages of information. They are legally binding documents and are a promise made between you and your landlord that you will both behave in a fair way and treat the property with respect.
If you can’t bear the idea of trawling through everything on your own, or if you don’t completely understand it, ASK! Ask your letting agent to clarify, go to the student union on campus, talk to your parents. It’s essential that you know what you’re getting yourself into before you sign.
Bills, bills, bills
Now, down to the bills. I remember the luxury of having all-inclusive bills in first year. Nothing to think about, no one to argue about which energy provider, or whether to use a bill splitting company. Well, after the convenience of all inclusive, people can forget this extra cost.
You can find lots of student accommodation with bills included in the rent. It’s worth asking what’s included in the rent, when you view a property.
Often, landlords and letting agents will expect you to sort your utilities out yourself. If that’s the case, there are lots of options out there and everyone will advise you to do something different. Bill splitting companies, such as Huddle and OneUtilityBill, may be more expensive compared to doing it yourself but they’re a lot easier than chasing everyone for money each month.
There are specialist utility companies that will provide you with a complete package, such as Glide. Unlike companies that simply organise your utilities for you, they are an actual supplier that specialises in student properties.
But again, when it comes to deciding on what type of package you need, talk to your housemates and find what’s best for you.
Don’t make this mistake
Another common mistake is, in July when your tenancy starts, thinking ‘I’m not moving in until September, so we don’t need bills until then’. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Even if you aren’t there, you must have bills in place when your tenancy starts, or you can expect a big bill from the previous providers.
Welcome to the real world of budgeting, bills, and house hunting. After all this, you’ll definitely be feeling like a proper adult. I know, scary right? Don’t worry, you’ll do great.