As if leaving home and starting university wasn’t a big enough step in itself, it’s now time to start looking for your second year home. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can be a very daunting and confusing process but with the right mindset and knowledge, hopefully you’ll land yourself a great new house. Here’s a guide to steer you down the right path and keep you clear of any traps you might fall into:
Be prepared to downgrade
It’s very likely that the new home you will end up with will not be as cushy and stylish as your halls of residence – the majority of second and third year students go for a terraced house on a pretty average street. I know what you’re thinking, how will you live without your huge room and private en suite bathroom? The answer is that you definitely will survive, sharing a bathroom isn’t as horrific as some people make it out to be!
Make sure you’re happy with your housemates
It’s easy to avoid irritating housemates when you’re in halls; you have your bed, laptop and toilet all in one room and you can always make a stealthy meal before anyone else joins you in the kitchen, but in a house, it isn’t as easy to sneak around. Before going ahead with any decisions, ensure that these people are the people you really want to live with. Getting a house with ten of your best buds may seem like a genius idea at first, but in the long run it could be a recipe for disaster. Less is usually plenty more when it comes to housemates.
When choosing your new house, bills included is an important factor to consider. More often than not, most agencies include your water, electricity and heating bills with the price of the rent but some don’t and some won’t include your internet usage either. Make sure your weekly rent covers ALL bills (that includes the precious wifi and sometimes your TV licence!) otherwise when the figures come back you’ll have an empty stomach as well as an empty wallet.
Check, check, check
Is this the house for you? The majority of students will sign contracts willingly and not really know what they’re letting themselves in for. Be on the look out for anything the landlords aren’t telling you. Attend a viewing and check that everything is how it should be. Does it smell a bit musty in some rooms? The chances are that the house has damp and cunning landlords won’t mention it until you make the shock discovery. Do the locks and alarms work okay? Student houses rarely offer contents insurance so you’ll want to feel at ease that no one will be stealing your valuables and getting away with it. Another thing to check before you sign anything is, is the house furnished? A silly but huge mistake can ruin your experience – always arrange a viewing with the company and check, check, check the website for specific details because you’ll want a bed to go back to at the end of the day.
A vital thing to be aware of before signing on the dotted line is how far your new house is from your university building. Halls of residence are conveniently placed to cater to all university campuses and can offer special student travel. Not in second year. You’re officially on your own and can’t rely on five minute walks from your front door to your lecture. Make sure you’ve checked how far you’ll be living from the campus itself and what public transport will get you there on time. If you live too far from your uni building, you’ll dread the early bird starts and you’ll start attending less and less. Don’t let a house jeopardise your education!
It’s natural to cling to your first year flat and point blank hate every house you come into contact with but that’s how it is and you need to power through. You won’t end up somewhere fit for kings but that’s a sacrifice you need to make if you want a bit of extra money in your back pocket. Halls of residence rent prices vary a lot depending on your area but you get what you often get what you pay for, if you’re not willing to part with much cash don’t expect the Ritz! On the other hand, some cheaper places may look worse than they are, former tenants may not be the cleanest bunch but after a clean you might be pleasantly surprised. Either way it’ll be homey and with your own personal touch, you’ll start to enjoy living there.
Take your time
There isn’t any real rush, don’t snatch up the first house you view for fear of ending up homeless. There are plenty of houses out there and there’s one waiting for you, take your time to find out which one you feel right in. Ask yourself whether you can see yourself living there. Can you picture your feet up and watching TV in this living room? Can you imagine your knick-knacks occupying the space in the bedroom? If so then great, you’ve found your house. Don’t let your housemates push you into a decision either, if you’re unsure on something, speak up (and pay attention if someone else doesn’t seem sure). Don’t put yourself out for other people, you all have to be happy with the final decision. Ultimately, if even one of you doesn’t enjoy living there, it’s going to have knock on effects for everyone there.
View, sign and pay
Once you’ve found the house you want, you need to act fast. Landlords don’t take properties off the market until signatures and deposits have been given and there could be a few other groups eyeing up yours. Don’t let the perfect house slip away because you didn’t sign the forms in time – once you’re ready, have your deposit money and pen rearing to go. But don’t let all the excitement throw you, make sure you carefully read your tenancy agreements so you know exactly what you’re signing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either, some agencies can be sneaky and you don’t want to find yourself paying any fees you weren’t told about.
Hopefully after all of this you’ll be ready with the moving van and a new set of keys in your pocket. Do you have any other tips or words of advice? Or even a story about your own experience finding your first student house? We’d love to hear it, comment below!
Image Rights; Mike | psiaki