Moving from student accommodation to a new home can be a daunting and very long process. However, it is also a very important one. Moving away from home to university is already a big thing, but finding your own house to live in is very different. There are a lot of long and stressful factors that you need to put into thought before you chose a house, varying from size, to price, to location.
Hopefully, by this point you have decided who you want to live with. I know that it is very quick to be jumping from living with strangers to living with them next year, but unfortunately that is how student housing works: first come, first serve. With housing, you don’t want to be picking last. Deciding who to live with can be stressful as now people will be dividing into their own groups, but things do change throughout the year, but make sure you spend time with the people you are planning to live with next year. Not putting the effort early on can put a strain on the relationship in the house, even if you are living with 2 other people. It can also make people feel unincluded, which can ruin the mood for next year and make others (and yourself) uncomfortable.
Living in a big group, a lot of the time is unrealistic. There are too many needs, too many wants, and not enough listening. Its also hard to get a group of more than 4/5 people in the same room at the same time, let alone plan viewings or sit down to decide important business. Often, its more room for disagreements and stressful situations. Its also a way of feeling isolated or alone, and with the stress of university going on at the same time, its not the best situation to be in.
If you are at university / college, you should understand you’re an adult (even though you may not feel like one). This also means acting like one. Don’t settle for less when looking for a house. Pricing is understandable, which is something you and your friends should discuss. Make a group chat or a list! Things that people desperately want / don’t want, how much people want to pay, if bills are included and other things like dishwashers and gardens. If you don’t like something, say it! No one can read your mind, and little things such as the view from windows or the size of one bedroom will take a toll in the end. Your friends won’t be annoyed with voicing your opinion about what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable, but you also need to listen or ask others.
Location is also a big concern for a lot of people. Make sure you research where each house is and what the area is like. For myself and my group of friends (all girls) we wanted to make sure we were in a safe area so we can walk home at night and not be worried about being mugged. Also, its fair to take into consideration how far you are from places like the city center and the university. For a lot of students it is usually one or the other, but regardless, in both situations you will need to have a way of transport to get to the other. Whether its bus, tram, car or walking, you will need a way to get there. Trying to find a house or flat in a student area is also important, as it is more likely to be monitored by police to make sure people are safe. Consider that popular areas will probably cost more, and bigger accommodation will cost more.
Bills. We do not get taught in school how to manage and pay bills, what is fair and what is unfair. Make sure you ask landlords or companies about how they work the bills, and what is included or not included in the pricing. Some of my friends pay the bills and often struggle with how to split the costs, how often people have been away, who used the heating, etc. and often, this causes a lot of arguments. Also, I have no idea how to do the bills, and stressing out over paying them is one thing I don’t want to worry about whilst I am at university. Having a bills included agreement is usually the easiest way to go, as everyone is paying the same price and receiving the same service. Its also something that won’t be argued over. Sometimes landlord include WiFi in the bills, but from my experience, its best to buy your own WiFi hub and an extender if needed, as landlords like to say that it is a standard package for the house.
Make sure you go to house viewings- do not pick a house without viewing it first. This may be obvious, but I have heard of people signing for houses when only half of the parties have viewed them, and some tend to be unhappy. Yes the pictures on the website may seen beautiful and very appealing, but they were probably took 3 years ago when the house was refurbished last, and chances are that it does not look like that. House viewings are your best bet for deciding what you want and don’t want, and you can also take pictures to make sure you’re happy. Also, its difficult to find nice houses later on, so the earlier you start looking, the better!
Once picking your house, make sure you read the contract. I cannot stress this enough! A horror story that I have heard from someone once is that a man kept coming into their garden, and when they unlocked their house door or their back-garden door, the man tried to race them to get into the house first. This, of course, raised concern, and upon contacting their landlord they were told it was a part of their contract agreement in fine print, that a ‘known man’ likes to go into the garden. However, the known man is not really a known man, so there’s nothing they can do about it. As much as it is funny in reading, I cannot imagine its humorous when a random man tries to come into your house. Please make sure you read the agreements and keep a copy of the contract- what you’re allowed and not allowed to do, caps on bills and numbers of the landlord and out of hour numbers for emergencies. Also, if you have any questions, make sure that you ask them any questions you may have about anything- no question is stupid, and its totally okay to ask hundreds of questions to make sure you are settled and happy with the house.
Now all that’s left is picking the rooms. To make it fair, its easier to pick names/ room numbers out of a hat and people get what they pick- it makes it fair at least! Make sure you take pictures when you sign, as then you can refresh your memory and start picking, as well as planning for decorations, and most importantly parties.
From my own experience, I find it best to find individual landlords who rent out student housing. Letting agencies are often tied to multiple landlords, and therefore hundreds of properties and not enough staff to deal with issues. This then leads to things not being heard out and issues not being solved and ignored, which is stressful as a student, especially if it is a pressing matter. Independent landlords can directly be blamed for neglecting properties and not listening to tenants’ requests, and so more action can be taken against them if things don’t get sorted out. Or if you are willing to go through letting agencies, it is best to do your research and look at reviews, a lot of the time, they are very honest.
What university do you go to, and what do you study?