A large percentage of students choose to live in university halls of residence with other freshers in their first year of university as it’s a great way to make friends and socialise. But what should you do if you haven’t been able to get a space in halls, you’ve ended up going through Clearing and so now need to find suitable accommodation or you are sorted for your first year, but know that you have to move out for your second year?
Simon Thompson, Director of Accommodationforstudents.com, the UK’s number one student accommodation website, offers his top tips for finding the perfect student home for you…
- Don’t panic
If you are about to head off to university as a first-year and end up going through Clearing, thereby potentially missing out on securing a room on campus halls, don’t panic. Just because you’re not in halls doesn’t necessarily mean you have to miss out on the social side. An increasing number of private halls of residence, run by companies such as Unite offer the communal aspect of shared lounges and social events and are usually in prime city centre locations. Private halls often retain availability up until the very start of term.
- Work out your budget
It is best to know your upper limit from the start so that you don’t agree to accommodation outside your price range. Our latest annual survey of student rents found the average weekly student rent for 2015 is £82.09. In Aberdeen, the average weekly rent is £109, in Edinburgh it is £99, Glasgow is £87 with Dundee offering the cheapest average weekly rent at £67. Average rents in private halls are likely to be a little higher than in private accommodation such as a shared house owing to the facilities on offer.
There will be plenty of accommodation above and below these prices but this just gives you a guide as to where average prices were this year.
- Get online
You will find a lot of information available on the web. Also, if you find yourself in a position where you can’t or don’t want to be in halls but don’t yet have anyone to share with, check out the “find a housemate” feature on www.accommodationforstudent.com. Don’t be nervous, at the end of the day thousands of other likeminded people are in the same boat as you.
- Be willing to compromise
Unless you have an unlimited budget, you might not be able to tick everything in your wish list so have an idea about what is most important to you: proximity to town; catered or self-catered; en-suite or shared facilities. We find now that the majority of students prefer to be closer to the university campus. Also, look at what the public transport links are like for getting around elsewhere.
- Research your options
There is a greater variety of student accommodation than ever before and growing competition in the market place has meant that standard of accommodation has vastly improved over the years. Be open minded about looking at all types of accommodation, you might be surprised at what you find.
Whilst you can’t be too choosy when you do find a property you like, especially when other people are interested in the same one, it’s still worth a little negotiation to at least ask if there’s room to reduce rent.
- Find out what’s included
It could be the cheapest rent around but if it doesn’t include water or electricity bills you may find yourself shelling out more than you think. Make sure to draw up a budget to check whether you can afford the property if bills aren’t inclusive.
- Meet before sign
Never sign a tenancy agreement or hand over any deposit until you’ve seen the property and met the landlord. Ask around to see how current tenants have found the house and landlord. If the house is perfect but the landlord is unreasonable your perfect home may turn into hell. Is the landlord helpful and co-operative when you ask questions? This gives a good indication of how any future problems will be dealt with.
Read the tenancy agreement thoroughly. This isn’t like those terms and conditions you just scroll past when signing up to stuff online. This is serious business and you need to dedicate several hours to checking exactly what it is you’re signing. If you are unsure what some of the terminology means, don’t be afraid to ask.
- Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the property, no matter how silly you think they may sound. It’s better to ask that and find the house isn’t for you before you drop a deposit on it. One thing that many students we deal with want to know is how reliable and quick the internet is. Some halls have wi-fi, especially if they are privately built and run, but others rely on cable connections to the university network. When you are working to a deadline for an assignment, the last thing you want is your internet connection crashing.
Now you’re a little wiser on things you can put the information to use and find the student accommodation that’s best for you, under more favourable terms.