Before looking for a house consider these points...
Firstly ensure you have housemates you can trust and rely on to pay bills.
Don't live with people you don't know or don't like.
Don't choose housemates within the first term of university, you cannot get to know anyone properly in that time!
If you can try and choose hall housemates, while you will know your course mates better you will be spending the next three years with them anyway, though choosing course mates does have some major advantages, getting up for lectures, remembering deadlines and revising for exams!
Don't choose to live with your girlfriend/boyfriend, its a bad idea, even if you think your meant to be together, you'll become insular and if it does end you will have to find someone where else to live, or end up living with an ultra awkward situation
Between 4-6 people is a good number, any lower and you will likely get annoyed with each other, any higher and you will struggle to find a property.
If you choose to live with a non-student they will have to pay council tax, make sure they are aware of this.
Find out what people's upper limit on rent is. Some people will want to live in a dive, while others will want a mansion, make sure you are compatible!
Choosing the right location
- Before choosing a house its a good idea to work out the best location to live in.
- Close proximity to the university, or a town centre location will cost you significantly more.
- Further away will probably be cheap, but you may have to take a bus, train or car if you move too far. This will increase costs substantially.
- If you are in your second or third year of university you will want to live in the student area of town, this is where most of the students live, and you will be within a few minutes of all your other friends. If you are a postgraduate or mature student you may prefer to move slightly further out of the student area into a quieter street slightly further away from the university.
Choosing the right landlord/agent
- It is important to choose a landlord/agent that is not intent on ripping you off or pushing you into a shoddy house and refusing to fix problems. Your university will likely have a good landlords scheme, but word of mouth is also a good way of finding out who is good and who is not.
- If you find the landlord/agent difficult to get along with before renting, imagine what it is going to be like when you have a problem, back out before you are fixed into a contract.
- Don’t sign a contract unless you have read it thoroughly.
- If you aren’t entirely happy with a property you see, but still have an interest in it; most landlords/agents will be negotiable, perhaps replacing furniture, doing up a kitchen or slightly reducing the rent for you, especially if you are applying later in the year when they are desperate to rent a property before the next academic year starts.
- Make sure your landlord/agent uses the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), if they do not then do NOT use them, no matter how nice the property is!
Choosing the right house
- Don’t expect your student house to be a palace, and don’t judge a house on the current tenants, they may be messy, they may be neat have a wide screen TV in the living room, but it doesn’t mean you will!
- Judge a house on what you will be renting. The rooms, the kitchen, the bathrooms.
- Check for any visible signs of damp.
- Ensure the rooms are roughly equal in size and quality of furniture, and that if someone is going to lose out on size that they are aware of this.
- Make sure the house has fire alarms set up and is secure.
- Ask the current tenants about electricity and gas costs.
- If you plan on taking a car find out if you can park it outside for free, or find out what permit you need to acquire. Many student houses have drives so if you do want to bring a car try and find one with a drive.
- Water rates included in the house will save you quite a bit of money.
- TV licenses and Sky included in the rent are unnecessary, as is broadband, they may make things easier but they will limit what choice you have.
- Don’t pay a premium to live just 10 minutes closer to uni, when there is a cheap mansion 25 minutes walk away, you are going to pay an extra £5-15 a week simply saving yourself 20 minutes walking a day.
- Make sure your house is near a supermarket or bus route to get to one.
- Side roads are better than main roads, you will have a more peaceful night sleep and will be less likely awakened by drunken students at 3 AM.
The best way to choose is to get all your housemates together, and see up to 5 houses, the more you see the more choice you will have. Make a decision quickly after seeing houses as you will want the house you have your eyes set on. Don’t however feel the need to rush, houses at many university towns are in excess and it is a complete myth that all the nice houses go early in the first semester. In fact some of the nicest houses will not come on to the market until later on in the year!
Prices may well go down as the year progresses, they are usually hiked up initially for gullible freshers’ who think they need a house for next year five minutes after arriving.