It's February, the academic year is flying by, and if you haven't sorted out your student house for September yet, it's probably at the top of your to do list.
If you're a first year student, this is most likely the first time you have ever house hunted, and it can feel very grown up, stressful and intimidating. But don't fret, it's not as difficult as it seems. There are plenty of helpful and honest estate agents out there, and are assertive and ask lots of questions, you'll be able to find a solid deal. As I have just sorted out a uni house for the second time (university whizzes by so bloody fast... such a cliché... but very true), I feel more aware of the dos and don'ts when it comes to house hunting, and how to avoid falling into a dodgy or expensive contract... keep reading for a few pointers!
It may sound obvious, but it saves a lot of time and effort if go to estate agent who specialise in student lettings. My friend and I wasted time browsing swanky two bedroom flats online and almost booking viewings, when we realised the contracts were aimed towards professionals, and had contracts starting immediately, rather than the usual starting-from-June/July student deal. Also, companies that specialise in students are going to have clear, set terms regarding things like rent in summer... and questions such as "are we allowed house parties?"... and are just easier to deal with in general.
In Manchester, where I am a student, there's a place in the student hub of Fallowfield called Manchester Student Homes. It's a handy shop where you can get advice and do some guided house hunting. And it's managed by the universities in Manchester, so it's advice you can trust. The organisation is especially helpful in first year, when students are totally new to private renting and just want a bit more information. Do a quick google search and see if your university provides a similar service, they probably do!
Walton Robinson is a fab estate agent to go to if you're at uni in Newcastle. They have lots of student houses available which are easy to find through their website... just look for the big blue "Student Let" button! They won the North East Student Housing award for Newcastle in 2015 - they are well established, well trusted and well loved by students.
My friend has just signed for a house through Unipol, a non-profit estate agents with branches in Leeds, Bradford and Nottingham. They are a great company to go through as they only deal with student lettings and pride themselves on providing good, honest service.
If you go to smaller companies or directly through landlords, remember to be assertive... try not to let yourself be pushed into house viewings or contracts that you're not too sure about - easier said than done, but aim to be clear and confident. Additionally, ask lots of questions. Don't be afraid to really pump the estate agent/landlord for information, this is serious stuff we're talking about here... it's big money, and you want to be sure that you're signing the contract that is right for you. Remember to ask about rent during the summer. Most student contracts start in June/July, meaning during the summer before you move into the property, you are required to pay some kind of rent. Estate agents and landlords have differing policies on this and some are more expensive than others, so it's an important point to go over. And don't hesitate to ask your mom or dad to run over the contract to give you some advice... most likely they've been in a similar position... and your funds will probably be at the front of their mind!
Unfortunately, student houses usually aren't particularly glamorous. We're students, we're sort of supposed to live in slightly dingy dwellings. But I am just like the next girl, I swoon at white Ikea furniture, walls of quirky art prints, and perfect desk set-ups... but you gotta compromise. Your Ikea dream will become reality one day, but most likely not while you're struggling to live off your student loan! On the other hand, you shouldn't have to live in a grotty hovel, and landlords/estate agents have the responsibility to make sure their properties are decent. Ultimately, it's about compromise. For example, I'm not a fan of the old fashioned, textured white walls in my house for next year... it reminds me of the swirly top of iced Christmas cakes... but I'm only living there for a year, I'm going to be with my best pal, and I'm sure with a line or two of bunting and fairy lights, we can have it looking cosy in no time.
So there's my two cents on student house hunting. It can be a bit of nuisance to add it onto your plate alongside essays and reading and some kind of social life, but it's not as stressful as it seems. With a good estate agent, an assertive mindset, and a willingness to compromise, you'll find a fab pad for you and your pals.
This post was kindly sponsored by Walton Robinson, but all opinions are my own.