16 Things I Wish I’d Known When Looking For My First Student House
Looking for your first student house is more than likely going to be your first time dealing with lettings agents, landlords and tenancy agreements. It’s not always very easy to get your head around, so given that house-hunting season is still in full-swing, here are a few things I wish I’d known when I was looking that might just help you.
1. It’s not true that if you don’t start looking in November there’ll be no houses left. Or no good ones, anyway.
This is panic mongering. It’s highly unlikely you’re going to end up in a situation where there are literally no houses left. Student houses come available throughout the year, not in one big wave at the start of November. Just look on any student lettings website; you’ll see that there are new listings uploaded every day, so don’t feel panicked into looking when you’re not ready.
2. But it really is true that you never know a person until you live with them.
If you’re planning on living with a whole new set of people when you move out of halls, be prepared to discover that you all irritate each other in at least one way or another. It’s going to happen anyway, so just make sure you get on well enough that it won’t ruin your friendship.
3. The more people you live with, the more opportunities there are for arguments.
Conflict will occur over anything and everything, such as who gets which bedroom, unfair division of cupboard space in the kitchen, and who can use which bathroom. If you’re pretty chill, then great. If you like your own space, maybe a big house isn’t the one for you.
4. But living in a small house doesn’t necessarily mean there’ll be no drama.
In fact, if you’re in a house of only three or four people, it’s far more likely that if drama does occur it will be a whole lot worse.
5. Houses very rarely look like the photos provided in the listings.
Not all student houses are horrendous, but if you see one that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Never trust a student house by its cover photos.
6. And don’t choose not to view a house simply because it doesn’t have any photos to look at.
It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with it. Some landlords just don’t upload photos. It’s still worth a look; it might just be the one.
7. Work out whether a house with bills included is going to be cheaper in the long run.
It’s undoubtedly more convenient, and your lettings agent will be great at convincing you that it’s by far the cheapest option, but is it really? If there aren’t many of you in the house, the chances are your bills won’t be very expensive, especially during the warmer months, so it’s worth doing some maths and making an informed decision.
8. Find out whether it’s the lettings agent or the landlord who’ll be dealing with the maintenance.
And if it’s the latter, make sure you meet them before you sign anything. Don’t end up in a situation where the lettings agent who showed you around was lovely but the landlord who you actually end up having to deal with is a nightmare.
9. And don’t be scared to talk to the students who currently live there.
They can probably answer your questions better than the lettings agent or landlord. Or at least, they can answer more honestly. Ask them about the landlord, ask them about bills, ask them how warm the house is, and question why they want to leave.
10. Take your time when looking around.
Don’t let yourself be rushed in and out by the lettings agent or landlord. You have every right to inspect every room properly. Look for damp or mould, look at the quality of the boiler, look at the general condition of the house. This is where you’re going to be living, so you need to make sure you get a proper feel for it.
11. And if you do see something that’s broken, make sure you have it written into your contract that it will be fixed before you move in.
While some landlords might keep to their word when they say they’ll fix something for you, there are many that won’t, so always make sure you have everything in writing from the get go. The same goes for any additions to the house that you’ve been promised, such as a new mattress or television. Get everything on paper and signed by the landlord.
12. If the house is being renovated, check when it’s happening.
It’s not unusual to look round a house and have the landlord tell you it’s going to have a new kitchen or bathroom or carpet fitted before you move in. Once again, make sure you get this in writing, and also make sure you know exactly when this is happening. If it’s after your contract begins, are you going to be able to live in the house while the work is being done? If not, how are they going to compensate you?
13. Try to look beyond the state the house is in when you view it.
Although it’s no secret that student houses can be messy and not in the best condition, some of them will really blow your mind. However, it’s important to try to look beyond the mess. If the house itself is OK and you can get it in writing that it will be professionally cleaned and any repairs made, there’s no reason to disregard it. Contrariwise, if a house initially looks really nice, is it actually a nice house or have the current tenants just done a good job of making a horrible house look homely?
14. Don’t forget to consider things like parking, distance from local shops, public transport and, of course, your university.
It’s all easily forgotten in the excitement of finding a house you like the look of, but not thinking about things such as whether it’s going to be easy to park to move your stuff in or whether there’s a shop nearby is something you might come to regret.
15. If there’s anything at all in the contract that you don’t understand, always ask about it.
We’ve all done that thing where you don’t want to ask about something you don’t understand because you fear it’s probably really simple and you don’t want anyone to think you don’t know your stuff. This is particularly true when dealing with lettings agents for a student house, probably for the first time in your life. You want to seem like you are capable of handling such a situation without needing adult supervision, but nothing proves you’re not ready for this responsibility like signing a contract in which there are terms and conditions you don’t understand and weren’t brave enough to question.
16. And never feel pressured into making a decision.
You’ll be told that loads of other people are interested, or that they’ve got another group about to sign the contract any second now, so you better hurry up and sign first otherwise it will be gone. This might be true, but it also might just be a selling tactic. If the house goes, so be it; there’ll be others to choose from. Better to take your time and think about it than end up rushing into signing a contract you haven’t read properly.