20/20 – Day 8: 20 tips for finding accommodation

If only you could live on campus every year of your degree!

Choosing a place to live can be tough.  It’s bad enough working out who you’re going to live with, let alone where and under what circumstances.

When it comes to viewing properties and working out what’s suitable for you, here are some considerations that you shouldn’t leave home without…

  1. How close is it to campus? You’re doing yourself no favours if you’re miles away with no method of getting to uni.
  2. Is the area full of other students, or would you be on your own? Choose carefully. Quiet life or communal feel?  Some areas are full of houses let to students and you have to decide whether or not that’s your thing.
  3. Are you near amenities? Local shops, right by town, close to local facilities?  What do you need to live close to?
  4. Check your area. Use tools like UpMyStreet to study the neighbourhood if you really care about the surroundings you’re about to move to.
  5. Can you get a good broadband connection? Crucial for some people.
  6. Would you prefer to stay on campus? Can uni provide you with accommodation? Some universities do have places for students to stay on campus.  Find out what’s available to you as soon as possible.
  7. Senior Student schemes help you stay on campus and save money in the process.  Another way to avoid private accommodation is to check if your uni has a scheme for Senior Students or Student Ambassadors that live on campus working to support students in their Fresher year. You would be in a responsible role, however, so don’t use it solely as a way to live on campus for another year.
  8. Find a place through uni. Your accommodation office and Students’ Union should have lots of advice to offer.  They should also have an updated list of recommended accommodation specifically for students. Before you start looking for a place independently, see what your uni can do to point you in the right direction.
  9. Get agreements checked out before signing.  Solicitors often provide services through Student Union services, so check for that.  Don’t sign on the dotted line without making sure you’re not signing your life away.
  10. How many people do you want to live with? This makes a difference on the number of properties available.  Three or four people looking together will have a greater selection of possibilities than a group of seven or eight.  If necessary, try forming two smaller groups and live close together.  While not perfect, it may be the only option.
  11. How much living area is provided? If the property has been designed to fit as many paying students as possible, there may be no communal living space other than a kitchen. And we all know how small they can be. If you’re hoping to get people over and spend time with others, can you find room for entertaining, coming together, and so on?
  12. Check the little things. Some considerations are forgotten about. Look for plug sockets, phone/broadband sockets, size of the fridge/freezer, etc. These issues don’t seem important, but they’ll be a big deal if they’re lacking in one way or another.
  13. Safety first! Check all locks, make sure windows are secure, and be aware of anything that doesn’t look safe inside and outside the property.  You want to make sure you’re going to be relatively safe and you want to make sure your belongings aren’t going to disappear too easily.
  14. Don’t be too picky.  Remember, you do need to be comfortable, safe, and suited to the place you’re renting.  But it’s not like you’re buying it.  Anyway, you only need stay there for a year.  Factor in several months spent back at home too and little niggles like the colour of the bathroom suite are suddenly not as important as you first thought.
  15. If unsure, speak to your accommodation office and/or Student Union. This goes for any queries. Before committing to anything, make sure you know what the deal is.
  16. Don’t look at properties outside your price range.  It’s not worth wasting time finding the ‘perfect’ place and worrying about money issues later. Stick to your own limits.
  17. Consider your housemates carefully.  There are no hard and fast rules.  Some people say it’s great to live with your closest mates from the first year.  Others say it’s asking for trouble.  Same situation for living with people on your course.  Same again for living with the same people you lived with on campus.  There are arguments for and against any arrangement.  So I say simply this: Think carefully before you rush in to any living arrangement with others.  Try to get it working.  You may not succeed, but the harder you try, the more likely you’ll get a positive outcome.
  18. Check transport links.  You need to be mobile, so don’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere.  How far to the nearest train station?  Where are the bus stops?  Where do the buses go to?
  19. Minimalist or clutter-bug? If you like a house, but the rooms are tiny and you’ve got loads of stuff to pack in your room, you’ve got two choices: Option one, chuck out some of the clutter.  Option two, ignore that house and keep looking.  Up to you.
  20. Stick with full time students when sharing, or risk paying Council Tax.  If you find yourself in a situation where at least one of you renting is a part-time student, the house is eligible for Council Tax.  But if you’re all full-time students, you’re free from paying Council Tax…which is nice.

Title image: original by tiffa130 (cc)  /  Bottom images: *saxon* & mescon (cc)