As the end of first term is approaching, the desperate rush for house hunting is in full swing! Searching for a student house can be a pretty stressful experience at the best of times, but here are 10 things to bear in mind as you house-hunt!
- Don’t rush into a group – be honest and frank.
This one is particularly relevant if you’re in your first year at York. You might be lucky and have found your new lifelong friends in halls. But if you haven’t, don’t panic! Chat to people on your course or at society events. Housing can be a tricky topic to talk about, and it’s easy to worry about hurting people’s feelings, but it’s always for the best to be honest. Whether it’s in your halls or within a friendship group, be sure to be open about your plans – never assume everyone’s on the same page.
- Don’t rush or be scared into signing.
It’s very easy to rush into signing for a house, particularly if you feel like you’ve left it late. Take at least a night to mull over your decision. A lot of landlords will tell you that they’ve got a group that’s very interested in the house you’re viewing, or that they’re showing the property to another group after you. This might be true, but take it with a pinch of salt. Sleep on it, talk to a trusted friend or family member. That said, if you find a house you really like, then you will want to make sure you sign in good time.
- Nominate a lead tenant.
Most landlords or agencies will ask for a lead tenant when you’re signing the contract. This person is the first port of call for the landlord throughout your tenancy. It will probably be reasonably obvious who your lead tenant will be, but it’s always worth discussing it with your future housemates beforehand.
- Make sure all your group has the same priorities.
This is an important one! Before you arrange house viewings, make sure you’re aware of what everyone’s priorities are. These might be to all have double beds, to be on a bus route, near shops, in a quiet or vibrant area, or whether there’s parking available. Also take into account distance from campus. A 45-minute walk might not seem that bad when you sign, but imagine it if it’s throwing it down with rain!
- Set a budget.
When arranging viewings, make sure you know what the maximum budget of the group is. No-one wants to have to sign for a house they know they can’t really afford. It’s also worth bearing in mind the cost of bills on top of this: are they included? If they aren’t, add another £5-£10 per week onto the advertised price.
- View lots of houses.
Don’t just go for the first house that you see! Most landlords will happily take you round a few houses at a time, and it’s worth seeing all of them just so you can get a feel for each house and be able to compare them to one another.
- Things to look out for.
Don’t just focus on the furniture and decorations when you’re viewing a house. Look out for darker patches on walls, flaking wallpaper or any sign of mould or damp. It’s also worth turning a tap on to check water pressure, and flushing the toilet to make sure it works! Keep an eye on the electrical appliances and sockets: any exposed wiring or old looking electrics aren’t good! If you’re not confident with these sorts of things, make sure to take a few photos during the viewing and show them to someone you trust.
- Ask questions!
All through your viewing, ask questions! It’s always useful to know how old the boiler is, what the landlord’s policy with bills, and when you’ll need to pay your deposit by. Ask how the landlord is storing your deposit (they’ll need to provide this information when you move in). It’s also a good idea to try and get a copy of the contract for the house before you agree to sign, so you can have a read through it in your own time. If any current tenants are in – try and talk to them! Ask if they’ve had any issues or problems with the house or the landlord.
- Don’t panic.
Especially in York, it can feel like everyone’s sorted their house by Christmas. The reality is, if you haven’t done it by the end of first term, you still have plenty of time in January and February to look for somewhere to stay! Take your time, work out who you want to live with, and view as many houses as you need to.
- Once you’ve found your house.
When you’ve found your house, it’s always worth bearing a few things in mind. If there’s one single bed, or a room with an ensuite, definitely work out who’s room is who’s before you move in. It also might be worth arranging for some people to pay more or less rent. If bills aren’t included, make sure you know whether the landlord will notify the energy companies, or whether it’s up to you. Definitely arrange your internet installation before you move in, to avoid weeks of living without the web! A good tip for houses without bills included is to set up a separate bills account for the house, that everyone pays a set amount into monthly or termly. If there’s any leftover at the end of the year, you can use it to pay for a house meal!
These are just some of the things to bear in mind when you’re looking for a student house, and I’m by no means an expert. Everyone has different experiences, and different advice, but hopefully this will be of some use!