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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Finding Private Housing – Helpful Tips

Zack (Senior Member) put together some tips for residents looking for private housing for next year:

  1. DON’T PANIC
  2. Decide who you’re living with and stick to it. Preferably people you like. This isn’t too important though. They will steal your milk and block the toilet regardless of how ‘safe’ they seemed during Freshers.
  3. Whatever you do, DON’T live with a couple!
  4. Decide where in London you want to live – agree on your priorities. If you’re desperate to live in Bloomsbury even if it means sleeping on the floor of someone’s garage, that’s great. Likewise, if you want an en-suite and a roof terrace but don’t mind the commute from Hertfordshire, speak up now.
  5. Discuss how much everyone is willing to pay per week or month. If one of you can swing £200/week, while the others will struggle to make £100, a compromise isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
  6. Factor in gas and electricity – they can get expensive, especially in the wintertime. Winter lasts a lot longer in a house where the heating comes out of your drinking money.
  7. Decide when you want to move in. Most landlords in London will be looking for someone to move in within the next month, so you are unlikely to find anywhere that’s available in September in June. That’s just London. This may mean coming back in August to look.
  8. Start looking. Online websites such as primelocation and gumtree are good places to start, particularly when it comes to getting an idea of what’s actually out there and how much it costs.
  9. Estate agents are another option. A reputation for underhandedness is perhaps somewhat deserved, but so long as you keep your wits about you (and don’t mind paying an extra £100 or so for the trouble), they are an excellent way of arranging several viewings in a day without the hassle of dealing with some of the less reliable landlords out there.
  10. Arrange some viewings by contacting the agent or landlord. The first place you see will inevitably be an absolute hole. Visiting it will scar you for life. Get this out of the way early.
  11. When viewing, check the essentials. Windows should keep out the draft, mould can be sorted out provided it’s not cataclysmal... a friend of mine once saw a kitchen with a toilet in it. Discuss with your potential flatmates whether that’s something you’d be okay with.
  12. If there are any previous tenants around, ask them questions about any problems they’ve had with the place. Ask specifically about how cold it gets in winter, how much the bills cost and whether the landlord is a top bloke or a premier league knob. Put your money on the latter.
  13. Beware the ‘sunny house bias’. Any given property will look nicer on a sunny day than when it’s overcast. Your brain is actually that stupid.
  14. Nice places go fast. A decent place at a student price won’t stay on the market very long and chances are you won’t be the first gang of students looking around that day. When it comes to the crunch, be prepared to put in an offer that day, even if everyone hasn’t seen it. A nice house won’t wait for all six of you to come back from Corfu.
  15. An offer involves haggling. Undershoot the price and ask for some extras – any mould should be sorted out and you should all have double beds. Estate agents will normally help you with this.
  16. As a student, you will need a guarantor to cover you. They normally have to be a UK taxpayer earning over a certain amount. If your parents are living off-shore in the Cayman Islands, have a back-up plan. All they really have to do is sign a form as I remember.
  17. You will have to pay a deposit. This can be more than a month’s rent. So don’t spend your Connaught deposit at Moony’s. You’ll need it.
  18. Once the offer has been accepted, a contract will be drawn up. READ THE CONTRACT. Get your parents to read the contract. They’re smarter than you and they’ve done this before. Then sign it I guess.
  19. Congratulations! You now have a house/flat/barn. Now you just need to sort out bills and the internet, stock the fridge, do a washing up rota and buy a whole bunch of Carly Rae Jepsen posters for the lounge.
  20. IKEA.
  21. Finally – and most importantly – relax. You will find somewhere to live. You will not be homeless come September. Everything will work out in the end. And if it doesn’t?
  22. GET YOUR PARENTS TO DO IT ALL FOR YOU.


The Connaught Hall Resident's Handbook (http://handbook.connaught-hall.org.uk) also gives this advice for those whose re-admission applications were unsuccessful:

Unsuccessful applicants may consider joining the intercollegiate halls of residence waiting list in September. Details will be published on the University of London website in August: www.halls.london.ac.uk. The waiting list is always very over-subscribed, so we advise students to have a back-up plan for accommodation.

If you need help finding somewhere to live, contact University of London Housing Services or visit their website at http://housing.london.ac.uk

The London Student Housing Guide is another useful source of information about private sector accommodation: http://studenthousing.london.ac.uk.