Looking for your first house as an almost-real adult is a pretty daunting task! House hunting can be simple for a lucky few, but for me it’s often accompanied by a lot of disgust, frustration and giving the evil-eye to letting agents.
I’ve put together 10 tips for house hunting students (all of which come from personal experience, so they may be a bit biased.) Enjoy!
Lower your expectations
Most student houses, especially in our area, aren’t exactly luxury living. The larger the house, the more likely you are to have expensive appliances in our area. As I’ve only lived in 4 bedroom houses I’ve seen a variety of houses ranging from the stereotypical ‘student dive’ (peeling wallpaper, damp, mould, broken stairs etc) to lovely, clean, well presented houses. If you’re happy with paying less for a lower quality then go for it! But make sure you’re getting the quality you want for your money
Check for damp
Bubbling ceilings, peeling wallpaper, stains, mould and condensation on the windows are all warning signs of damp. Landlords often say they will ‘fix’ the damp but many student landlords in my area are known to cut corners and just replaster the area or paint over any stains. My house last year had damp and although it wasn’t life ruining it was annoying; my room became humid when it was warm and clammy when it was cold. All the pages in my books wilted too as the only shelves were next to the wall with damp. Boo!
Don’t be afraid to ask!
If you really like the house but you feel there is a reasonable problem with it (ie. broken appliances, wanting a new showerhead, painting over stained walls etc) sometimes they are happy to fix it! Make sure this is written into your contract to ensure that it is completed before you move in. We were concerned about kitchen counter space in one house we viewed today, and the letting agent offered to install a new cupboard with a counter top for us! Brilliant.
Talk to the tenants
If the tenants are in while you’re viewing the house sometimes they accompany you around. Ask if it’s ok to ask a few questions and they’re normally happy to help! Obviously be respectful and don’t disturb people working, but it’s really great to be able to speak to someone who lives in the house. They can offer honest opinions on the landlord, the neighbours, how much bills typically cost, and whether the house itself is warm in the winter (a very important quality in a house up North!)
Try not to be bowled over by aesthetic things in the house like the colour of the walls (unless it really, really bothers you!) or the style of the furniture. Most of it will be budget or well used, but remember it’s the quality of appliances, size of desk, storage, kitchen and double glazing that are important!
See past the dirt… Sometimes!
Sometimes a lovely house with new appliances can look disgusting when it’s covered in a few weeks worth of grime. Some houses have a bad layout you can change so look at the furniture available and the room space, not the layout. Some bathrooms can look disgusting but I swear that after a good scrub after the tenants move out they will look a million times more appealing. Some people are really messy, and I understand that a messy house can put you straight off, but try and look past it.
At the same time, know when the mess becomes signs of an actual problem. Is the ominous stain in the bathroom due to damp? Will that bath ever return to a normal colour? Is the grime on that cooker past cleaning? Some houses just don’t get clean. I lived in one!
As with any home, security is so important. Students are often easy targets as they are a sure bet for a house full of laptops and mobile phones. Crime rates in my area are pretty bad and a few of my friends have been burgled so make sure your house will be secure! Double glazing, locking windows and locking doors are all a must. A burglar alarm is desirable, but not all student houses have ones that work. Make sure you check this with the letting agent before you move in! Also try and notice the quality of exterior doors. We visited a house last year where an interior door was used as the back door to the house, which is really irresponsible and unsafe!
Check the accreditation
Make sure your landlord is accredited and your rent deposit is guaranteed by the government. The Landlord Accreditation ensures that your landlord is registered and should provide a high standard of housing. The Rent Deposit Guarantee makes sure that your deposit is protected and isn’t witheld unlawfully. These are both essential when renting a house.
Get to know the area
Location, Location, Location! Most university students have one or two ‘student areas’ where second and third years rent. It seems bizarre, but after living in the same area some of the roads have completely different atmospheres. One is known as a bit of a ‘party road’ while my road is much quieter. Some roads have worse crime rates than others, while some are more residential and less student. Do a bit of research and visit the area at different times of day, especially if you don’t know it well!
Set a budget and stick to it
Don’t be tempted to go over because £90 a week is only £10 a week more than £80. Remember it all adds up! This is something we’ve only just learnt after looking at nice expensive flats then realising they are completely unrealistic to other options that are similar but we could get for less.
Keep checking back for a post soon on my student housing experience; two flats, two houses, the highs, the lows, letting agents from hell and heaven, and some of the best times of my life over the last three years!