Student housing can be one of the biggest costs of going to university after the cost of the course. It is important to get a good deal so that you are not paying too much bit also getting what you need and want. Below are some tips on what to think about when looking into student accommodation.
Choose halls of residence carefully
Most first year students will opt for halls of residence. This is because you tend to be put together with a lot of students and so it gives you a chance to socialise more. This is great if you are moving away from home for the first time as you will have plenty of distractions which will hopefully help you to not miss home so much. There may be meals provided as well, which will save you having to do any cooking. However, you need to make sure that you are getting good value for money. If the food is not good, then it may not have been the best idea. You may find that the rooms are not what you like or expect. You may not want to be surrounded by lots of people, you may rather be somewhere quiet where you can relax and not be disturbed. So consider what you are used to, what you need and want and what is available and make the best possible match. If you cannot cook, then you could buy microwave meals or eat out rather than having to be in halls of residence where meals are provided. However, you may prefer meals there for you, lots of company and noise and lots going on. Make sure that you think hard about this decision.
Use the university student housing lists
If you are looking for a place to stay outside of the university halls of residence then the best place to start is the university housing list. They will have a list of local houses which are available for student rentals. You may find that many private landlords will not be interested in having students and so you will need to start with the university housing list to find things that are available. You will find that there will be houses and flats available and you are likely to have to share with other people. It is likely that you will be in your second year and so may have a group of friends that you would like to share with. Therefore approaching together to find a place with the amount of rooms that you need will be the best idea for you all. You need to find out when the best time is to approach them as you will have a lot more choice if you start early. Visit them at the beginning of term to enquire as to when they start getting landlords approaching them.
View places before you sign
As soon as you find a place that you can afford and looks right it is likely that you will want to sign up. However, it is wise not to do this immediately and view the place first. You want to check whether it really is as good as it seems. Check out things like the room sizes, the access, the type of heating, the furnishings, the parking and whether it has damp. Look at how well it is decorated and consider whether you could imagine living in the house with other people and get the right balance of personal space and common rooms. It can be quite hard to imagine this if it is not something you have done before, but if you visit a few places, then you will be able to compare them. This will allow you to think about what you like and dislike about certain places and think about what you are looking for in your ideal home. Obviously you will also need to consider the cost, so only look at places that are within your budget.
Share with people you know and trust
It is really important to make sure that you are sharing with people that you like and that you trust. If you are leaving personal possessions in a place you need to trust them to look after them as well as to lock up properly when they go out. You also want people who will respect the building and contents so that it is a nicer place to live. You need to be able to get on well with them all as well, as a year sharing with someone that you do not like can seem like a very long time. It can be very different living with someone than just being with them in classes and at a bar, so consider it hard. There may be annoying habits that they have that could be unbearable once you start living together perhaps or you may just find that they seem very different when you are living with them than they were as a friend. Make sure that they are people that you feel you could be honest with and so sort out any problems that may crop up when you are sharing.
Choose well in advance
It is worth looking in housing as soon as possible. There will be a lot of students all looking for houses at the same time. If you do not start early then you will find that there will not be very much left and you may end up with something that is not very nice. You may find that you cannot share with who you want to share with either as there may not be multiple spaces in properties. You could end up filling a room in a house where everyone else knows each other and you feel left out. You could find the house is a long way from the campus you need to be near to or that it is not a very nice place to live. So as soon as properties start advertising for vacancies for the following academic year, you need to start looking around and choosing where you might like to stay. Make sure that you are up to date with your studies so that you have plenty of time for choosing between properties and visiting them so that you can make the right choice.
Consider what you need in a home and match up
It is worth taking some time to think about what you want from a place to live. As well as choosing the people that you want to stay with, you also need to think about the facilities within the property. It may be that you want somewhere with a washing machine, that is furnished, that has a good kitchen, communal living space and parking, for example. Consider whether any or all of these are an important factor for you. You also need to think about the location and the condition of the property. Some student housing is not looked after that well and this may not be very appealing to you, so look carefully at the options. If you visit several places, you will get an idea of what to expect and you will be able to do a comparison of them. Think about what you can get for your money and what you think is worth paying for and what you can do without.
Consider value for money
It is worth thinking hard about what you are getting or your money. If you want to keep the rent as low as possible, then it is likely that you will not get exactly what you want with all of the criteria that you are looking for. However, you need to think about whether the place offers good value for money. If you get what you want and it is expensive, you may feel that it is worth it. However, you may rather pay less and have a few less things that you want so that you can save money. It may be that you cannot afford to go for anything more than the cheapest properties. But still compare them as some may still be better value for money than others. Make sure that you have a list of features and you consider whether they are necessary to you or luxuries you would like to have and compare properties and their prices to see which ones you think will offer you the best deal.
Calculate travel costs to university
It is worth thinking hard about the travel costs that you will incur from your property. If it is a long way away from the campus that you need to use, then you may end up paying for buses, trains or driving and this could add up quickly. Some universities do have buses that students can use for free and you may be able to get student discounts on some public transport. However, calculate whether it might be better value for money if you pay more money for accommodation and live closer, but do not have to pay to travel. Of course, you may be happy to walk, even long distances and therefore can save money on transport and get cheaper rent as well. Do consider other places that you may also need to travel to such as shops, bars, train station, work etc and whether it is still going to be a convenient location for you. You may share with someone who has a car and can give you lifts or you may have a car yourself. However, consider what may happen if the car breaks down or if it is no longer accessible perhaps due to expensive running costs or the person who owns it moving out.
Talk to other students
It is well worth chatting to other students about accommodation. Find out about their good and bad experiences so that you can learn from them. You should ask about what things they think are necessary in student housing and what are not as well as whether there are any areas within the town that they would recommend that you stay. They may also be able to tell you what sort of prices they pay for rent which could help. It is worth also talking to them about costs of bills such as electricity so that you can get an idea as to how far your money will go and how much you will be able to afford to pay in rent considering other costs as well. Other students may also be able to tell you when you should start looking for accommodation.
Get your deposit back
One good way to get a good deal on your student accommodation is to make sure that you get your deposit back when you leave. Your deposit will be returned if you leave the property in a good condition when you move out. This means that you will not only need to look after it, but make sure that it is clean and tidy when you leave. This could include making sure that appliances are clean, cupboards wiped out and you may even need to make sure that the garden is in good order as well. The deposit could make a big difference as you will be able to use it the following year for your next place and not have to save up the money all over again or take a big chunk out of your student loan. It is therefore important that you choose to share with responsible people as they will be more likely to look after a place as well. Remember that you will all be responsible for keeping it in good condition. Even if you are prepared to do lots of cleaning and tidying before you leave, it will be difficult to repair damage that has been done, so think hard before having parties and sharing with people who may be less respectful than you of the building and furnishings.