House hunting can be stressful, especially if it’s your first time. Rumours are already starting to get around which might be making you anxious about looking for somewhere to live. As someone that’s done house hunting in Leeds three years running, LUU Community Officer, George Bissett, can offer an insight into what it’s really like. Time to shatter some myths:
“There’s a housing shortage in Leeds”
Simply not true. There is a surplus of quality student accommodation in Leeds. Because of this, there are hundreds of empty student beds in Leeds every year. Therefore, letting agents use aggressive sales tactics so they aren’t the one left with unlet properties. Don’t let anyone convince you that good houses will run out. Speaking of aggressive sales tactics…
“If I don’t sign for this today, someone else will”
When you’re being shown around houses, many letting agents will tell you that they’ve had six other groups look around the exact same houses you’ve seen, and if you want it, you better sign quickly. Isn’t it a coincidence that every house you look at has been viewed by loads of other groups that same day? No: it’s absolute rubbish. They just want you to sign ASAP. But when it comes to where to live, take your time when making the decision: it’s a big one.
“The best houses go first”
Absurd. Often, people that sign early in the academic year are signing for properties that have been left over from last year. Also, there are 16,000 good quality student beds that don’t go live on Unipol’s website until 20th January 2018. That’s when Unipol’s official house hunting season begins.
“But wait, isn’t Unipol just a landlord?”
A common misconception. Unipol is in fact a charity dedicated to helping students find the best housing. As well as renting over 3,000 of their own student beds, they provide free advice and support to students looking for housing in the private sector and run accreditation schemes such as the Unipol Code. Everything from checking over your housing contract to helping you know who the best landlords in Leeds are, they should be the first port of call when looking for a place to live!
“Everyone pays signing fees”
Absolutely not. Signing fees are little more than a scam; you’re paying the letting agent to click print on your contract. But there are plenty of landlords and letting agents that do not charge any upfront fees. How do you find them? The LUU Housing Fair in January will only include agencies that have no signing fees.
“Everyone lives in Hyde Park”
It’s edgy, it’s the home of Ice Scoop, but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all. Many students refuse to look for houses anywhere else because “everyone lives in Hyde Park,” meaning they miss out on some class houses in other areas. Headingley, Woodhouse and Burley all have students in them too, and you’ll have more of a choice if you broaden your scope to outside of Hyde Park.
“I know these people I met five weeks ago well enough to sign for a house with them”
You don’t. Don’t get me wrong; your Freshers squad might be sound. But from personal experience, it’s not uncommon for groups who sign before Christmas that think they know each other really well end up falling out before they move in, making the next twelve months really awkward.
In summary, here are my main takeaways for house hunting advice:
Don’t worry about house hunting until after Christmas. Good houses come to those who wait.
Don’t let any agent pressure you into signing a contract. You have more time (and control) than they say you do.
Unipol is your friend. Get your contract checked, look out for ‘Unipol Code’ landlords and use their website to find great houses.
(Images: University of Sheffield, Which?, UniPol, Pads for Students)