Agony Aunt: Housing Advice for First Years

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Moving out is one of the first big demands university makes of you. Once you’ve done that, another big hurdle: finding your own private student accommodation for the first time.

From the safety of student halls, you’re thrown out into the dubious, confusing world of private student accommodation. For first years faced with this daunting prospect, here’s a list of advice to help navigate the treacherous waters of private accommodation from someone who’s been there.

I’ll never forget the chill that fell down my spine when a friend told me one of her friends had already gotten the key for their second-year home – in November!(I hadn’t even started looking!)

1.Don’t panic!

This might be the most important piece of advice for first years looking for private accommodation for the first time. The hunt for somewhere to live can feel like a race against the other thousands of students looking for the same accommodation you are. I’ll never forget the chill that fell down my spine when a friend told me one of her friends had already gotten the key for their second-year home – in November! (I hadn’t even started looking!) Really, there’s no rush. There will always be student housing for you (there is always private student accommodation left empty after the property hunting season is over), and those who find their student housing earlier than you aren’t necessarily finding somewhere better or cheaper.

2. Don’t be pressured into choosing

In the same vein as the last item, don’t let any sort of pressure govern how you choose your next home. Letting agencies, as much as they genuinely want to help you find your ideal second year home, also have a business to run – they will try and sell you places that may not necessarily be “you” because it suits them better. Last year a letting agency tried to sell me and my two friends a house for five people. The claim as to why was because we were looking “late in the season” so there wasn’t much housing left, a claim which made us all panic, so we really considered the hugely unsuitable five-bedroom house. Don’t let letting agents – or anyone else, for that matter – make you feel like you don’t have enough options left to be picky.

3. Know what you want, but be prepared to compromise

It’s worth making a list of what you want in your accommodation, but more importantly deciding which items are most important to you and which you could compromise on. Things you might want to consider could include:

  • Location – do you want to be able to walk to university or are you willing to pay for public transport for the year?
  • Utilities – do you want a bath or shower, or both? A garden? A television? Somewhere to safely store your bike?
  • Size – do you want big rooms, or a lot of them? Would you prefer your own house or an apartment?

Decide what matters most in the vision of your perfect home but be aware that your accommodation won’t be able to tick every box. Your accommodation doesn’t have to be perfect for you to love it.  

4. Don’t forget student halls!

Student halls aren’t exclusively for first years and offer a more convenient solution to your accommodation search if you don’t have much time to spare on searching for properties, contacting letting agencies and house-viewings.

No matter where your private student accommodation takes you for second year and beyond, hopefully this advice will help you feel like you’ve got your search a little more under control.

Georgie Wardall