5 Things To Know Before You Go House Hunting

You’ve just finished your first year at uni and you’re getting ready for the summer break but a question looms on your mind – “where am I going to live next year?”

You loved your time in halls where you met almost too many people. Your tiny room felt more like a prison cell and some of you unlucky students had to share a shower among 8. Despite this, you had a fun time you’ll never forget.

In reality, the chances of you getting a room in halls again are incredibly slim so you’ll have to look to rent something, somewhere, with your friends.

No more delay, here are the top 4 things you need to know when house-hunting.

Don’t delay

You have to figure out what you want in your house and you need to know it ASAP. A living room? Garden? Balcony? All these things will change your search and will factor in your price range.

You can’t be shaky about what you want and don’t want because this is where you will pay to live. Yes, sacrifices will need to be made when looking for the perfect place, but don’t skimp on things that are necessary to you.

A lot of advice has been thrown around to figure out what exactly you want to see in your new place, and the best one by far is to get together with the friends you’re going to live with, and write down a list of requirements for a rental property that suits your needs.

You need to have a clear idea of how much you can spend on rent and bills every month. Budget and never underestimate your cost of living (i.e. transportation, food, night out, emergencies). Don’t live in a place that costs you £700 a month if it severely affects how much you can spend on groceries for example.

It’s always best to have some money aside in case of emergencies.

Agency fees are no joke… so ask around to avoid them

You’re bound to find a property that you like, except for one thing: it’s managed by a letting agency.  They exist as a middleman between renters and landlords, and manage everything from actually renting out the property to maintenance.

Now, that’s fine; landlords also have jobs and can’t always manage their properties at all times so it makes sense for them to hire someone to help them out. But here’s the deal, these agencies have a lot of fees, will cost you a lot of money and their fees are usually not included in the rental price.

Avoid these by asking your friends, families and colleagues if they know of any great areas. In most cases, word of mouth and going to see for yourself will be far better than a tour given to you by an agency. Facebook has a lot of university housing groups with people posting ads and information about housing.

If that doesn’t work out, your university student services should also have a list of available properties managed by the university itself, but places in these are often extremely competitive.

Sometimes, it’s unavoidable; you’re going to have to go through a letting agency because the landlord is unreachable. Be aware of a couple things however: letting agency fees are often un-refundable so make sure that you are good to live in a property. If something happens and you can’t commit to renting a property, you’ll lose around £100 or more.

Understand the relationship between how nice the flat is, location and rent.

How nice the property is, location and rent are stuck in a triangular relationship. A nice location and reasonable rent might mean sacrifices in regards to the quality of the property.

Conversely, a nice property and low rent might mean having a longer commute every day. Figure out what factor is most important to you. If your course has a lot of contact hours, and you have to go in every day for the whole day, then you might appreciate a shorter commute more.

On the other hand, if you’re someone that doesn’t mind the commute you might find the other two factors more appealing.

It’s key to figure out which factors matter to you personally nice and early because they will influence your lifestyle for the next year.

Sometimes, you’ll find properties that are the rare combination of all three. Pounce at the opportunity and set a viewing immediately but be aware that this place is most likely extremely competitive; don’t get your hopes up too soon.

Only others get scammed… until you get scammed.

Follow the old adage of “if it’s too good to be true then it probably is” or if it sound shady then it probably is

Don’t hand over any money to anyone if you haven’t met them in person and signed a contract. There are so many horror stories and it’s easy to get in your head that you wouldn’t fall for any scam out there, but scammers often tell you stories that are just convincing enough for you not to doubt them.

Watch out for the common property scam ad: a scammer posts an ad for a property posing as at the landlord that can’t meet you for X/Y/Z reason, and all you need to do to move in is pay the deposit. Imagine doing so only to meet the real landlord on move-in day; you’ve got your stuff in a van, have no place to stay and you’re a couple hundred pounds short.

The scam works because most renters are aware of London’s ultra-competitive tenant market and pressured by the fact that they might let the chance slip. No matter what you do, do not be pressured into transferring large sums of money. Caving to pressure is how scammers get you. Keep your common sense and don’t trust anything until you’ve seen the property with your own eyes and have confirmed the landlord’s details.

If you think you’ve been scammed, it’s going to be hard for you to get your money back. Your best line of action is to check with your bank and to report to Action Fraud.

Know your rights

Even if a landlord is legitimate, make sure that your deposit is transferred in a government-backed tenancy deposit protection scheme; this literally protects your money and ensures that you get your deposit back, providing that some key conditions are met. Here’s an important extract from a Gov UK page:

These government-backed schemes ensure your tenants will get their deposit back if they:

  • meet the terms of your tenancy agreement
  • don’t damage the property
  • pay the rent and bills

Be aware however that this only applies if you’ve signed a tenancy agreement. You are a tenant if your landlord does not live in the property, and a lodger if you have a live-in landlord. Tenants and lodgers have different rights. In particular, if you’re a lodger your landlord doesn’t have to protect your deposit in a government-backed scheme. This means that if your landlord doesn’t return your deposit, the only way to get your money back is to take your landlord to court.

All in all, these are the five things you need to think about before house-hunting. Make use of your common sense and don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t let agents or landlords push you into making a rash decision that you’ll regret later. Housing is expensive and you have to make sure that you’re in a comfortable space.

Inspiring Interns specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and graduate jobs.

See our article on what to look for when choosing a student house.