Student housing is probably one of the most stressful experiences you can go through as a student. You’ve got to choose where to live, the kind of house to live in, who to live with… alongside arranging all of it and budgeting! However, it can also be a great experience. You get to live in your own place with (hopefully) your closest friends, so that temporary stress is definitely worth it.
In this article, I’ll be helping alleviate some of that stress by giving you advice for choosing your student housing.
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What should you look out for when viewing student housing?
Firstly, let’s get down to the basics. You have to be a full-time student in the UK to be eligible for student housing, which is something you can read more about in this Think Student article.
Secondly, student housing is different to halls of residence. Halls of residence is the most popular – and in the case of some universities, mandatory – type of accommodation. Student housing refers to housing in multiple occupation (HMO) off-campus, which is privately rented.
Below, I’ll be taking you through the 5 most important things to look out for when viewing student housing, so keep reading for more.
1. The quality of the housing
The most important thing about student housing is, of course, the house. Although on a student budget you won’t be living in the most lavish house on the planet, that doesn’t mean you have to live in inhabitable conditions either.
Make sure you visit any potential student housing in person. When you’re looking around, check for things like mould, how well the insulation works, and for general things like cracks or peeling paint. Obviously, if you’re going to be living somewhere for a year upwards, it’s important that everything is in working order.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either! The people showing you around the house should be able to answer any queries you have. If something doesn’t look or feel right, ask!
It’s also important to ask about non-tangible things, such as the Wi-Fi connection in different rooms of the house, etc.
As harsh as it sounds, quite a few landlords will be expecting students to be naïve and desperate for accommodation – after all, it can get very competitive. I recommend making a list of all the key things you’re looking for in a student house to take with you to viewings.
The most important thing to remember is that student housing doesn’t have to be poor quality! For advice on how to make your student accommodation look nice, check out this Think Student article.
2. Accommodation costs
Another huge appeal of student housing is accommodation costs – splitting the bills and rent between as many people as possible is a great way to reduce living costs as a student.
If you haven’t already been told, this should definitely be the first thing you ask about at any student house viewings you go to.
You should also check with your housemates whether this is a financially secure investment for them, too. Living in privately rented student housing means that rent is your responsibility, not the university’s.
However, don’t just take the cheapest option you can find. There are several other factors that go into a good student house, which I’ll talk about below. As I mentioned earlier, the house needs to be in good condition, and the cheapest student house going probably won’t be of amazing quality.
3. Travel/distance from campus
This is quite an obvious one, but it’s still important. If you attend a single campus university, you need to be within accessible distance! It’s your responsibility to be on time to all your lectures and classes.
However, you can afford to be quite lenient with travel. For example, I wouldn’t recommend turning down a student house just because it’s a 20-minute bus ride from campus. That’s still generally quite accessible, particularly as students often get travel discounts! For more about these discounts, check out this Think Student article.
It’s still important to be reasonable, though. If you don’t see yourself walking 40 minutes to campus every single day, then it’s probably better to look for properties closer to campus.
4. The neighbourhood around you
A lot of students don’t consider this at first, but living off-campus, you’ll probably be spending more time at home than you think. That’s why it’s important to check out the area around the house before you think about living there.
Take a note of, or ask about the accessibility to shops, clubs, gyms – anything that’s important to you. You don’t want to have to drive 30 minutes into the city centre just for a 5-minute shop.
Similarly, you don’t want an area that isn’t well looked after by the local council. Areas with lots of litter, or a large homeless population, probably aren’t being supported as well as they should be.
Of course, if you manage to find your ideal student house in a run-down area, then weigh up the pros and cons and make sure it’s a sacrifice you’re willing to make. However, you have to remember that this is somewhere you have to live for at least a year!
5. Your relationship with the landlord
This is something else that students overlook but is actually really important for student housing. The last thing you want is a landlord charging you extra rent for problems with the house that aren’t your fault.
I’d definitely recommend mainly viewing houses that are advertised as student housing. We all know how messy student life can get, but landlords advertising student housing specifically also know this, and will probably be more accommodating.
However, even if you aren’t viewing student-specific housing, a landlord that is friendly, approachable, and willing to answer any of your questions is always a good idea.
When should you start viewing student housing?
Uni Homes recommends three key months to start looking for student housing: October, January and March.
Around October and November is the ideal time to start looking for student housing. Since you’ll probably be living in student housing if you’re in 2nd or 3rd year, it’s a good idea to start discussing potential housing plans in the summer of 1st year.
Since not many students will have an idea of the kind of accommodation they want to live in at the start of the academic year, most student housing will be available in October and November, so you’ll have a good range to choose from.
This is why January is also a good option. Around Christmas time, students may start to know roughly where they want to live/with who but plans probably aren’t finalised. There’ll definitely be a lot less available than in the early Autumn, but you should still be able to find a house pretty easily.
March is quite close to the end of the academic year, which means there might not be many properties left. If you’re absolutely too busy to sort anything out, or have no idea what you want, set yourself March as a deadline.