A guide to choosing student accommodation

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Student houses come in all shapes and sizes, it’s usually your first time looking for somewhere to live without your family and can be a very daunting task

To help you find a student house which meets all of your requirements, we’ve put together some simple dos and don’ts for you to bear in mind when you’re searching for a student property.

Do…

Think about location. It seems like an obvious place to start but location is a key factor to consider when choosing a student property. It impacts on how much you’ll pay, with accommodation further away from the university campus sometimes a little cheaper.

It's important to know how you'll actually get to university from your new house - will you be able to walk and if not, how good are the transport links? If you have a car at university, will you be able to drive to the campus? For those of you unsure about taking your car along, check out what some Cardiff University students said about having a car at university.

Safety should also be a priority so it may be worth checking out UK Crime Stats before choosing where to live and of course, arrange insurance cover for your contents. Admiral Home Insurance allows tenants to arrange cover for their possessions while they live in a rental property.  

Think about housemates. Lots of students choose to stick with a similar group to those they lived with in halls, or opt to live with course mates or fellow society members.

Student letting agents CPS told us money is easily the most common cause of disputes among housemates, so work out how you’ll pay your bills and get a handle on the budgeting early. Work out a budget for how much you want to spend on rent between the people you’re going to be living with, or set aside a budget for yourself and stick to it.

If you’re struggling to find housemates try looking on university noticeboards or on Facebook – there are lots of groups dedicated to finding housemates.

Shop around. It’s important to look at a few houses, from a few different letting agents before you make your decision in order to make sure that you’re getting the most for your money.

Look up the average rental costs in the area you’re planning to live in before you start looking so you can get a good idea of what you can expect to pay.

View the house before putting down a deposit. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t even look around the house they’ve just decided to commit to before handing over money!

When you’re viewing a house, make sure to look for things such as mould and damp, and ensure  the fixtures and fittings are in working order. If you're already living in a student house with a damp problem, check out our guide to dealing with damp for some top tips.

Journalism graduate, Eve said looking around for practical things, such as how many plug sockets are in bedrooms, makes all the difference. A handy tip from student letting advice agency, The Living Room, is to read your tenancy agreement all the way through before signing for your house. This ensures you know what you’re signing for and you should make sure you ask questions on things that you don’t understand.

Negotiate. Current Cardiff student, Beth, offered a handy tip, she said: “Always make a lower rental offer, I don’t think people realise they can do this, but we offered £150 a month under the asking price and it was accepted”.

The Living Room added: “Does the sofa look like it needs updating? Your future landlord may be happy to replace it. If you enter negotiations expecting to get something you may be disappointed, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get!”

Don’t…

Forget to prioritise. As a group of housemates, think about what your priorities are in a house. Equal sized bedrooms? A big kitchen? A garden? Are there things you can compromise on?

Rush! It’s a common misconception that you need to get your university house sorted as soon as possible before the start of the next academic year.

Pressure from landlords, as well as other students, who are telling you all the good houses will be gone by January make it all too easy to get into a bit of a panic and (trust us on this) that's how you end up living in a house full of damp and giant spiders!

Even when you find a house you all like, take a step back and ask yourselves if this really is the one for you before signing anything. 

Overlook Tenant’s Insurance. Tenants Insurance covers your contents or your belongings while you’re living in a shared house or flat, or a communal space (such as university halls).

Tenants Insurance will give you peace of mind as it protects your contents from theft or damage while you’re living in your rented student accommodation. It’s important to protect your belongings as soon as you move them into the house, especially if you move your stuff in during the summer months when you’re not likely to be there often.

Take a look at Admiral’s guide to Tenant’s Insurance for students for everything you need to know.

Forget bills. The most important thing to remember with bills is to shop around. You don’t have to stick with the supplier used in the house previously, so do some research and have a look on price comparison sites for the best deals.

For most students, this will probably be the first time you find yourself responsible for paying bills so if you're unsure about how to switch energy suppliers, don't worry, we have a guide for that.

CPS told us on average, you’d be wise to budget around £50 per person per month for your gas, electricity, water and internet. Also, if you’re worried about paying too much, be savvy about things like not leaving appliances on standby all the time and switching off lights when they’re not needed. Don’t forget – if you’re a full-time student, then you aren’t liable to pay any council tax but you will need to get a TV licence if you’re planning on watching television, or certain catch-up TV platforms.

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