Things to consider when looking for a house at university

If you're in your first year at university then it is likely that, at some point, you'll begin looking for a house for your second year. Most students (but not all) choose to move into a house for their second and third years. In your first year you'll probably be living in student accommodation that's on campus or nearby which consists of a flat. In first year you'll also, in most cases, end up living with complete strangers who may or may not end up being your friends. That's why second year is so great. You get to choose who you want to live with. If you get along with your flatmates then that's perfect. But if you don't then you can choose to live with course friends or other friends you've made. If there's one particularly annoying flatmate then the rest of you can finally ditch them and they're annoying friends who appear in the middle of the night!

Having searched for a house myself I thought I'd put together this post offering advice and tips for finding a student house. These will be based on my own experiences so will not necessarily apply to everyone.

                                        1. Choose who you live with wisely

It's hard to know whether the people you're sharing your flat with or the people you've become friends with on your course are people you'll want to live with. If you live with them already then this will give some indication of whether you'd be able to live with them again. It's also hard to know who you'll still be friends with the following year. Even if you sort your house quite late in first year there's still the rest of the year and the summer before you move in together. Things can happen, people can fall out. Because of this choosing who you live with is kind of a guessing game.

Also, this is a place where you'll be both chilling and working. While you can work at university or in the library it's realistic that you'll be doing at least some of your work in the house. If the people you live with are constantly going out while you stay in then they're going to disrupt you. In my second year of university, we were all quite social and went on nights out. Not always together though. And while most of us came back quietly some of my house mates didn't seem to understand the whole I don't want to be woken up at 4am when I have a 9 am lecture because you decide to come in and shout.

2. Location, Location, Location 

At my university there was a main area where second and third years lived. I guess you could refer to it as a sort of suburb of Nottingham. There were other residents but your neighbours would most likely be fellow students. There were other areas students could choose to live but this was the most popular. It was further from the campus but there was a bus to campus that ran every 8 minutes on weekdays and it was a 30 minute walk, which really isn't too bad. It was also closer to the town centre. We chose to live in this area because we wanted to be in the main student hub. The location was the perfect in between of the city and the university campus.

I'm not sure how other university's work with student housing but I'm guessing most of them also have a certain area where most of the students choose to live. However, the most popular location might not necessarily be the best for you or your group. You may be studying at a separate campus to the main one and so another area may be better for you. I think it's important to work out walking distances and transport options.

You may also hear scare stories, student areas sometimes have a higher crime rate because people know the houses will most likely have quite a lot of laptops, tv's etc in. We were broken into in our second year but we only one thing was stolen. While this is bad it didn't put us off living in the same area the next year. We chose a different, more secure house, with a different landlord and had no problems. This should be a consideration obviously but I think our break in was more due to the fact that the house wasn't very secure. We didn't have a back gate until after the break in and the landlord only put on in because the police told them too.

3. Make sure everyone's on the same wave length

Before you start looking make sure everyone knows what you're looking for. And the budget. It doesn't matter if one person can afford any budget if the rest of the people need to stick to an exact budget. This also applies to the quality of the house. Obviously, you don't want a mould infested house but at the same time the very modern, fancy looking ones are pretty pricy. Again, sit down and discuss budgets and what people want. For example, how many bathrooms do you want, this depends on how many of you are living together but if someone wants an ensuite then you'll most likely have to tell them this isn't possible.

4. Bills included or separate?

Student houses either have bills included or you have to pay them separately. Both houses I rented did not include bills. My third year house included the water bills which saved us some money. If the bills are included then the rent is most likely to be more but this will equal out because you won't be paying for separate bills. Most instances where the bills are included there is a limit so if you use excessive electricity or always have the heating on your landlord may charge you extra. 

We didn't purposely choose to have separate bills, all the houses we looked at where like this and we weren't really fussed. Not enough to keep searching for a house with them included anyway. My friend at another university did get a house with bills included. She was sharing with less people in a completely different area of the country. I think it depends on how many people you'll be sharing with and your location. We were already quite limited as we wanted an 8 bed house for second year and then a seven bed for third year and most houses in our student area were 6 bed or less. 

If you are doing the bills yourself then decide who will be in charge of them. This doesn't mean that the bills are only that persons responsibility. Obviously, they'll be the person who has the main interaction with any companies and the one setting up the direct debit but it's everyone's responsibility to ensure they pay their share on time and are careful about the amount of electricity etc that they use.

I did the bills both years and every time I had to tell people we were using too much or that the price needed to go up I felt a bit like they thought it was my problem and fault. Not everyone but most were very unbothered but as soon as I told them they'd have to pay more they were very concerned. Of course, no one changed their habits but if you're going to be in charge of bills make sure you're happy to do some nagging and be the bearer of occasional bad news. You may be completely fine and live with people that also take an interest but it's easy for people to leave you to do the work. However, I don't necessarily regret being in charge of bills as it's another skill I learnt at university. 

                                    4. Deciding on rooms

In most cases they'll be at least one small room. The other rooms may only be slightly bigger or they may be quite a lot bigger. If this is the case you should decide whether the person in the smaller room will pay slightly less rent or whether everyone will pay the same. You should also see if anyone is actually happy in the small room. Try and decide who's in what room before you move in. Either decide between yourselves who will have each room or if you can't decide make it fair and do it out of a hat. We did this for our third year because we'd left it too long to all be able to sit down and have a discussion so decided picking at random was the only fair way to decide. In my second year, however, we left it deciding rooms too long and it got to the point where me and another house mate needed to move some stuff into the house so we just chose a room. Everyone was disorganised and while I had tried to sort rooms out it had never got sorted so I had to just choose on the day. This obviously benefited me as I got to choose one of the better rooms but I'd only been able to because everyone seemed so unbothered about rooms. In my experience sorting rooms out with plenty of time is the best option because even if people say they don't care what room they get they usually do. 



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