It gets to that time of year again.
You've just got back home after the first hectic four months of university; between spending time with family and trying to budget your Christmas shopping (with that last £20 left over from last semester), the last thing you're probably worrying yourself over is your accommodation for next September. It can wait until after the New Year, right?
Wrong. If you want to find yourself a good place at the right price, now is the time to act!! Get in there a couple of weeks before everyone else, and you'll be able to get yourself a house that will be the envy of your friends. Here are a couple of tips to help you find the best place at the best price, for you and your mates.
1). DON'T JUST RELY ON ONE SITE:
We all know what it's like. You find a site that seems pretty good, search a couple of nice houses, and settle for second best. Don't do it! Seriously; if you want the best results, you've got to do some leg work. Settle down with a couple hours spare, a drink and a very large bag of Maltesers, and get to work. Do a couple Google searches and open up all the relevant tabs; don't stop until at least page 5!! It won't take you more than a couple seconds to go through the tabs and cross off the ones that aren't useful, and it'll leave you with an absolute Goldmine.
2). PLACE ADVERTS:
If a site gives you the option to place an advert, then go for it. Through the advertising service on AFS, I got at least 20 replies from landlords, many of which were putting up new houses I would otherwise not have seen.
3.) KEEP TRACK OF THE HOUSES YOU LIKE: Either keep a document up and paste the web links, or open a folder in your favourites and save them there. Whatever you do, make sure you have a list of the houses you really like.
Also: make sure you don't duplicate. Many landlords place advertisements on many different sites, so try not to duplicate them. A good way to keep track is to save the houses in a list according to their house number or alphabetically by street name. If you're male and reading this I know it's not likely to appeal to you, but trust me; it's better to be organised than leave four answer machine messages to the same landlord asking about the same house!
4.) CONTACTING THE AGENTS/LANDLORDS:
This can be quite daunting, but remember: they are there for you. They want to let their houses to the first possible candidates, so charge in there with all guns blazing.
The best way to contact any agent is by phone. If the house isn't for you then check if the landlord has any other similar properties. If they don't then either say you're not interested, or tell them you'll get back to them another time.
If you can't get through to an agent then DO leave a message. Tell them your name, the number/street of the property you're interested in, where you've seen the advert, and ask them to get back in touch with you as soon as possible; give them your mobile number and email address. If they haven't got back to you by the next day try again and drop them an email.
Don't let them force you into a viewing if you don't like the sound of the property; remember, YOU are in control, and they shouldn't be pressuring you. Feel free to politely decline and tell them it's not quite what you're looking for.
If you DO like the sound of the property then get a viewing as SOON as possible; delay, and you will probably miss out.
5.) WHAT TO ASK:
Make sure when you contact them you get answers to the following questions:
1: What is the exact price per person per room? Weekly and Monthly
2: Are the utilities included in the price? (Ask about water, gas, electricity, TV license, and internet)
3: What is the distance from your university, the shops, and the nightlife.
4: If you have a car ask if you will have space to park and whether you need a permit; if you don't then ask about bus links etc.
5: How long is the lease, and will you have to vacate the property over holidays?
6: Is the house available to rent as a whole or are there already tenants accepted for some of the rooms?
If they seem reluctant to give you the details or evade the question, then DON'T be drawn into booking a viewing.
6.) YOUR VIEWINGS:
Try and book all your viewings within a few days, so that you don't have to wait and potentially miss out on securing your favourite property. If you're with a group then make sure you know the times you're all free FIRST, and then get ONE person to book the viewings; that way you won't double book, and all get a chance to see the properties.
If you're interested in a property then ask about hidden costs; some will ask for a booking fee on top of the deposit, and some even charge for cleaners and gardeners! We've all heard the cliche many times before but: if the price seems too good to be true then it probably is!
DO NOT book a property without viewing first. If possible see if you can talk to one of the current tenants without the landlord or letting agent around and see what their experience has been; ask if the facilities are in good working order, and what the landlord is like. Their opinions are probably the best advert for the house.
Hopefully this will have been some help to you. Guys especially; get a move on! Most landlords will admit that most of their nicer properties will have already been taking by groups of girls long before the guys get in touch!
So - Happy hunting!