Hi I’m Marie Quinney, a final year student at Leeds University with some essential information you'll need when looking for your new accommodation whilst at university.
The term is almost over and the panic of viewings and signing for next year is in sight. As a final year student I am in a good position to say SLOW DOWN! Honestly, the best advice I can give to you guys who are starting to talk to your friends about next year is: the longer you wait the better.
This is for many reasons. If you’re a first year student, you may run the risk of signing with people who, let’s be honest, you barely know. In first semester, don’t rush in to deciding to spend the next academic year with your new first year friends as you may end up living with the wrong people. This happened to me and I can say it was not pleasant. Take your time getting to know each other and let the over excitement of first semester die down.
An advantage for all students of waiting until after Christmas to sign is that you will definitely get a better price on rent. Landlords can take advantage of keen students and make them believe that all the houses are rented before January. This is just not true. From my experience in Leeds, most people sign contracts in January-March, however by biding my time and signing contracts in June I was able to avoid paying summer rent and get a place right behind my university building. See, it pays (literally) to wait. In most cities there is a surplus of houses per student so don’t worry, you will always have a place to live next year, it’s just up to you how you play the renting game to end up with the best deal.
Talking of rent prices, it is important to know that what you are signing for is right for what you are getting. To find the average student rent prices and student rating scores for your area, simply follow this link http://www.accommodationforstudents.com/city_information/student_reviews.asp and select your area. In Leeds for example, there are four main student areas and their average rent prices per week are as follows: Burley £71, Headingley £75, Hyde Park £76 and Woodhouse £62. Sometimes the lowest and highest rental prices also vary massively within each of the different areas near your university showing that you really can root out a bargain. Obviously this depends on how plush the place is and if it’s a studio flat or a 10 bed house, but the point is that you can find somewhere to live for your budget and you shouldn’t be led to think otherwise.
I also found that combining the average rent prices with the rating scores for each of the areas was really useful. You’ll find that each area has its own strengths so you need to decide what you look for in a location to live. In Leeds, Hyde Park seems to be most people’s destination of choice for house hunting, whereas Woodhouse seems to have a bad reputation as Hyde Park’s less attractive mate. Having lived in Woodhouse and Hyde Park myself, I can honestly say that both have their advantages. You can get cheaper rent in Woodhouse and be closer to university but miss out on the student bubble and better amenities of Hyde Park which can be the case for most university areas. This is where you have to work out whether the higher prices and slightly further distance to university are deal breakers for you and your budget.
When you are viewing properties, take photos of the main areas so you can remember which one had the lazy-boy chairs and which one had the BBQ area. Also make a list of the important things to check and ask the landlord. Main points I have learned how to check are water pressure - you don’t want a tiny trickle of water to shower under, garden walls which lead to upstairs windows – this makes breaking in very easy especially if some upstairs windows don’t lock and double glazing can save you a fortune on heating. If you are ready to sign for a property but there are a few things missing from it or that need improving, now is the time to get these things written up in to the contract and more often than not they will oblige and by the time you move in you will have new curtains or double glazing.
This might sound confusing and stressful, but it will be worth it in the end. Rely on your chosen housemates to share the tasks of searching for and viewing houses and don’t settle unless you are sure you’re getting a good deal. You’ll love being more independent in your new accommodation, so make sure you choose a property which you can really call home.