Rent is getting more and more expensive, but we've put together our top 10 tips to help make sure you get the best deal.
1. Set a budget
Set a budget and stick to it. Knowing how much you can afford should be the first step to deciding what kind of property you might want to search for. Similarly if you’re sharing a house with others, make sure everyone knows what each other's expectations are and how much everyone can afford. You don't want to get into a situation where you've found your perfect student house and one person knows that realistically, they can't afford it, so it's vital that everyone is vocal and honest about their budget. Don't fall into the trap of finding a luxury student house which has everything you could possibly need but is way out of your budget. Remember that your student loan has to pay for bills, rent, household supplies and everything else. Don’t forget to factor in bills if your property isn’t all inclusive and bear in mind that your maintenance loan may not cover your entire rent. Money Helper has a great resource that can help you calculate how much you might be able to afford to spend on rent each month.
2. Have a wish list
Go into house hunting and viewings with a wish list of essentials and negotiables for your perfect home. Know what is necessary and know the things you're willing to compromise on. Know do you really need an on-site gym? An en-suite bathroom? The fastest internet? You might – only you know what your priorities are! It’s worth considering as well that if you’re planning to share with others, your priorities might not be the same as theirs, so it’s important to discuss this before going into the house hunting process.
3. View a few
Once you have your budget and wish list sorted, shop around and view a few different properties to see what’s available. Exploring a range of different properties will give you a well rounded view of what’s on offer as well as helping to make sure your budget and wish list are achievable. You might even find that once viewing properties, some things that were initially a priority such as an en-suite bathroom, aren’t as necessary as you thought, and in-turn might even help lower your budget.
4. Don't be drawn into glossy advertising
You will be bombarded with fancy adverts for eye-watering rents but they’re not always the best option. This is usually the case with PBSAs (Purpose Built Student Accommodation) such the high rise buildings full of self-contained studios that seem to be popping up on every street throughout the City. The owners of new developments usually have huge marketing budgets that are in part paid for by inflated rents, so consider looking at lesser-advertised properties. Similarly, don’t just look at dedicated student lettings agents. High street letting agents do sometimes advertise lesser publicised student homes, which often work out cheaper.
5. Consider how many people to live with
Consider how many people you want to live with – it’s often cheaper to live with more people in a shared house, so if you’re a social butterfly this might be a better option! But on the flip-side however, don’t presume rent will be cheaper just because you’re sharing with more people – it all depends on the size, location and quality of the property, so there’s every chance that you might pay a higher rent despite living with more people. Similarly, smaller rooms in shared houses may cost less than the bigger rooms, so consider whether you’d be willing to compromise space for lower rent.
6. Consider further afield
In general, the closer to the city centre you live, the more expensive the accommodation. Depending on your studies and lifestyle, you might want to consider different options. For example if you’re based at City Campus but only in lectures one day a week, it might be a better option to explore areas slightly further out and commute in on the days you need to. Areas outside the City often have much more green space and tend to be a lot quieter, so depending on your lifestyle you may even prefer living further afield.
Don’t presume that properties with ‘bills included’ are cheaper. It might seem like an easier option and even a good deal, but it can often work out cheaper to pay for bills separately. This is particularly the case if sharing a HMO (House of Multiple Occupation) – a house with several bedrooms – with other students. It’s worth remembering that if bills are included, you won’t be able to take advantage of anything you do to save energy such as switching lights off or turning down the heating. You’ll also be able to shop around for the best energy deal if you pay your bills separately, so it’s worth thinking about.
8. Don't panic buy
Don’t panic buy or book without viewing – there’s lots of pressure and landlords like to give the impression there are no rooms left for the next academic year as soon as October! This simply isn’t true. It’s very unlikely that you won’t be able to find somewhere to live by the time term starts. Whilst housing fairs typically happen around November, there are still plenty of properties still available all year round. You can’t be sure you’re getting a good deal or that the property is even right for you without viewing it in person, so don’t be dissuaded from doing so, even if a landlord or letting agent is making out that there is no option to view.
You should never be afraid to ask for a discount and renting is no exception. It might seem like an alien thing to do, but landlords do, on occasion, offer discounts. It’s usually only likely when properties have been advertised to let for a long time, or in student terms, when it’s almost the start of the next term, but if you’re in a position to ask for a discount, always do!
10. Ask around
Word of mouth is often the best way of finding somewhere decent – people you know personally are much more likely to give an accurate verdict on a place. Ask your friends, family and peers on their experiences of renting and for recommendations of how they're found affordable rents in the past.