Siobhan from the Advice and Money Team, explains why you shouldn’t sign for a house too early and gives some tips for when you do start house viewings.
The autumn season is always accompanied by an unwarranted panic to sign for future accommodation. There seems to be this idea that you must sign for next year’s house before you leave for the Christmas holidays. This is a myth – there is plenty of accommodation in Cardiff – far more than the number of students that are looking!
There is definitely no need to commit to anything this early. The first term is only 12 weeks – I hadn’t even unpacked all my boxes in 12 weeks, never mind looking for a house and signing a contract.
There are 3 things you need to think about at this time of the year regarding house hunting, before you even consider looking for student houses.
Before you start house hunting:
1. Do you know them?
Twelve weeks, yes twelve weeks. That’s the length of your first term. Can you really got to know people in that time? Are they noisy, messy, never clean the bathroom, don’t replace the toilet roll or steal your food from the fridge? In twelve weeks you may not have even noticed some bad habits, or even met any of the people who may end up being your lifelong university friends. You think you can live with them, but can you really?
Relationships take time to form. Would you normally move in with someone after twelve weeks? Take your time to get to know a potential housemate. Twelve months living with someone who is lazy or inconsiderate could feel like a prison sentence or affect your studies.
Remember: A housemate is for a year, not just for Freshers’ Week.
2. Sign for a house or buy a train ticket home for the Christmas recess?
With festive nights out, dinner in halls and the obligatory Christmas jumper (even if it is a Primark special) on top of your usual spending, can you afford a deposit of one month’s rent? (Roughly £300-£325) And the letting agency fees? (Varies from £50-£150)
If your bank account is already groaning at you, Christmas presents are needing to be bought and you’re close to your overdraft limit – can you really afford £400-£500 now?
Waiting until after Christmas means you may have got money as a gift, maybe you were able to fit in a few hours of paid work and maybe you’ll soon be receiving a new student loan payment. You may also be expecting a Cardiff University Bursary payment at the end of January. All this will help with your budgeting!
If think you could benefit from a little guidance on finances, learn more about managing your money here.
3. Have you got the time?
Looking for a house takes time, if you want to find the right one for you. December and January should be a time for essays, revision or exams, not trawling the internet and traipsing after letting agents looking for somewhere to live. There’s no point finding somewhere to live if you can’t come back because you didn’t pass your assessments.
Once you start house hunting:
Once your deadlines and exams are out of the way then you can start the house hunting discussions.
Ask yourself what you want and need in terms of:
- The location of the property
- The people you want to live with
- What furniture and equipment is provided
- How much is it going to cost you and can you afford it? (Remember additional costs like a deposit, agency fees, bills and summer rent when you consider what you can afford).
Look out for any hints of problems on a house viewing
- Damp/mould – can you see it? Can you smell it?
- Is the house secure – locks on doors and windows?
- Does it have a gas and electricity certificate?
- Is there a shower, washing machine, cooker, fridge freezer – do they work? Are there enough facilities for the number of people living in the house?
- What do the current tenants say about the landlord / agency?
Read the small print carefully
When you first start your house hunting expedition (it can take a while) you will be hearing terms that you may never have heard before, or if you have heard them you aren’t quite sure what they mean and the implications they hold. Terms like:
- Legally Binding
- Guarantor (if you are an estranged student or care leaver, the university can act as your Guarantor)
- Joint tenancy
- Small print
- Houses in multiple occupations (HMO)
- Tenancy Deposit Scheme
- Agency fee
- Summer retainers
- Check out fee.
You can find lots of these explained in our housing jargon busters.
The best thing to do is to read the contract carefully yourself, and then ask the Student Advice team at the Students’ Union to read through it for you before you sign. They will be able to spot anything that may cause you problems. This is a free service, so make use of it!
House hunting shouldn’t be a quick process. You should think carefully about who you want to live with, and if you think you could live with the friends you’ve made so far.
Watch our video on ‘House Hunting’
Other useful sources of information
Come and see us in Advice and Money
Your feedback and help please
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Siobhan, Advice and Money Team.
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