University Life - Study

Desperate House Seekers: house hunting guide for PG students (first part)

If you are a Postgraduate Student starting a Master Course in September, it is likely that you are currently engaged in one of the most exciting and stressful experiences of your student life: the house hunting!
The following article aims to put together the experiences that my friends and I have been piling up since we moved to Cardiff last September in order to provide some (I hope) good pieces of advice to the fellow students that are currently struggling to find the perfect home.

Finding a place where to spend the next year is an activity involving a big number of variables, sometimes very difficult to control. There are details that, if not considered, can transform your year of study in a nightmare! And, especially if you are a foreign student, sometimes can be very difficult taking a decision from your home country: you don’t know very well the city, you don’t understand the standard formulas of the house contracts… in few words, you don’t have a totally clear vision of how things work here. If you are in this sort of situation, don’t you worry! You are not alone! The same Cardiff University is well organized to give an hand to students moving to their new city, providing guides and detailed explanation about the possible housing opportunities. It organizes also House Hunting Events, like the one that you can find here:

http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/for/prospective/accommodation/postgraduates/uk/house-hunting.html 

But if you want to hear the think of somebody that lived this experience in first person, well, here I am! During the last year I have been engaged twice in the struggle to find a place to stay: one when I arrived, in September and again now that I have to move out from my student hall, closed during summer. These experiences have been the occasion of doing some considerations, considerations that I want to share with you today, hoping that they can be of some help.

One of the first thing you have to decide when you come to Cardiff is this: would you like living in a Student Hall or in a Private Accommodation?

When I arrived in Cardiff in September, the easiest thing to do for me was accepting the University offer of an accommodation in a one of the Students Halls. Especially if you are a foreign student, this can be the easiest solution, because if you  live in a student residence you don’t have to solve by yourself problems as bills, heating systems management, landlord reliability and so on. Things are for sure less complicated in a student accommodation.

However there are some considerations to do:

First of all, you have to be aware that in some student halls the contract lasts just nine months. This means that if you are a PG planning to spend the summer in Cardiff writing your dissertation, it would be probable better choosing one of the accommodations allowing you to stay for 12 months, or you will find yourself in the uncomfortable circumstance of being obliged to move out for just three months at the end of June (and finding a three months contract is not that easy, even though you could move to one of the student residences open during summer). However, nobody can keep you from writing your dissertation at home and in this case a nine month contract could be ideal for you. But if you go in a student hall, you’d better deciding this before. In a private accommodation I presume there is more flexibility from this point of view, since if you make at the beginning a nine months contract in the most of the cases you can extend it for other three months. However, in this case you must pay attention to the kind of contract that you do, to not find yourself stacked in a 12 months contract (I will explain this better later).

Second, as regards the prices, they are pretty much equivalent. In a student hall all the bills are included, with wifi (provided by university) and weekly cleaning of the shared spaces. In this case the price depends if you want an en-suite room or you are disposed to share the bath with other people and only in one circumstance (Talybont Gate) you can have an “almost” double bed (and this is why I chose it). As regard the private accommodations, there are instead different options. If you go in a shared house it is quite sure that you will have a double bed but you will share the bathroom usually with at least three people. The prices are around 300 – 350 pcm (bills included). You could choose also to live alone in a studio flat or in a one bedroom flat, and in this case prices can vary between 425 and 600 pcm (bills excluded). This is for sure the best solution if you are a couple, even because couples are not accepted in the most of the rooms into the shared flats. However, if you are not so lucky to find a private landlord on websites like gumtree, easyroomate or zoopla, to this cost you must usually add an agency fee varying between 180 and 270 pounds. So, if you choose the private accommodation option, get ready to pay at least first month + deposit (usually one month fee) + agency fee!

Finally, there are some consideration as regards the life style.

First of all, if you are a PG going to live  into a student hall, pay attention if it is a PG hall. On the opposite, keep prepared to share your home with lots of crazy party animals also known as Undergraduates! It can be funny…at the beginning…but are you really sure that you have still the physic to deal with all this? No…I say…are you really sure? really? 🙂

Moreover, a private accommodation usually guarantees more independence as regards guests and invitations. If you have a boyfriend/girlfriend living in your home town/country, a thing that could worry you is the fact that the students halls regulation allows to have guests for a max of two days a month. This is for sure a thing to consider, even if usually also into the student halls guests can remain more than two days if all the flatmates agree (and believe me, they usually do)…so don’t you worry! Your boyfriend/girlfriend can come to see you, even if you stay into a student hall! 🙂

Ok, for the moment I will stop here. In the next post I will go deeper into other arguments as for example which zones of Cardiff are the best to live and also which questions to ask by mail of phone to the agency to be sure you are not wasting your time in a room viewing.

Good house hunting to everybody and please don’t hesitate to ask me questions, if you want, in the comments space!