At the University of Essex, all 1st year students and international students are guaranteed University accommodation. However 2nd and 3rd Students normally decide to live off of campus, in order to have more freedom and live more independently.
After living in Bertrand Russell Tower for my first year, I now live in a house off of campus for my 2nd year!
Here’s a few pointers in navigating the confusing world of finding a student house!
Sort it out sooner rather than later
If you don’t want all of the good houses to go, then you’re going to have to act fast to find one! Contracts are typically signed months before move in date as students race to find the best properties. Sadly this means that students acquire their houses earlier and earlier each year. For example, we had to secure our house in January to move in in September! So, if you want to make sure you get your dream student house, then you’re going to have to start now!
Decide who you’re going to live with
Depending on your friendship circles, this may be a tough decision to make. If you have a select group of friends at University, then it may be an obvious choice, but if you’re involved in a lot of different stuff, then it may be more difficult. For example, I know friends who now live in houses with people from their course, or their sports team/society, or previous flatmates from halls and people that they hadn’t previously met before.
I personally chose to live with 2 of my flatmates from last year, 1 person from the flat below ours last year and 1 person that we were all good friends with. From my previous experience of living with them, I knew that I would get along with them and that they were reliable.
Work out a budget
There’s no point finding your dream house only to find that nobody would be able to pay the rent! Make sure that you and all of your future house mates are on the same page in terms of your budget! It will save you from a lot of arguments and sticky situations in the future!
Take a trip to SU Home
When looking for a house, the first place you should go is SU Home. Located in the SU mini mall, SU Home is the Student’s Union’s own property finding service that helps students find accommodation with accredited and reputable landlords. Unlike other estate agents, SU Home charge no administration fees and are completely student centred, so it’s well worth your while booking an appointment and speaking to them first!
At first when looking for our house, we did use SU Home, but we soon found a property from an independent company that wasn’t on their listings. So either option can be good!
Make sure you view the house before you commit
Pictures on listings can sometimes be quite misleading, so it’s definitely a good idea to arrange a viewing for a house with the Landlord or selling agent before you commit to any contracts. It may look better or worse in person, you never know!
Ask loads of questions when looking at a house
Even though my house mates’ poked fun at me for doing so, asking as many questions as you can when you’re looking at a house is one of the best things that you can do. By preparing a check list and questions beforehand to grill the Landlord or selling agent with at the viewing, you can make sure that everything is legitimate and that you’re not getting ripped off before you sign on the dotted line!
Are bills included? Is there any mould? Do we have to pay a deposit? When is the rent due each month? Will it be cosy and comfortable to live in?
These all seem like obvious questions but if you don’t ask them then you may get caught out unnecessarily.
Read your contract before you sign it
Yet another thing I was picked on by my house mates! Checking thoroughly the all-important contract. Whilst the rest of my house mates were blindly signing off the contracts in a heartbeat, I made sure that I carefully filtered through everything I was signing for. 20 minutes, a cup of tea and a few funny looks from our selling agent later I did actually sign it!
If you can, ask for your contract in advance so that you can look over it in detail with the people at the SU advice centre on square 3, who can give it a read for you and check it’s all ok!
Take an obligatory selfie outside of your new house with your new house mates!