You have probably only just started University, met all your new housemates, begun discovering your new city, when the perpetual question that plagues all students rears its ugly head: when should you start looking for next year’s student accommodation? Start too early and you may rush into a decision without thinking about the consequences, leave it too late and you may be left with the accommodation no one else wanted (for a reason!). But we are here to help you tread these murky waters and enable you to strike at the best time to find your perfect housing for next year.
The answer to when to start looking may greatly vary depending on where you go to Uni. Here in Bath, most student properties appear online early to mid-November with viewings starting very soon after that. However, in other areas of the country student properties will not become available to view until February time. Your student union should be able to advise you on when you need to start actively looking, however, we would suggest keeping your eyes open for potential properties from as early as possible. Even if you are not actually looking to move, or even commit to a house for a number of months, it can be extremely useful to get an idea of what sort of prices you can expect to pay, and which area you like the look of.
When to start looking may also depend on how many people you are planning on living with. The average student house is for 4 people, so if you are in a much larger group, the pool of properties to choose from will probably be a lot smaller. Therefore, getting in early could give you an advantage of bagging a house you really like. Another tip for groups that miss out on the bigger properties is to see if there are any houses available that are next to each other or on the same street - whilst you may not be living in the same house, you will still be close, and that little bit of extra space could end up being a godsend! Same rules apply to smaller groups, start looking earlier, as the choice of student properties will be smaller.
If you know anyone from the same University in a higher year, they can be the font of all housing knowledge! It’s a good idea to get advice from them, as they have been in the same situation as you find yourself, and can recommend when to look, and the best places to live. They may also have experience with a good agent or landlord that they can introduce you to, or if they are leaving their accommodation (and recommend it!) they may be able to arrange you getting first dibs, before the property even goes onto the market.
The most important thing is not to rush into a contract. You want to make sure you feel comfortable with who you will be living with, the house you’ll be living in, and crucially, that you understand the commitment you are making. A good landlord or agent will walk you through the tenancy application process and be available to answer any questions you may have. For many students this will be the first time they rent a house, and for some it can all seem quite overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand something – remember there is no such thing as a stupid question.
Whenever you decide to start looking for your student accommodation, try not to stress. Even if you end up looking later than advised, there are many reasons why student accommodation may not become available to rent until later in the year, so you can still find somewhere perfect for you. There are also lots of resources out there for you to use to help with your search. As long as you have realistic expectations and are willing to compromise, then you will find somewhere to live. I assure you wherever you end up living, you will still have a good time, and this is me speaking from experience – I spent a year living in what was essentially a cupboard on a roof - but its turned out to be a great story to reminisce with my Uni friends for years to come. Sometimes even the worst accommodation ends up being the best!