Living with friends appeals to most students for many reasons: most people like the company; they look forward to studying together, throwing parties and offering each other the moral support needed to pull through a hangover; and it’s also cheaper as they can split the bills. Living alone can work for some people, but most of the best memories that uni students make are made when they are living in a house with their mates.

Having your own uni house can end up as a disaster if you don’t think it through carefully. We’ve put together this guide to house-hunting, to help you through all the early stages of finding the right digs.

Things to Consider Before you Begin Searching

1) Make sure that you choose to live with friends that you know well enough to be confident that you can live together happily. There’s nothing worse than hostility or feeling isolated in your own home, so don’t rush into sharing with anyone unless you’re sure that they are the right people for you.

2) Organise your finances and come up with a clear budget of what you can afford to spend on accommodation each month, as well as a rough estimate for bills and other expenses, like food (and we don’t need study snacks, we mean meals). After all, there is no point in signing up for something you can’t afford and then getting yourself into a difficult situation or letting your friends down later.

Shortlisting Properties

Think about whether you have any clear preferences about location, house price, condition of the house, etc. Ask yourself if any of these are non-negotiable and which things you’d be willing to compromise on. This will help you to be clear about your needs when it comes to finding your house.

However, if you choose to live with people, you will also have to take their preferences into consideration and recognise that not everyone is going to have the same priorities as you when it comes to looking for digs.

Property Viewing

A property viewing allows you to get a feel for what it would be like living somewhere, and to see if it’s really going to be a viable option.

Before going to a viewing, ensure you have a checklist of things to look out for and find out about while you are there. Here is our suggested checklist of questions to ask:

1) Area

  • How long will it take to get to uni?
  • Are there good shops and pubs nearby?
  • Is it easy to access public transport from here?
  • Are there other students living around here?
  • How safe an area is this?

2) Student Utilities

  • Does the house operate on electric, oil or gas?
  • Are the necessary safety certificates and features in place?
  • Do all of the heaters work?
  • What is the central heating system (electric is the most expensive)?
  • Does the cooker and water heating work efficiently?
  • Which companies currently supply the property?

3) Infrastructure

  • Has the wiring in the house been checked in the last 5 years?
  • Is the insulation in the house adequate?
  • Do all the sinks, baths and showers drain?
  • Do all the taps and toilets work?
  • Are there any signs of water damage/ pest infestations/ mould/ damp?
  • Is there parking or a place to lock bikes?
  • Is there a garden (and is it securable)?
  • Does the roof look sound?
  • Are the gutters and drains clear?
  • Is any of the woodwork rotting or safe?

4) Security

  • Does the house have a functional burglar alarm?
  • Is the house securable, with all windows and doors lockable and adequate?
  • (If applicable) Are the ground-floor bedroom curtains thick enough to provide privacy at night?
  • Are there smoke and carbon monoxide detectors?
  • Are there fire extinguishers?

5) Furniture

  • Is the furniture fit for use?
  • Is there enough furniture for all occupants (and does any of the furniture you see belong to current occupants)?
  • Is there adequate food preparation space?
  • Is the fridge/ freezer large enough?
  • Is there a full itinerary document that you can see?

6) Money

  • How much is the rent and what is included in that (bills/ furniture/ parking spaces)?
  • How much is the deposit and what are the conditions of it being refunded?
  • (If applicable) How much extra a month do tenants typically pay in bills?

7) Legalities

  • Who is the legal owner?
  • Has the house got the right HMO Licence?
  • Is the house insured?
  • What type of contract is on offer (joint tenancy or individual contract)?
  • Is a guarantor necessary for each tenant?
  • Who is legally responsible for repairs/ alterations (is this going to be put in writing)?