A Fresher’s guide to second-year accommodation
By the time Halloween rolls around, it feels as if everyone has found their second-year house. This, however, is certainly not the case – News Editor Isabella Ankerson discusses second-year accommodation and how to make house-hunting as stress-free as possible.
Exeter is notorious for its early accommodation searches; in my first year, feeling pressured by the rush of everyone else, myself and my flatmates had signed a contract for our second-year accommodation by the end of November. Whilst this was a chaotic time, it’s safe to say that the process has only got easier throughout my four years at Exeter, so here’s some advice to help you feel less stressed when the search begins later this year!
Choosing who to live with is possibly the most daunting part of finding second-year accommodation; you’ve only just met your flatmates, you’ve barely started your course, you’re feeling a little lost. However, despite having barely settled in, my best advice would be to stick with your first-year flatmates or a group of coursemates that you feel particularly close with.
The ‘Overheard at Uni of Exeter’ Facebook group is also helpful if you’re looking for housemates. During the search for accommodation, landlords and students often advertise properties, spare rooms and calls for housemates on this page. Keep an eye out and don’t be afraid to drop people a message – you never know where it will land you!
Lastly, if you end up with a larger group of housemates, it’s sometimes a good idea to split into smaller households as this will most likely make your accommodation search easier. Exeter does have a selection of larger properties, but in most residential areas you’re more likely to find a 4- or 5-bedroom house. Though it feels sad to leave people behind, it won’t be the last time you’ll see them!
Here’s the most important part of the process: finding a house! It’s completely normal to feel as if you don’t know where to start, but the University has some great resources to help you get started with your search.
The University of Exeter Accommodation website:
This website has lots of useful information under the ‘private housing’ tab. Here you can find sub-sections with advice on the various options that you have for accommodation after your first year, when and where to look, how you can find it, and what support is available.
The University accommodation page can be found here.
This is a really good website where landlords advertise their listings for private accommodation. You can narrow down the search criteria to help you find the best accommodation to suit your needs. It is also worth noting that you can search for individual rooms as well as whole properties on StudentPad, which can be useful if this is what you’re looking for!
Exeter StudentPad can be accessed here.
Hundreds of listings for accommodation can also be found on the websites of individual lettings agents. Popular agents include Star Student Lettings, Cardens, and Gillams, but there are plenty more to choose from. Private halls such as The Depot, The Barn, The Printworks, and Trust House are also great, and the rent usually includes utilities and wifi which is a plus!
The best advice is to try not to panic and rush into the first property you look at! Discuss criteria such as the rent costs and location with your housemates and establish limits that everyone is comfortable with. From here, search online and choose a handful of properties that you are interested in and make enquiries with the landlords or lettings agents.
Other students will probably also tell you that the ‘best’ places to secure a house are Pennsylvania Road, Union Road, Victoria Street, Springfield Road, and other surrounding streets. Whilst these are great because they’re so close to the Streatham Campus, houses can be pricey in these areas! It is entirely possible to find a nice house that doesn’t break the bank – even if this means you’ll end up living slightly further away from the uni campuses. Although it might not seem like it, Exeter really isn’t as big as you think it is, and you’ll never be too far away from the action wherever you end up.
If you need further advice, the Guild Advice Unit is another great resource where you can find information and support. This can be found here.
Utilities and WiFi bills
Finally, the boring part: bills. They’re the worst and most grown-up part of living in private accommodation. If you’re lucky enough to find accommodation with bills included in the rent, then you can ignore this section! But if not, it’s important that you make the right decisions so you don’t end up being ripped off.
When you sign the contract for a house, you might be approached by companies who offer to pay all your utility and wifi bills, so you don’t have to. In these setups, you pay a monthly fee to the company, and they delegate this to each of the suppliers. At the end of the tenancy, your overall utilities usage is calculated, and money is returned to you if you have overpaid. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Don’t be fooled, it’s not as good as it seems. These companies often charge an admin fee that is included in your monthly payments, which means you’d be paying more than you would if you paid bills directly to the suppliers. In most cases, the reconciliation process that takes place at the end of the tenancy is tense, and misunderstandings can often mean that tenants are short-changed. So although it seems like so much more effort, sorting out your utilities and wifi with individual suppliers is the most cost-effective and efficient way to tackle your bills.
Also, don’t forget to apply for a TV License if you’re planning on having a TV in your second-year accommodation. Splitting the cost between you and your housemates means that it won’t feel like too much of a drain on the finances. You may have been able to get away with it in first year, but you won’t be able to get away with it in second year!
So, my best advice is this: stay calm and open-minded, try not to rush into things and do your research before you make a decision. It may feel stressful during the search, but it will be worth it! Some of your best memories at Exeter will be made when you move out of halls and into your own house, so good luck with the search and have fun!