Exeter, Devon UK • Dec 3, 2023 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Features A Fresher’s Guide to House Hunting

A Fresher’s Guide to House Hunting

Rachel McEwan gives advice to first years on the market for uni houses.
3 min read
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Image: Different Resonance via Unsplash

The thought of house hunting is stressful for all students, but can be particularly daunting for a fresher – having only recently begun the journey into adulthood and immediately being thrown into the wild world of renting and real estate.

With a growing number of first years increasing demand, finding a suitable Uni house is becoming more and more difficult. But not to worry, with help from the University and me, you are in good hands.

One of the first and most frightening things about attempting to find a student house is who you will live with. As a fresher, you’ve only been at university a few weeks before the house-hunting race begins. How can you possibly choose who to commit with when you don’t even know their middle name yet? It’s a big commitment to make with people you barely know. However, life at University is designed for making friends, as you spend more time with your friends in a day than you do with people at home. It can feel like you’ve known these people for a lifetime within the span of a few weeks.

My advice for people struggling to decide who to live with is, to be (respectably) selfish. Live with who you want to. It’s okay to be friends with someone while simultaneously not wanting to live with them. While someone saying they don’t wish to live with you may seem personal, it’s not. It’s simply protecting the longevity of the friendship.

My advice for people struggling to decide who to live with is, to be (respectably) selfish.

You can remain good friends with people without living together – you may become better friends for it. After all, living with people comes with its own minor issues – are they messy? Do they have a similar budget to you? Will they help to clean the house (oh how older years miss the first year days when a cleaner would come in once a week to clean communal areas)? Ensuring you have the same expectations of cleanliness, bills, etc is a priority when choosing to live with people. Think about what will work for you.

Once you know who you want to live with, start searching straight away. The sooner you start the better. Look at all the housing websites you can – Right Move is a great one, or Student Cribs for more expensive places.

Look up the local estate agents in Exeter, such as Cooksleys and Cardens. Search their websites for what student properties they have available. Check them regularly as more properties come out each week. Then, book as many viewings as possible (not all houses offer viewings – this is okay, if the pictures look good, go with your gut). Houses are taken up so quickly that some of these houses may be taken off the market before you view it, so book as many as possible to increase your chances of obtaining one. This also allows you to compare houses.

When my housemates and I were looking we booked several on the same road and it was only when we reached the third house that we immediately knew it was the one we wanted. Straight away, we said to the estate agent showing us around that we wanted it and she said to call that very minute to organise a meeting and put down a holding deposit.

Our holding deposit was £100: a holding deposit is a generally nonrefundable sum of money that ensures the house won’t go to anyone else, while also protecting the landlord as it aims to ensure you won’t rent a different house. Immediately, we booked a meeting to talk through the contract – the estate agents at Cooksleys were very good in explaining the technicalities etc – it’s not as scary as it sounds, I promise!

Our house was bills not included. Don’t be afraid of this as we’ve found it has been cheaper than the houses that include bills. However, you do have to be slightly more frugal with your usage. For example, we don’t use the dryer and we limit our heating use to a couple hours a day in Winter, whereas I know people who have bills included have their heating on all the time – something I become very jealous of in winter when I have on three jumpers, and they have on a t-shirt!

House prices vary on location. Generally, the closer to campus you are the more expensive the house. It is important to organise your finances and create a budget before searching. This can be flexible and may change when you look at the average house prices – from experience the average appears to be approximately £140-£190 pppw – but it is wise to stay within your budget, so you don’t have any unforeseen problems later in the year when rent and utility bills are due to be paid. The good thing about being a student is you don’t have to pay council tax so that is one less thing to worry about!

There’s a lot to investigate, and it can appear overwhelming at first, especially when forced to look within such a seemingly short time frame. House hunting can be an anxiety-inducing time. Speak to your home friends and family about it; there are people at the University wellbeing to help too. I know people who waited until January and still found places to live with their friends, as well as people who didn’t like their housemates and moved out in September to another place – they all ended up happy.

House hunting can be an anxiety-inducing time. Speak to your home friends and family about it; there are people at the University wellbeing to help too.

I’m here to remind you there are many possibilities available to you. Even if you can’t find housemates it’s not the end of the world – plenty of people post on Overhead looking for someone to fill a gap in their houses. Many people have found houses successfully before you and there will be many after too! Good luck fresh!

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