Once you start preparing for university life, there’ll be so many decisions you’ll have to make. Even when your chosen university and course of study is already settled, this doesn’t mean that your decision-making process is finished. There are still other matters that have to be ironed out, one of which is your student accommodation.
Choosing where to live during your four years (or so) at the university isn’t something you can simply decide on without much thought. There are so many factors that come into play, especially since this is going to be your home for a long while. At the very least, you’ll want it to be a refuge you can run home to and be comfortable in after a long, hard day of work at the university.
Tips For Finding The Right Student Accommodation
The thing is, once you actively start searching for accommodations, you’ll likely come across so many options that you’ll end up daunted with all of the possibilities. If you don’t know where and how to begin your search, this could only make the decision even harder for you, especially when you realise that there are so many things that could go wrong if you aren’t careful with your decision.
To help you make the best decision, here are eight tips for finding the right student accommodation:
1. Set A Budget
If you have a scholarship or you’ll be using a student loan, make sure to check the amount that’s allotted for your student accommodation, before anything else. Don’t forget to take into consideration other living costs that may or may not be included in the budget you’re given such as utility bills, meals, etc. If possible, work below your budget so you have a safer margin for when something comes up like additional costs that you may have overlooked.
If the budget you’re given is small, see which areas you can compromise and just prioritise your non-negotiable necessities. Planning in detail around the budget you have, no matter how big or small it may be, will help set your expectations and help you anticipate costs more accurately. Although it may be challenging, it’ll make your independent student life easier in the long run, plus it’ll help you become wiser financially.
2. Decide On The Type Of Accommodation
Once you’ve set a fixed budget, check the costs of different types of student accommodations to see where your budget will fit best. If you prefer to live with students or you want to quickly build a social circle, private halls or university halls will probably suit you best. However, if you’d like to be a bit more independent, a private accommodation is your best option.
Do some research to help you weigh the pros and cons of each accommodation type to help you decide better. Once you’ve decided, check the deadline for applications and make sure you organise and submit all your required documents on time.
3. Consider The Location
It’s always expected for students to choose an accommodation that’s closest to their school for convenience. Generally, this should be within walking distance, so that you won’t have to spend more time and money on travelling to and from school. It can save you so much in the long run when you no longer have to pay for transportation expenses, plus you’ll have longer free time that’s not spent sitting inside a bus.
However, there are other things you should consider aside from the convenience. The safety of the location is also important. Is the area known for crime cases like robbery? Or do you often see suspicious-looking bystanders around the area? Surely, this isn’t where you’ll want to live, particularly when you have classes that end at night and you’ll have to walk a considerable distance to reach the place.
Lastly, you should also consider its proximity to public transportation, hospitals, and supermarkets. This is something you can easily check online. For example, if you’re looking for a Sheffield student accommodation, you can use landmarks in that area such as bus stops or supermarkets to do your search within that vicinity.
If you can find student accommodations with a good balance of all these things, you’re on the right track.
4. Check The Wi-Fi Connection
One of the most important things to have on a student accommodation is a good Wi-Fi connection. There are some accommodations where this isn’t part of the rent and you’ll have to arrange for a connection yourself. If it turns out that that’s your only choice, choose an accommodation in a location where you can get a good and stable connection.
Remember that as a student, having a reliable Wi-Fi connection is more than just about the ease of accessing your social media accounts. A lot of schoolwork these days requires the use of the internet, from attending online meetings and sending professional emails to creating reports and researching for educational resources. And of course, let’s not forget that it’ll allow you to connect with your family and friends, even your classmates and teachers, whenever you need to.
5. Assess The Accommodation’s Safety And Security Level
Not all student accommodations come with a security personnel or a front desk. Typically, these are reserved for condominiums and dormitories. If you choose to live in a home or an apartment type of accommodation, you’ll have to assess the overall safety of the property.
Are there emergency exits and fire extinguishers? If the windows have grills, do they have an opening for an emergency exit? Are there surveillance cameras? If you choose a university or private hall, these shouldn’t be a problem as they’ll all be required to have these in place before they even take students in.
If you’ll have a room to yourself, make sure the locks are working. If the space is meant to be shared, there should be a locked storage for each tenant where valuable items can be kept safe.
6. Ask About The Availability Of Basic Appliances
Depending on the type of accommodation, there may be certain limitations in place about the type and sizes of the appliances you can have. For example, for most dorm rooms, you may only be allowed a microwave or a small, personal fridge. On the other hand, apartment-type accommodations will usually allow you to bring in all the appliances you want.
If you’re sharing an accommodation that already comes with appliances, ask which appliances you’re free to use. If you’ll have the available appliances all to yourself, make sure to check if they’re all in good working condition.
7. Ask What’s Included In The Rent
Rent inclusions are something you should ask about in detail when inquiring with accommodation managers. Make sure to ask whether or not utilities like water, electricity, and wi-fi, are already included.
It’s also something you should consider when you compare the prices of the accommodations you’re choosing from. Use the inclusions as a basis to see if they’re a good value for the price.
For instance, if there’s an accommodation that’s more expensive than your other options, but it includes access to a gym, dedicated study centre, and even a game room, it might still be worth it; then a cheaper option that will have you buying more extras that end up being more expensive.
This means you should also consider what your typical additional costs will be after you take into consideration the rent’s inclusions. That’s when you’ll really see which one will best suit your total budget.
8. Watch Out For Signs Of Damp Or Mold
Check the state and quality of the space as much as possible. Don’t just focus on the aesthetics or physical attributes of the accommodation. If you feel that’s a bit awkward, you can also ask the manager about the issues that the accommodation may have.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that damps and molds only look gross. It goes beyond that as it can make your space smell terrible, damage your clothes and furniture, and even affect your health. While there are so many safety regulations now in place to ensure that rental properties, especially student accommodations, pass a certain standard, there may be some that could still have hidden damp and mold issues, and if you aren’t careful, you can be a tenant of one.
As you go through the viewing process, be very particular about checking corners, windows, and behind cabinets. Some of the tell-tale signs of molds and damp are peeling paint, uneven patches, and the smell of mold itself.
But among all the other undesirable effects of damp and mold, what it can do to your health is what you should be worried about the most. Note that molds produce allergens, toxic substances, and irritants.
9. Stay Away From Places With Pest Problems
Another problem that you might find in rented spaces is the presence of pests. Even if you’re cutting costs and you’re looking for cheaper accommodation, you shouldn’t skimp to a point that you’ll put up with having pests around.
Pest infestations commonly occur when previous tenants have a bad habit of leaving their bins overflowing, and when they leave food uncovered in open places for too long. So, when you check each prospective accommodation, be sure to check corners, drawers, and the kitchen (if it comes with one).
Some of the common pests you should watch out for are:
- Flies: The most common types of flies in households and rental units are fruit flies and houseflies. They potentially carry germs that can lead to food poisoning and other illnesses.
- Ants: These are more common in accommodations with or near a small garden or lawn, or those situated on the ground floor.
- Rats/Mice: Aside from damaging your clothes and personal items, these rodents can also chew on electrical cables, which can create electrical hazards. Like flies, they’re also carriers of disease-causing microorganisms.
- Cockroaches: Roaches are also germ carriers. Although they’re known to live in dirty environments, they can also thrive in clean areas because they can use non-food materials to survive. They’re commonly found in humid areas such as bathrooms and basements.
Ideally, property owners will have hired pest control services already once their last tenant leaves, unless they aren’t aware of the infestation. If you want to make sure, you can ask the owner about the last pest control services they’ve had for the property.
10. Review The Details Of The Contract
This is where you may need the help of your parents or someone who can help explain the terms and conditions and the fine print of your lease contract. Don’t rush through it. Be sure that you read it carefully and thoroughly. If there’s anything that seems off to you or there are details you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask your landlord about it. This will help avoid misunderstandings, plus you’ll have more peace of mind when you’re confident about the contract and what it covers.
Pay attention to the length of the contract, payment terms, the penalties of delayed payments, grace periods, and the landlord’s rules about refunding payments where applicable. Also, check for any provisions about potential changes on the rental price after a certain period. For example, they may impose a 10% increase after 2 years or so.
Make sure to also ask about house rules. Are visitors or pets allowed? Can you hold parties if you want? What do you need to do if there are maintenance issues or when repairs are needed? What are the details on eviction and early termination? Ask as many questions as possible, especially about details that you’re curious about but aren’t mentioned in the contract.
Once you sign the contract, make sure to keep a copy in a safe place for your own record.
Once you’ve made a final decision on your student accommodation and sealed it with a contract, you’re going to be tied up to it for a long time. If you change your mind, it won’t be as easy as changing your clothes. It’ll be your home away from home. So, make sure it’s a place you’ll feel safe and comfortable in, so all you’ll have to focus on is how to ace your next subject.