It’s the time of year where people start thinking about and signing for next- year houses.
It can be a stressful time- friendships are tested as you fight over who to live with, rooms, location, size and price. No-one is willing to compromise. After all this is going to be your home for the next academic year. Student housing is notorious for being a nightmare- stereotypes of lazy landlords out to squeeze as much money as possible out of you, damp, inconsiderate flat mates and pest infestations. When I moved into my flat last year, the boiler broke on move in day so we were left without hot water until it was fixed, the radiators broke numerous times, we also had a bees nest, dripping walls and noisy neighbors. This year, we have dealt with damp, a flooded toilet and broken hob.
I know people who have woken up with frogs in their rooms, had rat infestations and broken front doors. There are so many horror stories out there. Inevitably, there will be problems in your house, but it is important to know you can nag your landlord until it gets fixed- they are getting enough money out of you. Once these problems were fixed, I thoroughly enjoyed living in both of my houses.
But before you can encounter these problems, you need to actually find a house. This can cause major dramas. If you’re in first year, you simply haven’t known anyone for long enough to know if you could live with them.
Once you have decided your future housemates, there are the inevitable discussions of location- Clifton, Redland, Kingsdown, Stoke Bishop, City Centre. Everyone will inevitably have a different opinion, usually dependent on what side of the campus their lectures are located.
The next task is to trawl through estate agent sites, identify potential and bulk arrange viewings. Inevitably, you will see so many they will all start to blur into one. You will see numerous houses that you can’t imagine will ever be taken. No-one ever cleans the house for house viewings so they always smell weird, are usually dark and grim and have mountains of washing up so you can’t see the kitchen properly.
Once you do find one you love, you may ring up the estate agent only to be told its been taken. After numerous rejections, we had to literally sprint to the estate agent to sign for our second-year flat to beat the other groups who viewed it the same time. If you haven’t found a place through UBU lettings (which I highly recommend), you will have to hand over agency fees, as well as a deposit, normally a killer amount that certainly makes a dent in your student loan.
It is important to remember that most people encounter the same housing-finding experiences. Unfortunately, this type of experience is inevitable in a city like Bristol considering the ever- growing number of students and finite housing stock. If you feel like you need some help, Bristol SU have just released their Ready to Rent campaign. It includes a house hunting guide and a viewing checklist.
As someone who has experienced this housing madness twice now, I have some words of wisdom for you- do not panic!! If you haven’t started thinking about it yet, don’t be freaked out by the super-organized people who signed for their house in October (there are some every year). I found both of my houses in February/March- don’t listen to the estate agents and landlords who claim the stock is running out, houses go up all year round.
As much as I realize it is a stressful time, I want to reassure you that everything does click into place and you will find somewhere to live. I definitely prefer living in a student house to halls- you have so much more freedom, get to live with your friends and it feels less regulated and school-like. Try to enjoy house-hunting (it’s an excuse to be nosy after all), act quickly if you find a place you like and once you move in, (politely) nag your landlord until everything is how it should be. Finally, enjoy living in your house- chances are you will only be living there for 9 months and move out day comes around quickly.
Originally published in Epigram 320.
Do you have any interesting experiences with finding housing? Let us know: