It is that time of year when everyone is frantically snapping up their favourite places to live for the next academic year. So I thought I would post some advice…
TIPS ON LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO LIVE
- Choose the right flatmates, with the same priorities
I wanted to leave the house I’m staying in last year but gave up trying to find a place, as the people I was looking with had very conflicting priorities to me!So this year, I was careful to make sure that when I started looking with someone, that we agreed on the essential things. Luckily, we did! There were still differences but on the whole, we were on the same page.
This is probably the most important thing when looking for a place to live. If you choose to live with people just because you get on well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will agree about a place to live for at least a year! The people I was looking with last year are some of my best friends but their priorities were being close to town and to campus, and having fairly large kitchen, and money was not much of an object. Money is a pretty big object to me! It doesn’t rule my life or anything, but I do have a limit, especially seeing as I buy tickets down to London fairly regularly to see the boyfriend.
- Look methodically
So when I flat hunt (which I actually do a lot even when I don’t need one, sad though that may be!), I initially look on sites such as Zoopla to get an idea of the current prices, and most common move in dates etc.When I start doing it seriously though, I go directly to the agency’s website as it is likely that this will be updated first, and ads are not always updated or removed from sites such as Zoopla.
When I have a list of a few flats that I am interested in (I go all out and make a spreadsheet showing distances, locality, price, dates etc, but you don’t have to be so over the top!), I then email or phone the agency to arrange a viewing. I find emailing a lot easier as you can organise everything you need to say, and even copy and paste to a few different agencies. Phoning, however is a lot more immediate and you are likely to get a viewing sooner, and may also have the opportunity to ask if there are any other places that you would be able to view that you didn’t find online.
- Don’t settle. The right one is there.
When you see a flat and it is liveable, and it is close to/within your budget, but there is something about it that makes you think of it as a last resort, listen to that. There is such variety in Dundee. If you view enough flats, it is unlikely that you won’t see one that feels right. When you find it, take it. Though some agencies keep flats on hold for you for a short amount of time, most of them will keep showing it to other people until somebody gives them a deposit. So if you have found the right one. Take say half an hour to discuss with your future flatmates, then when you have decided, phone the agency or go in to get the relevant forms. I know some people who have literally had to race to the agency against other people who have viewed it, to secure the flat.
- Know which agencies to trust
People know a lot about different agencies in Dundee. Ask your classmates, older students, anybody who rents a flat or who knows someone who does!
I don’t want to mention a certain agency who is notorious in Dundee as this is not my personal blog, but I will let you know a couple who I have had good experiences with.AKG is a respectable company, they have nice flats and are reliable as your landlord. I know this because my boyfriend rented from them before, and my flatmate-to-be currently is with them, and we are getting a place with them this year. They are honest and trustworthy.
Grant Property is maybe the biggest agency in Dundee (or it seems like it). They have a lot of flats in a variety of locations and are a professional company. Again, I haven’t lived with them, but my boyfriend has and he did not have any problems.
Be wary of private landlords. Although many private landlords can be very good, and take a lot of pride in their business, it is difficult to find reviews of them, as they usually do not have many flats (at least not in Dundee), and little online presence. I recommend that if you are considering renting privately, check them out here, where all Scottish landlords need to register. Really make the most of the viewing. You need to pay attention to how the flats are kept. A mess is the responsibility of the tenants but rot, broken appliances etc are nearly always down to the landlord to fix and if the flat is in poor condition, it is unlikely that you would get much support from the landlord. Question the landlord about things, such as how old the boiler is, when the flat was last renovated, if any changes will be made before you move in and what is included in the flat.
- Read the tenancy agreement
I know it is really confusing. But usually, you can get the gist of it. You do not want to agree to something when you don’t know what it is. This is important as it could affect a lot of different things. Some tenancy agreements require you to give a certain amount of notice before moving out as they are not fixed to one year, some state that your flat will be regularly checked on by agency staff, some state that you may or may not have pets (and even in the ones that allow them, you usually need to be given permission by the landlord). You really do not want to be taken by surprise that you are in violation of any terms and while landlords will probably allow you to apologise and sort out the issue, some may bring consequences, such as a charge or refusal to give you a referral (which is pretty bad as nearly all places you live in your future will need a reference from a previous landlord), or could even throw you out of the flat.If you don’t understand a part of the tenancy, ask the agency to explain it to you (honestly, no-one understands all of that legal stuff, you won’t look stupid), or bring a friend or family member who has more experience than you to help work things out.
Those are really my main points. Just make sure you have fun, and don’t get too stressed by it.