Before heading to a new university, there are plenty of things to look for when choosing student accommodation. Which is the best course for you? Where should you study? Is it worth doing a placement year abroad? And, of course, where should you live? Finding your home away from home is essential for ensuring you get the best university experience. It will help your studies, social life, stress, and finances. So to ensure you find the perfect student accommodation, here's a list of things to look for when choosing student accommodation.
Which type of student accommodation do I pick?
Having countless options to pick from can certainly be overwhelming. Why waste precious time scrolling through student accommodation options that aren’t a good fit? It’s better to understand the various types of off-campus student accommodation to help narrow down your options and find a student home that is a perfect match for you. There are three main options for you to choose from.
- Studios: If privacy is one of your top concerns, studios might be the best option for you. Studios will include a multi-purpose living space that can be either single or dual occupancy, an attached bathroom and a kitchen.
- Ensuites: Perfect for students who like their privacy but still enjoy socialising, an ensuite is equipped with a private bedroom space with an attached private bathroom. The kitchen and living space is shared among residents.
- Non-ensuites: A budget-friendly option for students, a non-ensuite is equipped with a bedroom that can be either single or dual occupancy. The bathroom, kitchen and living spaces will be shared by the residents.
You might favour an ensuite or a non-ensuite if you intend to live with your buddies.
1. Value for Money
First and foremost, you must evaluate the rent. And consider whether it justifies all of the considerations listed below. So, after calculating your monthly budget, we recommend crunching the figures and deciding on a minimum and maximum limit for your rental budget. Because if you find a student accommodation that is so nice that it makes you want to put off getting those pricy sneakers, then go for it. Even if it means spending more money. Trust us when we say that after a long day of work, you'll want to come home to a comfortable home. So those footwear will have to wait.
Another important thing to note down when moving abroad is the estimated cost of living in the area that your student accommodation will be located in. Check out these guides for more details on the cost of living in Glasgow, Oxford, Bristol, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin, and London.
2. Getting to the campus
One of the first and most important things to look for when choosing student accommodation is the off-campus student accommodation’s location. Firstly, the student accommodation must be located close to your university so that you can make it to your classes on time without hurrying. Make sure to check the distance from university when booking student accommodation. If possible, try using transport nearby to travel to and from the university to better understand how much time you can expect it to take.
3. What’s in the area?
Secondly, it’s also important to note whether the neighbourhood has grocery stores, vegetable vendors, good local restaurants, and an ATM, as these are essential services that you will need regularly. Don’t be afraid to be nit-picky when choosing student accommodation as the student accommodation option that survives your choosy demands is will ensure you feel comfortable living there.
4. Social Spaces
If you're a social bunny, you’ll likely want your accommodation to be central to the town or city it's in. Are there nightclubs, bars and restaurants nearby? If so, what are they like? Keeping on top of what's going on around your local area is key to maximising your experiences at university, if a busy social life is what you’re looking for. Researching the locality is one of the most important things to look for when choosing student accommodation.
5. Safe and sound
If you're looking for off-campus accommodation, you need to consider the area you might be living in. Find out how safe neighbourhoods are by researching local crime statistics on government websites such as FBI's Crime Data Explorer and other websites like CityProtect. Have a conversation with your classmates who reside in that area to know the atmosphere. If it sounds OK, go check it out with your future housemates. Take a walk into the streets to get a good feel for the neighbourhood that the student accommodation is located in.
6. Transport Nearby
You don’t want to move into the perfect student accommodation just to learn that it’s in the middle of nowhere. Public transport is a must and a good backup for when you can’t travel by a personal vehicle. This is why transport links are one of the essential things to look for when choosing student accommodation. Good links for transport nearby means you can get from A to B quickly, efficiently and ideally at a low cost. We recommend always choosing student accommodation with reliable services of transport nearby so you can rest assured that whenever you need or want to be somewhere, it can be done without worry or too much money spent. It also helps when you want to visit home for the weekend; you won’t have to put money aside for repeated long, expensive taxi rides.
7. Stay Connected!
You don't want to live in a WiFi black spot while studying at college. It's going to slow down your work and research. Plus, it means you won't be able to enjoy a well-earned Netflix binge session after a long day in the library. So once you've found a suitable property, check out the available broadband speeds in the area. Most broadband providers have this kind of tool on their websites. Ask your neighbours, too. They can tell if the broadband speeds are as fast as the providers claim.
8. Read the Contract
Always sign a contract and go with a reputable letting agency or private landlord. Handshake deals, short-term arrangements, or crashing in a friend's spare room for a few months might seem like a good idea. However, either party has no protection or recourse on the rent, deposit repayments, or other concerns. A good landlord/letting agent will ask for ID, financial statements, guarantors, and a transparent contract agreement. They should also place your deposit into a tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme administered by a third party. Carefully read the lease agreement and note the details like the length of the lease, move in and move out dates, utilities included, and any additional charges mentioned. Also note the lease breakage fee and the sublease terms should you need to relocate.
9. Extra Perks
Some will only provide minimal amenities, while others will include a few extra facilities in exchange for a somewhat higher monthly rent. It all depends on how essential each of them is to you now. But, in our opinion, healthy food, sufficient ventilation, a clean restroom, and air conditioning (if your destination has extremely hot summers) are essentials. When booking with amber, not only are the basic amenities included in the rent, numerous student accommodation options even offer additional amenities such as gyms and swimming pools.
10. Warmth = Comfort
Insulation can save you a lot of money on heating bills. A well-insulated house will have double-glazed windows, secure doors, a sound-eating system, and no drafts coming through the rooms. You can also do the touch test. Just put a hand on each wall as you pass through the house. If the walls feel cold, it could indicate poor insulation. Make sure you look up at the roof of the house before leaving. Missing tiles means the heat will escape during winter. They could also cause leaks when it rains.
11. Look out for infestations!
Mould looks and smells gross. It can ruin clothes and furnishings, leaving you with extra expenses. Damp is also a severe health hazard for people with hay fever, asthma, or other breathing issues. Look out for flaking paint or wallpaper apart from the apparent black mould patches. A musky smell is also a sign of dampness lurking in the walls. Pest infestations can be a problem in older and cheaper accommodation. Common pest infestations include cockroaches, flies, slugs, mice, pigeons, and, in some cases, rats. Watch out for droppings, slug trails, or pest traps during the viewing. Don't be embarrassed to look inside cupboards; pay particular attention to kitchen surfaces and bin areas. Rustling noises from the attic mean you might share your new house with a family of pigeons.
Tips for choosing student accommodation
Don't fall for gimmicks!
The student accommodation market is a big business. Students spend over $4 billion yearly on rental costs in the UK alone. Many landlords and agencies compete for a slice of the pie. They often include 'freebies' or other incentives for students to sign on the dotted line. They might offer a free WiFi package or reduced summer rents. Some will even buy free TVs, game consoles, or shopping vouchers. These might sound like great deals on paper. However, landlords add the cost of your 'free' items onto the annual rent in most cases.
Prepare for the viewing
It's easy to forget questions during a viewing. That's why it's a positive idea to list all your questions and queries beforehand. Aside from the obvious questions about rent, here are a few more things you might want to know about:
- Is there an Energy Performance Certificate?
- Is there a Gas Safety Certificate?
- What bills are included?
- Is there a parking space?
- Is there an inventory list?
- What is the deposit scheme used?
- What are the tenants' responsibilities?
- Is there any discount on summer rent?
- Who were the previous tenants? Why did they move out?
- Is there a discount for paying the rent upfront?
- Are all the furnishings included?
- Are there any additional fees or charges for renting?
Lastly beware of rental scams and never make the mistake of sending money for accommodation before meeting the owner in person or before seeing the apartment. Regardless of whichever student accommodation option you choose be sure it is a comfortable and safe place and be welcoming of the roommates you come across to make your study and stay abroad a success. Make sure to check out our guide to Things You Need to Know as an Off-Campus Student. The wrong accommodation won't necessarily make or break your university experience. Still, your home can significantly impact your studies, social life, and physical and mental well-being. So do as much research as possible before making your final decision but do not stress much and know that you can always relocate. Take it as a learning experience!