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Student Housing in Durham: Tips for First Years

Its that time of year again when all everyone is seemingly capable of talking about is where they’re living next year. As part of adulting week here at Her Campus Durham (as renting a house is definitely a very adulty thing to do) I’ve put together a list some tips for first years who are new to the world of Durham student housing madness. 


THIS IS ABSOLUTELY KEY. There is absolutely no rush to sign for a house for second year! Rumours begin to fly around Durham minutes after fresher’s week ends, particularly about Durham ‘running out of houses’. This is a huge lie that estate agents love to perpetuate. Durham has MORE than enough houses for students. Do not stress and do not rush.

Pick your housemates. Be selfish.

It’s harsh but true, you need to be selfish here. Are you loving living with some of your flatmates/corridor, but struggling with others? Consider tidiness, your schedules, social activities, and personalities.

Some of the biggest arguments often happen about things as trivial as loo roll. Would you trust all of your future housemates to share the cost of this ridiculous necessity?

Find out what you all want from the house.

So – decided on housemates? Now it’s time for a serious conversation about what you all want from the house itself.

  • WHERE: Do you want to be near the Science Site? Near Maiden Castle? Near College?
  • COST: How much do you want to pay? Bills included/not?
  • DETAILS: How many bathrooms? Dishwasher? Garden? Storage for bikes? Car park space?

Have this conversation now so you all know exactly what you want and where you stand.

Check out landlords/estate agents. Ask around.

The amount of estate agents and student lettings agencies in Durham is simply ridiculous. So ask around! Ask college parents, freps, and older students for advice. Which companies have they used? What did they think? Do they ignore student complaints? Are they fast to fix things? That way you’ll know which companies to avoid.

Bills or No Bills?

It’s a major decision. Bills included means three things: no hassle, no arguments, but some extra expense. Bills not included also means three things: hassle, occasional arguments (winning the battle to put the heating on is comparable to that of winning the Hunger Games) but potentially the chance to save money.

My advice: GO BILLS INCLUDED. Shop around, see if your landlord offers a bills included package or whether you should go through a company. Do your research!

Take your time with the viewing.

Make sure you take your time on house viewings – don’t feel pressured to rush. Make sure to take lots of photos (with permission, of course) and check for things like: working fire alarms, ask to see the boiler, check the size of the fridge/freezer, ask about insulation, and ALWAYS walk there (some estate agents offer to drive you), politely decline – you need to know how long it truly takes to get there (invest in a map – you may have house viewings in quick succession, and it can help you to figure out the quickest way to get to and from a potential house to college/town/science site etc.)

Ask parents for advice.

Our parents have literally ‘been there, done that’ – after all, they’ve had to find somewhere to live too! They can help with online research, and (if your parents are like mine) they’ll know about random important stuff like gas safety certificates and meter readings. Mums and Dads are great, and at the end of the day – they just want to help you. Ask for their advice.

Check your contract.

Remember to check your contract before you sign it! Sounds obvious I know. Bear in mind that it’s very different to a College contract, it’ll be for 51/52 weeks instead of 37, so CHECK how much it’s all going to cost you, check dates, and check if there’s anything you want to question or have removed. The Students Union have a contract checking service, which I’d thoroughly recommend. Just pop into the SU, and drop off your contract.

Be prepared for the housing conversation.

‘You HAVEN’T signed yet? Wow okay…’

Don’t be alarmed by the constant chatter about choosing housing. Every lecture, seminar, tutorial, practical… it’ll come up in conversation. Do not let it panic you! I still don’t know why everyone becomes fixated with housing for the majority of November and December, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with signing after Christmas! If anything – I’d recommend it, as the Christmas holidays give you chance to reflect on first term, and see who you stay in touch with.

If it’s not right/doesn’t feel right – don’t sign.

Fundamentally, this would be my top tip. If you aren’t happy with the house, comfortable with the people, or secure in terms of the finances – then do not sign. It is incredibly tricky to get out of a housing contract, and that comes with emotional drama, financial strain, and quite simply, a lot of hassle. Be confident in yourself and your decision. Do what’s right for you.




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