A Candid Conversation About Student House Hunting

A candid conversation with Alice and Abby, on the trials and tribulations of student house hunting, and some tips for others who may start looking soon too...

 

Alice: Abby, what are your top three regrets about our house? How would you avoid them if you could go back in time to November 2018?

Abby: We only viewed 4 or 5 houses, and with only 2 agencies, which I don’t think was enough. If I could go back, I would explore more letting agencies. If you have a choice of at least 3 agencies, you’re more likely to find a landlord that you ‘vibe with’. SIT ON THE BEDS (if you actually get to visit). Alternatively, ask about the mattresses or ask for a picture. Finally, remember that you are paying for a service. It’s only recently that we started asking for changes and problems to be fixed (apart from the roof... We will go into that later). But I wish that we did this from the beginning of our tenancy. Don’t let them walk all over you just because you are young. Do you have the same regrets, Alice?

Alice: I agree that we rushed into the house a little because we were so excited. If we could go back, I think that we would still likely end up here, but we could have established our expectations with the agency. They told us that the house would be cleaned professionally before we moved in, but we moved in the day after the last tenants moved out, and it was vile. If I went back, I would have made sure that the professional cleaning that was promised verbally was in the contract.

Some things however cannot be planned ahead. Do you want to tell the roof story, Abby?

Abby: That’s a corker. Basically, last winter during all the storms and bad weather, one of our top floor bedrooms started to leak through the roof. It wasn’t even just a dribble either, it was a stream of water steadily coming through that lasted the whole night. We spent hours moving all the valuable items out of that room so they didn’t get damaged if the roof (God forbid) caved in. Because it was during the night, our agency was not answering their phone and we had to DIY it and stab a hole in the ceiling with a kitchen knife to get all the water out. Over the following weeks we had people come round (eventually) who tried to patch up our roof, but as soon as they did, it just started leaking in new places in different rooms - even my room which isn’t even on the top floor. Madness. I feel like it’s only just been ACTUALLY fixed, but as I lay in bed at night and look up at the spreading damp patch on my ceiling, I don’t hold out much hope for this winter.

Alice: Abby I lean my laptop against my mirror every night instead of leaving it on my desk. Otherwise known as the splash zone. I remember you told me one night when your room was leaking at 2 am you considered waking me up thinking I had slept through my roof leaking in. There is not really any way to avoid this sort of thing apart from asking the current tenants if they are having any issues. When we looked around, one of the tenants was in and the landlord let us speak to her, but since he was lurking around the corner we didn’t get too much information. This year, however, since you likely have to do all your house viewing online, don’t be afraid to ask the company if you can set up a call with the current tenants. This could actually be at your advantage since the landlord won’t be there.

Abby: Yeah you won’t really have the chance to Indiana Jones it onto the roof to do a quality check for yourself. I feel like that bit of advice works for a lot of things though, even for finding out about standard Wi-Fi prices, how much the water bill would cost, what plan the current tenants are on etc. When we talked to one of the tenants before us, we found out that if we didn’t want to faff around with sorting out electric bills and whatnot, we could ask our agency to sort it out for us. However, this may have ended up being more expensive. Something we wouldn’t have known unless we asked!

Alice: Enough with the negatives, what are your 3 favourite things about our humble abode? What should freshers look for in their new digs?

Abby: Hmm. Probably my most favourite thing is our occasional houseguest, who visits quite a lot in the winter months. He is the most neurotic cat I’ve ever met, but after one long year of being scratched in return for strokes, he’s finally starting to love us! Case in point, he’s asleep between us as we’re writing this article!

Other than the cat, I love how cheap our house is (if I had to choose between this house and one that’s more expensive but with a reliable roof, it would be this house every time). Also, I think having a basement is a marvellous addition to my life. Other than looking edgy, it’s a lifesaver in the summer months when I’ve run out of clothes to take off and I’m dying of heat exhaustion. Not so hot in the winter months, but that’s what blankets and jackets are for I suppose. What about you Alice?

Alice: Hobnob (the cat) goes without saying. I also love our basement; it is much better than the kitchen/lounge we had in student accommodation. And those sofas were so so bad. I also really love the location and I think that is an important factor in choosing your house. I feel so much more at home here than I did in student accommodation. Obviously, a lot of that is down to the fact that this is a house and not a glorified premier inn. But it also feels good to be a good 20-minute walk from the university and to have our little town. I am not a city girl, so I like that we’re out of it a little bit here. The thing I like the most, however, is how we (mostly you) have decorated it. Since we have lived here for over a year now we have really made it feel like home (but to be honest it did the first night for me), and I think that is partly down to the care you put into making it feel loved and lived in. If you are lucky enough to have a car (or your parents are willing to help you move), bring as many knick-knacks as you can to your new house. Bring all your plants (especially spider plants since they reproduce like rabbits), bring as many fairy lights (and batteries) as you can, as well as wall art, books, ornaments, whatever makes you feel at home. You can also collect things from charity shops during your stay to add character to your house. Do you have one last piece of advice to student house hunters?

Abby: I honestly think you’ve covered most of it or at least the things that I wish I’d known last year anyway. My last piece of advice is probably just to pick somewhere that you actually connect with (spiritually and financially), seeing as you’ll spend a lot of time there! Any other wise words to add Alice?

Alice: My biggest piece of advice is to not worry about being hard work for your landlord. Anyone who knows me will know that I love to make a good complaint or report a problem, and it works. I feel like especially as a woman, we’re shamed out of asking for what we want, or speaking out when something isn’t good enough. But at the end of the day, this is an exchange. You are paying a lot of money so if you’re not happy, speak out. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no.

 

Words By: Alice Colton and Abby Winstone

Edited By: Hannah Martin