Finding somewhere to live can be stressful, especially when it’s your first time dealing with things like leases, landlords and utility costs. It’s easy to see a house with a nice bay window and updated paint job and be ready to sign your year away to a rental company—but there’s more to looking than first glances. Here’s a quick lesson on how to find a great home-away-from-home while you’re at university!
1. Power Up
Most student houses are alright on the outlet front, but it’s important to check out just in case. The last thing you want is to have to buy power strips for you and all your roommates or compromise on whether you use your phone or computer every night! Make sure you have at least 2-5 outlets evenly spaced around each room, and if you have extra time make sure they’re all functional.
2. Silence is Key
When it comes to walls and floors, size does matter! Whether you’re touring a house or an apartment, you want your space to be quiet and comfortable so you can study/chill/sleep without annoying distractions. Check wall thickness by standing in one room and listening for your roommates in another—if you can hear them clearly with both doors closed, it might need to go on the negatives list for that property. If you’re in an apartment or multi-floor house, check ceilings too! You don’t want to be hearing your housemates playing loud music, talking, or… Well, there are a lot of sounds you could do without while you’re trying to sleep.
3. You’re Hot Then You’re Cold, You’re Yes Then You’re No…
Thermostats are universal but vary—some may be only accessible by your landlord’s key, while others may be faulty. Ask the previous tenants or the landlord about this when you tour or at a later date if the house is a serious contender. In terms of cooling, the majority of student houses don’t have air conditioning – but if they do, that’s a bonus for that property! London can get hot on either ends of the school year, and if you wilt like a flower in the heat then you’ll want to factor in the cost of an AC unit when weighing your options.
4. Location, Location, Location!
Take into account distance between the property and your campus – whether it be main, Huron, Kings or Brescia. Houses closer to campus can be more expensive, but could be a priority for you and your future housemates. If you’re comfortable with bussing then your options widen and you can choose to be closer to other hotspots in London, whether it be a mall, a grocery store, or Richmond Row!
5. Light Up Your Living Space
Lower lots in houses likely won’t have much natural light, so they need to have more light fixtures to compensate. Upper house lots and apartments will have more natural light, so sometimes landlords will cheap out on light fixtures—but you don’t want to be left in the dark at night! If you’re claustrophobic like me, you’ll also want to take into account how many windows the house has and how that factors into which rooms you’ll spend more of your time in.
6. Check Those Closets
This one may seem unexpected, but student houses are known for being smaller, older properties that often have equally small rooms and closets. Some rooms might have no closet at all, which is important in factoring in the cost of a dresser to your budget. This is especially important in London where we all have heavy coats and snow boots—they have to go somewhere! Closet space is less likely to be a problem, but if it is then it’ll be a big one.
7. Make Sure Your Car Has A Home Too
Depending on how many housemates you’re planning to live with, you might have any number of cars you’ll need parking spots for. This might mean finding a house with a large driveway, but if you’re looking at more than two cars you will more likely be thinking about parking passes; the city of London requires 24hr passes for cars parked on the street in many areas. Some spots even have no street parking rules at hours like 3 – 5am, meaning you’ll need to find somewhere else to park! Make sure to ask your landlord for this—they’ll often pay for it, but if you don’t address it early on you can end up with hefty fees that take away from your Ceeps fund.
8. Don’t Leave Your Utensils Out To Dry
If you’re a new renter, you’ll likely overpack and bring too much. It’s always better to be prepared, right? While there’s no problem with bringing four spatulas to your new home (we might all want to cook eggs at the same time!), you’ll need a place to put them, and this means kitchen cabinets, hidden cupboards, extra closets… make an assessment of how much the house has and think about spending a little extra money on cabinet organizers or countertop storage.
9. Take a Walk
If you’re touring this house with a guide, you likely won’t do a full 360 of the property. It takes up too much time, and, as you’ll soon find out, tours often last around 5 to 15 minutes tops. If you have the time and permission from the tenants, go outside and walk the perimeter – keep an eye on the roof and walls for any possible wear or things that might need replacing, and make sure to look at gutters and other features of the exterior too.
10. Don’t Forget The Digits
Lastly, make sure you get contact info for tenants of any houses you’re interesting in renting! Being able to talk to the previous tenants lets you in on the pros and cons for a property from people who’ve actually lived there for a year or longer—invaluable info when you’re narrowing down your options. Rental companies will do anything to rent a house, but tenants don’t care whether you fill their spot; you’ll be getting genuine information about the space that might end up saving you from an unhappy living situation in the long run.
Finding a place to live might seem a little scary, especially when you want to settle somewhere that you’ll be committing to for at least a year. Although it’s no easy task finding a place that’s within your budget and checks all your boxes, it’s possible when you go in prepared! If you follow your instincts and keep your eyes open when you tour, you’ll find yourself with a roof over your head and a place to call home sweet home come September.