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Studying at Cardiff University
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Renting a House in Second Year

So. How does it work? There are whispers I'm hearing of us having to start looking for a house for next year soon... What would advice be for the best time to start looking, and when do we most definitely have to have got it sorted by? And how many people do you generally need for a house?
First of all, don't get caught up in the rush and be pressured into making hasty decisions; there are plenty of houses to go around, and feel free to shop around; just because you've seen a house you like doesn't mean you can't keep on looking. There are still houses available now!

Talk to second and third years about letting agencies, some are better than others. Seriously, there's some really crap ones out there who either ignore you, rip you off or just generally take you for a ride; Keylet and Horizon especially (the latter frequently goes bankrupt!). Arguably your best bet is the Union's letting agency as they're not out to make a profit from you. The best advice is if you don't trust a particular letting agency for any reason, just walk away and find a different one to rent with. There's also a guy called John Winters who is a private landlord with really nice, good value houses (albeit slightly more expensive than others available), his website is here.

As for the number of people in a house, the usual number is anything from 3 to 8. It depends on what you want; some would say that 8 is way too many and other people would find a 3 person house much too claustrophobic. I personally think 5 is the ideal number (I live with 4 girls), however some 5 person houses will only have one bathroom which can be an issue, so you might have to shop around a bit to find one with two bathrooms or go for a 6 person house which has to have two bathrooms by law.
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You don't really want to go looking for houses until January, because properties come back onto the rental market in the New Year after current residents decide they won't be staying in the same house from next September.

Come January/February you want to know exactly who you're going to be sharing with, 4 - 6 bed houses being the most common. You can't have people not fully committed.

Then the lot of you want to walk the length of Salisbury Road, Wyeverne Road, Woodville Road, Crwys Road and Cathays Terrace and ask in every letting office that you see "What have you got in the way of 4/5/6/whatever bed houses for September?". You could potentially go to about 30 agencies in an afternoon and then decide which agents you want to take you on viewings (so whittle it down to about 4 agencies).

We had a lot of fuss and confusion not following the simple rules and house hunting is often an opportunity for uni mates to have their first big row.
Reply 3
Just realised I didn't reply to the RightSaidJames... I thought I had! Anyway, thank you (both) for the advice, it's good to know we don't have to panic yet! We have a general idea of what we want to do, but can now wait till January/post exams and deadlines...

So would you recommend using a different agency to the university one? Is it much more expensive?

Also, I've been trying to work it out but I can't, what can we expect to be paying on average for bills and stuff?
There are upwards of 30 letting agencies based in Cathays looking to let houses to students, people often prefer the Union letting agency because they don't charge the £70-ish a head one-off agency fee when you finally select your house and are a bit more diligent about things such as upkeep but they don't have anything like enough houses to go around and are but a small part of the market, you want to have at least asked in around 10 agencies and let at least 2 take you on tours.

Cardiff, no matter which of the agencies you're with, you'll be looking at houses in the £220 - £280 pcm range. Its not that different from what you'll be paying for your halls.

Electricity and gas you're talking about £20-odd per head altogether, and we've paid £90 a head for 6 months of water.

P.S. there's no substitute for actually going to the agencies and asking what they have, their websites are always very very behind. For a couple of afternoons in January/February, you and your friends want to have your walking shoes on. There are very good deals to be had!
Just realised I didn't reply to the RightSaidJames... I thought I had! Anyway, thank you (both) for the advice, it's good to know we don't have to panic yet! We have a general idea of what we want to do, but can now wait till January/post exams and deadlines...

So would you recommend using a different agency to the university one? Is it much more expensive?

Also, I've been trying to work it out but I can't, what can we expect to be paying on average for bills and stuff?

No... go for the University one if you can. No Agency Fees when you sign the contract and they're not out to rip you off because they have to uphold the Union's reputation. But they don't always get the best properties and there's no way they can cater for that many people, so by all means shop around.

As for bills, a decent estimate is £10 - £20 per person per month, that's for water, gas and electricity. Internet's pretty cheap too, most people go for Virgin which works out as a few quid each per month.
The Union one didn't have any houses for us, and we were only looking for a four bed in late February, which is the very core of the student market. The choice of agency is only a very small part of the question (even if the agency is good your landlord can still be useless, or vice versa).

Pinnacle, Interlet, 2Let2 and Capital all have very switched-on staff and work very professionally. Obviously it's nice to avoid the £70 agency fee if you can, but you only pay it once and you can factor it into the per-month cost.

Cast a wide net and take a good look at everything, as well as acting decisively when you see a house you can't reasonably see being beaten.
Reply 7
My advice would be to avoid the letting agencies if you can at all - they will generally charge you a fee equivalent to one month's rent and you will be locked in under various onerous contracts. We went with KeyLet in my second year and I found them abysmal, unable to fulfil even the most basic of requests or instruction, totally dappy and unprofessional. In our third year we just got a contract direct with our landlord for the same place. In my fifth year I found my place in June from looking in a post-office window - its the cheapest place I've rented in Cardiff since I've been here and the best in terms of space, light, location, etc. It is well worth checking out the private ads in post offices and shops. Chapter Arts has a big notice board with rooms to let on it (amongst other things). The most important thing to remember is:

Its a renter's market in Cardiff. Don't panic. Cardiff is one of the cities in the UK with the highest proportion of BTL properties, and more continues to come on stream all the time. So you will always be able to find somewhere as there are more properties to rent than there are people to live in them. You can therefore negotiate on rent to a degree and you shouldn't be freaked out to renting early. A lot of my year came in early Sept and found loads of property to look at and in that way saved themselves rent over the summer.

And my advice would be not to live in Cathays. Its a ****-hole.
Reply 8
Thanks for all the advice again. I've started having another look at places now, partly because I'm bored and partly because I was talking to some people earlier who have alreayd signed for their houses... I think they're just very eager though! We'll be going for a walk around some time in January, I think - I'm hoping (and assuming) that going in person will yield more results, because there's nothing good online.

Thanks for the bills average, that doesn't sound as bad as I was expecting!

Oh, and how do phones fit into it all? A landline would have to be set up separately by us, is that right? Is it better just to use mobiles?
Oh, and how do phones fit into it all? A landline would have to be set up separately by us, is that right? Is it better just to use mobiles?

Almost all houses will already have had landlines installed, so you'd basically just pay a provider (BT, Virgin, TalkTalk, Sky etc.) a line rental and possibly a small connection charge.

Most people don't bother with a landline, but you can often get free evening and weekend calls thrown in with Broadband deals (you still have to pay the line rental on top of that), and it's quite a good convenience to have because your parents etc. can ring you and/or leave you messages, without worrying about whether you have credit/phone signal.
About bills.. I pay about £30 a month excluding water (that's a one-off charge at the start of the year), so to those people in the £10-20 range.. how do you do it?!
I've just got my first electricity and gas bill, and the total damage (including Water and Internet) is £30 per month each for a house of 5.
Reply 12
Hi, this may be a bit late for siana17 but thought was worth posting anyway...

January is the best time to look for houses, when I was in first year we looked in January and got a great house with reasonable rent. Many of the letting agencies in Cardiff are notorious for trying to push you into signing contracts early, but fail to mention the fact there are more houses available than there are students to fill them! Cardiff Student Letting agency is by far the best; it has no agency fees and as part of the Students' Union isn't out to make a profit, and they deal with problems really quickly. Also most of their houses become available for viewings in January as they don't push current tenants into re-signing until then, so it's definitely worth waiting. The only thing is that they don't always have a massive selection of houses, so you often have to turn to the other letting agencies in Cardiff. I am with Pinnacle, and most of the time they couldn't care less (except when you're signing or re signing for your house) but they do get things done eventually... and I haven't heard of them doing anything illegal. (I daren't name names, but when I was researching for an article for gair rhydd there were a LOT of stories about some of the big letting agencies doing stuff that was illegal- illegally retaining deposits, supporting landlords trying to illegally evict tenants, that sort of thing)

You might find these articles useful;

I'm one of the features editors for gair rhydd (If you're not a Cardiff University student, it's our newspaper) and we did a housing special in November. The first link is probably most useful as is loads of people's opinions on the main letting agencies in Cardiff.

Hope all that is helpful!
If you're prepared to have a little distance to uni, try looking in the Roath side of things - down Albany road way. My household have signed for a house for third year just off city road - and we're getting SO much more for our money than in the main studenty bit. We really want quiet and whatever though, so it might notbe everyones cup of tea. Just the standard of property we saw that way was so much nicer than the stuff closer to the uni - and 20minutes walk is nothing really for a nice house!
We're with 2let2 and they've been nothing short of amazing to us. Our house isn't amazing, but it's very big and very comfy, but then we're on a low rent -£235 and a 7 bed house. Something is broken - we phone up and the handyman [who is super lovely] turns up asap and fixes it. When we told them we were looking for a 5 bed next year and told them our maximum budget, need for equal sized rooms and quiet location they did all the whittling down for us and showed us some lovely as we're staying with them we've got reduced fees and they maintain last years rent for whereas the rent on a house might normally rise from one year to next, as staying customers we're getting it for last years price.
We went to the Student Union Letting Agency last year and weren't impressed. Not saying they're bad and I know a lot of people have good experiences, but we found them unhelpful because we had such a strict set of requirements.

I'd also say, try and look at the lower end of the market. I thought I was as fussy as you can get, and without much of a bduget, but my housemates have a very low budget £240 maximum and so we had to look at the much cheaper properties. No, the houses aren't spotless but if I - an absolute clean freak - can be happy in a non perfect student house, most people can :p: also, a lot of the more expensive houses don't actually have much on ours quality wise. At least look in the cheaper range to get an idea of what you're getting for your money. Some of our friends are prepared to spend up to £280 a month for a house, which in my mind is completely ridiculous.
Reply 14
Hi again, I'm back with more housing questions! Thanks for the advice since I last looked, those articles were very useful (if unnerving...).

So, we're about to start properly looking now and I've just done a big online search. I thought I'd ask about some specific comapnies to see what people think. (I have read those articles as well.)

First, Pinnacle. Are they okay? They seem to have the most choice in the area we want.

Then there are Simpson Estates, Capital Properties (is this the CPS people talk about in the articles?) and Interlet, which I can't find much about. Any opinions?

Also, I'm slightly confused about minor issues - some house descriptions list microwave and dryer, but not all do. Does this mean those houses don't have them? Or they've just been missed of the list? Because I would have expected those things everywhere...

Also, the deposits - is this on top of everything else we pay, or is it the first month or so's rent?

Finally, television. Obviously, TV license is necessary. I don't know anything about setting up TVs though - is that all just a given? It'll be digital by the time we move (is it already?)... Do we just need to buy a TV and hook it up? Also, if funds allowed, is it possible to buy Sky or do landlords not like that?

Thank you in advance for any advice!
A lot of places don't provide a microwave or a tumble drier. my flat is quite small and we don't have either, and we didn't have a drier in our larger flat in past years. deposits - yes, you pay generally a month or 6 weeks' rent up front on top of your first month's rent - this is returned at the end (generally after you threaten the landlord with the citizen's advice bureau if they don't give you your money back). TV - that's your business when you get your flat - you supply the TV - connect it up - you need to check if the place has a decent outside aerial in which case you can get digital freeview. otherwise you'll probably end up getting digital cable (virgin) - a package with tv and internet (bank on £20-30 a month depending on the offer you choose and the offers virgin has on at the time).

Virgin are also notorious for mis-selling their packages - they tell you one price (low) and charge you another (high). Most people get fed up with waiting to speak to someone about this or complaining, so they get away with it.
Pinnacle aren't the best, they don't really take their student customers that seriously and tend to do things entirely on their schedule. On the other hand, they're quite lax with things like late payments, so it depends on what kind of person you are. I'm with Abraham (Crwys Road) and I think they're really good, they do get things sorted and they act very professional. Avoid Horizon at all costs, they frequently bankrupt themselves and are just generally awful.

Most houses don't have a drier (mine doesn't), and a microwave is sometimes a given, but not always.
Reply 17
Thank you both.

I hadn't looked at Abraham, even though I live almost opposite them, but just did and they have some lovely-looking places. I'll add it to our list of agents to visit...

Is it possible to buy our own microwave...?
You can get a Tesco Value Microwave that does the job just fine (our house has one):

I think they sell them in the big Tesco by Talybont.
Reply 19
Hey, guys! I found this tread and thought i should tell u about my experience with agency 2let2 in Cardiff. As im the first year in cardiff uni, so my flatmates and I recently started looking for the house for 2nd year. We went through different agencies, but decided on 2let2 as they are the only agency, which doesnt ask for deposit. As they explained at first, all we need to do is to pay £75 agency fee and sign the contract, but after paying the agency fee, the conditions has changed. The thing is, they gave us guarantor agreement, as they explained they needed someone responsible for us if we cant pay. Fair enought, but that guarantor agreemet works only for students who has parents or acquaintance as residents in the UK and own their property. As I am an international student, I couldnt have a guarantor. What they offered me to do is to sign the contract and sign the paper in which i undertake to pay the whole year amount by the time I move in. It seemed, that we decided on it, but when the time to sign the contract came, they told me that i ll have to pay the whole amount before signing the contract.... I couldnt trust them anymore, cause they were changing their mind and conditions too much, so i gave up upon thee house and above all stress i had, i lost my £75 agency fee. My mistake was that i havent asked for the paper which would say that i paid £75 for certain services (cause agency fee is known as administration fee in which they undertake to provide with all possible services including making up the contract, help solving problems, etc.). If i had such, i'd be able to get my money back... Btw, my flatmates, who had guarantor had to pay first instalment (payment for first 3 months) before signing the contract (and they said no deposit, huh?).. So, that's my story... What i was trying to say, that it is very important to decide on all conditions with agency not only verbally, but also in written form before paying any money. Be careful, guys!

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