Finding accommodation for your second year and beyond in London can be daunting. Here are some things to consider when renting in London
With unscrupulous landlords and estate agents and the frankly ridiculous cost of rent, it is easy to end up in a less than idea situation. As a seasoned student renter since 2010, here are some tips I have learned through trial and error.
Location is a massive factor to take into account: where you are in terms of travel to uni and proximity to fun is important for both practical reasons and for your general quality of life. There are countless search engines that will calculate location by travel time: all you’d have to do is insert your preferred maximum travel time and it will show you suitable tube stations.
Many property searches also now include this feature or a draw-your-search feature. These can be helpful. Using this I managed to live 30 minutes’ walk away from university but still be on a cusp of zone 2/3 and therefore pay a much lower rent.
Also, be sure to actually explore the area before you settle on it. It is often best to do viewings by area: find three viewings to do in a particular area and walk around in between. I often would find a bit gap between viewings in which I could search for more properties while sitting in a local pub or café.
The timing of your search can be exceedingly important. If you can, catch the end of year student exodus. Around late June, estate agents will begin to advertise the houses that current students are moving out of. These are often low rent (because students) and the landlords are obviously happy to take on students and accept guarantors. If you miss this window, allow no more than 2 months for searching and often far less. You will spend more time looking online and calling estate agents than you will spend actually looking at houses. I usually leave 6 weeks to search: about 2-3 weeks for the search and selection, followed by 2-3 weeks of signing, packing and moving.
Choosing your home; choosing your household
Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give: it is significantly cheaper to live in a group of 3 or 4. Fun fact: I once lived with one other person in a flat. It was tiny, the kitchen only had enough room for one of us to stand in, the walls were thin and the flat had not been redecorated since 1979 by the look of it. There was an avocado bath suites and burgundy carpet. It was grim. The following year, I moved into a house share with 3 other people. It was a large house, recently decorated, with a garden and the kitchen built for humans rather than pixies. I paid £100 less in rent for the nice house than I did for the dingy flat. These properties were 5 minutes’ walk, if that, from one another.
What does one do, then, if they only have one person to live with? The answer if team up! Check Spareroom, university message boards and occasionally even Facebook and the StudentRoom for rooms in an existing private house-shares. Search on these from actual rooms BUT ALSO for extra people who have not found a house yet. If you manage to get a group of 3 or 4 together fast enough, there is nothing stopping you from then looking for a house as a group. In my last house-share, my friend and I decided we would look for 4 person houses and advertise for a pair of housemates simultaneously. We signed nothing until we had met and decided upon the people. It worked brilliantly and affordably.
This group living, however, does not mean you should rent a singular room directly from an agent. This is often a trap: an overpriced, overcrowded mess. It also offers you far less security and far less control over rent. If you do need to go it alone, join an existing flat share. Often a single housemate will decide to leave a share that is rented by a group. It is always better to join onto these contracts: you will see the bills you pay, you will have a say in the house because you are not renting just a room but joining a household and if you have a gripe with the agent or landlord it will be in the interest of those you live with to help you. Use the same websites and means I mentioned above. Due to housemates moving out of London in my second year of uni, I had to go it alone. I found a room in an existing house-share of students from another uni. It was friendly, well supported and well-maintained because there was a pre-existing feeling of solidarity and homeliness does not come from renting a single room from a landlord or agent.