The life of a dorm student is not for everyone. Maybe your school is a commuter college and doesn't have dorms. Or maybe it's just too expensive to live on campus. Or maybe the dorms at your university are full of partiers and you'd rather pass your classes. Or you are an international student. Whatever the reason, you're ready to get an apartment and live off campus.
Establish Your Budget
First things first: you have to establish a budget. A budget is a breakdown of basic expenses like your housing costs, utilities, cell phone bill, transportation fare, and food. This expense total tells you how much you need to earn to live. When looking for houses it's essential to have a budget in place so you know off-hand what you can and cannot afford. The tendency will be to look at more expensive flats than you can afford, so keep that number firmly in mind. Keep in mind too that you will have to pay utilities, which is another £100 or so per month.
Determine What Features You Want
After you build your budget but before you go shopping for apartments, list out all the features you want in an apartment. Do you want first floor or second? Does it need to be near a park? How close to your job to you want it to be? Ask questions relating to its quality, it's location, and it's amenities before you start looking. Then identify which of these items are a necessity and which are nice to have. This should give you a starting point for looking so you don't feel overwhelmed.
Identify Potential Apartments
It's time to identify properties to visit now that you have both a budget and features list in hand. There are many ways to find apartments for rent and a combination of a few will be needed. The first method is to simply tour the area that you want to live in. A second option is to scour the newspaper or Craigslist for apartments for rent; it's easier to find deals this way. A third option is to talk to friends and family to solicit their thoughts on apartments and availability. Someone may have seen an availability sign while passing through an area and could point you there. Or they may be able to tell you which places are gold and which are rubbish. Another option is to talk to an agent. Your family may have pointers as to who to visit. Companies like HE Lettings are open to students. At this phase, you want to research everything and get as much information as possible before you narrow down results.
Once you've narrowed it down to a few apartments, it's time to actually visit. For this, act as if the visit is a job interview. Dress well and act professionally so that the landlord receives the impression that you are the responsible young adult that you are. Dressing sloppy makes the landlord think that you won't take care of the residence.
When you visit, take note of the condition of the apartment:
Check for mould or mildew inside or outside the flat
Look for water damage along the ceiling, windows, or walls
Make sure that doors close and lock
Check the condition of the faucets and plumbing
Check that the appliances work
Another item to check? The neighbourhood. If neighbours seem rowdy when you visit, it's likely that they'll remain rowdy after you move in. Also ask about which utilities you would be Visit multiple apartments before you make a final decision about where to move.
Evaluate and Sign the Contract
Once you've found an apartment that fits your budget and your needs then it's time to evaluate and sign a contract with a landlord. A good contract will stipulate the weekly or monthly cost of the apartment, the up-front deposit, any pet or additional deposits, when rent is due, the lease start and end dates, and who is responsible for what when it comes to maintenance and general upkeep. Be sure to make sure that anything that was agreed upon verbally also be put in writing.
The fun part of the entire process is when you take possession and finally move in. Of course, double-check your apartment carefully and notify the landlord immediately if there are issues before you start bringing in your items. If there are any issues take pictures with dates so you have proof when it comes time to move out. Finally, make arrangements with any utility companies or service providers right away so you don't experience a loss in service.
Isaac Walters works in student support services and knows about helping students find accommodation. He likes to share his insights with an online audience and writes regularly for a number of different websites.
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