…by Jana / from California / studying English Literature / 1st Year (UG)
Moving from University accommodation to private flats can be more than a little daunting. From the novelty of searching for a property on your own, to the stress of flat viewings and applications, it’s hard to know quite how to start. Here are some tips I learned in my first year:
1. Don’t panic over getting a group together and finding a flat too quickly.
While it’s important to get started with flat hunting early, wait to worry about it in January/February, rather than November or December. Keep in mind that friendships are still new in first semester and often group dynamics change after the winter break. All the groups I know of who got a flat together before December imploded over the following months; and most flats don’t start coming onto the market until February anyway.
2. Choose your flatmates wisely.
Don’t just automatically choose the people you’re closest to. Everyone has that friend they love to pieces, but know they could never live with. While you may get along great with someone in class or on nights out, if you’re a neat freak and they’re not, you’ll drive each other crazy.
Likewise, it’s also worth considering which campuses your flatmates are based at. If one of you is at George Square, another at Edinburgh College of Art and another at the King’s Buildings, it’s going to be very difficult to find a location that works for all of you.
3. Consider the internationality of your group.
One thing I didn’t realise until we actually started applying for flats is that most letting agencies will want a UK based guarantor, and in the absence of this they may ask for several month’s rent up front. This makes it both harder to find a flat and also means one member’s UK guarantor might have to be guarantor for the whole flat. Make sure you have a conversation with your flatmates about what each person’s family is comfortable with.
4. Be aware that the viewing and application process is very competitive.
Between February and April new flats can come on the market everyday. It’s worth checking different flat-listing websites every morning and calling right away to make sure you get a space on the viewing list.
5. Work out ‘musts’ beforehand.
Because things are so fast paced, and not everyone in your group might be able to make each viewing, it’s important to work out a pre-approve list of musts in any flat you look at. This way any one person in the group can set up viewings and determine whether you should put in an application.
6. Know the letting agency for each viewing.
Every letting agency has a different policy. Whether they let their flats on an application process, a lottery system, or even a first-come-first-serve basis (where you may have to pay the deposit over the phone). It’s worth knowing what the policy is before you go to a viewing. That way, you can be prepared to sprint to the agency if you like the flat or even have someone in your group waiting there to reserve the property.
7. Name the flats.
This might seem kind of strange, but it helped my flat group so much. After the fourth or fifth flat you’ve seen, it gets difficult to talk about them without mixing them up. Giving each flat a distinctive name helps to tell them apart when discussing applications!
As stressful as the whole process may seem, don’t forget to have fun with it. For a lot of people, this is the first time you’ll get to choose who you live with, and the first time you’ll get to rent your own flat and make it your own. So appreciate all the new and exciting aspects of flat hunting, remember to relax, and enjoy it!
Advisers from The Advice Place, run by Edinburgh University Students’ Association are on hand to help students with any issues or queries about accommodation.