So, you’re nearly finished with 1st year, and you’ve got 3 months to decide where you’re going to live and who you’re going to live with and you realise that you realise you have no idea how to start looking for a house for 2nd year…you start thinking: Who am I going to live with? Do I really want to live with the same people I’m living with now? Where do I even want to live? How am I going to afford it? Within 3 months of living in halls everyone is trying to decide who they want to live, where they want to live…and you’re sat there thinking..I really don’t know what I want to do. The truth is, deciding who you want to live with 3 months into 1st year, is probably the worst idea and I guarantee you, you won’t end up living with the same people you were friends with during freshers. You start to think, “Mmm, maybe I should stay in halls? I’ll meet new people, it’s cheaper and I don’t have to worry about bills.” but by the end of May you realise that there is no way you could ever live in halls again… no more kitchen inspections, no more overflowing bins full of bin juice, no mouldy food in your fridge and no more living with people you hate. But, how do I start?
Who am I going to live with?
If you’re 100% sure who you’re going to live with – great! If you can’t decide whether to live with people from flat 702, or flat 203, or your course mates it’s going to be a lot harder. A lot of the time there is about 10 of you who want to live together, but getting a 10 bed house in London isn’t happening. So firstly, to establish who you’re going to live with, you need to remember that you’re going to be house sharing with these people, even if they’re your bezzie mate does not mean that it will be easy to live with them. If there is more than 5 of you who want to live together it is probably best to have a discussion about where everyone wants to live and what their budget is in order to see who’s more suitable with who – at this point this usually causes fights, but keep in mind again, you need to choose wisely about who you’re going to be living with for the next year. There are a few vital things you need to think about when it comes to deciding who you’re living with: what area do people want to live in, what is their budget and commuting times to and from uni/work. If you’re in the situation where your friends can afford a 700pm house in Angel, and you can only afford a 500pm house in Brockely, don’t feel pressured into living with them if you really can’t afford it. Firstly, speak to them about your budget and maybe they will agree to compromising so you’re able to live with them, but this isn’t always the case, and if it’s not, you’re better off finding people who do have the same budget or finding/joining a house share.
If I think back to this time next year, it took a lot of deliberation, and arguments till we eventually came to agreement who was/wasn’t living with each other and where we wanted to live. Although we were in the same halls, I wasn’t living in the same flat as the majority of my friends I was planning on living with, which didn’t worry me too much as we all were on the same wavelength. After we decided to live with each other we then established where everyone wants to live and what our budget is, and luckily enough we all agreed on a budget and an area, so this wasn’t too hard for us.
Where do I want to live?
Lets face it, London is expensive, and we all know that. But it’s not until you start searching for houses until you realise truly how expensive it is to live in London. After you’ve had the privilege to live in a modern flat, 4 min away from a tube station in Zone 2 for 175 pw you’re going to find it hard to ‘downgrade’ to the true London living. The first thing I recommend you do once you have decided on a budget is do some research to areas which can accommodate your budget. Next, you need to establish what is your main priority? Do you care about how long it takes you to commute? Are you willing to sacrifice spending more money in order to be in central London? Do you want to be closer to uni/work? or would you rather have a big, modern house further out from central for less money? You also have to think about specifics of the area you’re going to live in: do you want it to be a student or residential area? Do you want it to have a good nightlife and places to eat? What type of transport links would you prefer? It’s endless…. but everyone will more or less know vaguely what they want but it’s doing research and finding out from other students about their experiences that helps this whole process.
Finding a place to live
Next step is actually finding a place to live. Once you know what you’re looking for, you’re going to have to invest all your time during summer doing endless searches to find the perfect home for you and your friends. If you’re looking in a specific area, check if there are any estate agents which are known to specifically rent in that area. Contact them and ask them for help for finding a place, you need to make sure you tell them specifics about how many bedrooms you want, preferred number of bathrooms, preferred type of property, whether you want a living room or lounge, and most importantly whether you want a furnished/unfurnished property – this will ensure that they able to find properties which accommodate all your needs. If you’re not looking in a specific area, you can contact any estate agent and do the same. It’s always good to have an idea of particular areas you’d be interested in, in order to have a more specific search, if it’s too broad it’ll take up more time and you won’t be as successful finding a place. A substitute to speaking to estate agents is using websites such as www.rightmove.co.uk, or Facebook groups like South East London C-OP. I would recommend saving the links to all the properties you’re interested in, it’s important to be organised (as I wasn’t), so you can go through the process as efficiently as possible. Create a group chat with the people you’re going to live with so you can all post links to properties you might be interested in, this way you can all be involved and you can easily communicate. As it’ll be the summer holiday, it might be the case that you’re not all in London so at least this way everyone can be involved and be active in the search. When you start viewing houses, take photos so you can share them with your other friends, and make sure you find out as much as possible about the property. Photos become really important in the decision making process, and allows you to refer back. If you can, ask the current tenants about the property so you can get a realistic opinion about the property. Once you have viewed quite a few properties you need to start eliminating unsuitable properties and establishing which ones can be an option. Note that a lot of estate agents want the process to happen quickly, because they’re going to be doing viewings and it will be based on whoever is quickest.
I can’t find a place to live – what do I do?
Have you friends bailed on you? Your friends want to live in North London, you want to live South? You might be panicking, but there are still plenty of options. The most useful way of finding house shares is by browsing Facebook Groups. There are several Facebook Groups specifically advertising room's to rent, like, South East London CO–OP, London Flat Share, East London Flatshare, Houseshare and Accommodation etc. Once you've joined the groups you need to thoroughly browse through and keep notifications for the group "on", so you're notified at new posts. You can also write a post introducing yourself, stating what your budget is/any other requirements – make it fun so people are more likely to pick you. This process may seem tedious but it's worth it! Once you start viewing houses you want to make sure to meet all the people you might be living with or you might be in a difficult situation down the line.. When you go for viewings make sure you ask all the questions you have whether it's your potential housemates or the property itself. I would also recommend looking on other Facebook groups such as UAL groups other university groups, or groups specifically for student housing, also have a look at the section for accommodation on Commonplace, which consists of advertisements.
Another way to get yourself a last minute room is www.spareroom.com. Spareroom allows you to list your requirements (budget, type of house etc) and it also allows you to put in personal details, which allows both those looking for a room, and those looking for someone to fill their room more of an insight about each other.
After you've spent weeks browsing on every possible property and agency site, and you've spent hours meeting up with agents to view your potential house you realise you finally need to decide. If there's a few of you house sharing, if not all of you have viewed the properties make sure everyone gets the opportunity to, and if they're unable to make sure they've seen photos and have got all the details – you don't want your mate coming back from their summer holiday's and moving into the house which is over their budget and too far from their university... this is going to cause problems, so keep everyone in the loop throughout the process! I would recommend getting your glitter pens and paper out, and making a list of pros and cons of each place as a group so you can visually see what your likely options are. Once you've done this, keep narrowing it down until you get to your final choice.
You’ve decided, and you’ve put the deposit down. What now?
It's time to pack! Whether you're living at home, halls, or private accomodation you're going to need to pack what you've accumlated over the last year. If you've decided what rooms you're getting and you're getting the smallest one it's probably best you downsize (this is my biggest tip out of everything!). In order to downsize you need to make a list (time to get the glitter pens out again!). Make a list consisting of "keep", "maybe keep", "throw away/give away". But before you get started, first clear out any junk or rubbish that's in your room and bathroom, whether it's half empty conditioner which you'll never use or print outs of your essay which you'll never use – throw it out now. Make sure all obvious clutter and mess is out of the way. Next, you need to organise your clothes. The best way to do this is make piles of similar items, for example, black crop tops and have a look at what you've got in each pile and decide what you want to keep, what needs to be thrown and what can be given away. After you've done this put the clothes your keeping back into your wardrobe for when you pack it away. Next you need to move on to your desk, same thing applies, don't keep pens which have run out, take back your dusty library books and invest in some folders (if you haven't already) to store all important documents or work. Once you've done this you're going to find you still have piles of things which you don't know what to do with, once again, sort through, throw, keep, give away. Once you've done this, you need to invest in some boxes – I recommend going to your local shops which will have flat packed boxes which you can re use, or you can order some online. I would also recommend getting plastic boxes which you can use as storage once you arrive at your new house. Make sure each box is organised and labelled, so when you move in and you're trying unpack it's a lot easier.
You also need to think about how you're moving your boxes. If all your future housemates live in the same halls as you, have a browse online for a man in a van, or removal companies. If you don't end up planning ahead, I'd recommend an Uber as a last minute resort.
Packing is probably the most stressful, but, satisfying part of moving – so be organised (I wasn’t).