It’s nearly the end of term, and the dreaded topic of housing is already common place in many conversations. Who to live with, where to live, how to find the ‘dream’ house are already hot topics in the fresher community- but please, stop panicking!
It’s worth remembering that there is nearly a whole year until you actually have to move into private rented accommodation. More importantly, SUSU will be offering ample support and advice in their upcoming housing campaign, which takes place in January. So rest assured you can sleep easy for a little longer, but if you cannot totally cast of the shackles of the impending housing hysteria, what can be done in the meantime?
It’s never too early to start thinking about who you want to live with- remember these are the people you will have to share bills, washing up and basically your life with. No one is suggesting that you should draw up a Mary Poppins style list of qualities which you are looking for in housemates, but it can’t hurt to at least consider your priorities- someone you get on with well may not necessarily make a harmonious housemate. Make the most of the numerous societies and opportunities of meeting new people which the fresher’s experience has to offer- your flatmates might not necessarily be the best fit for you. Also, consider interests, social activities, sleeping patterns and reluctance to engage in domestic chores; these qualities could be key players in your eventual domestic bliss.
Although it may seem that every estate agent in Southampton is already bombarding you, it is important not to feel pressurised into scrambling for the first house you see. Many students run around like headless chickens in the fear that all properties with a roof and door will be let out in the first month of the letting season. It seems that some of the estate agents are keen to encourage this school of thought, with one large Southampton student housing estate agents citing that they had let thirty one properties before the end of first week of the letting season. Unfortunately, many estate agents may be likely to exploit the propensity to panic buy, which can lead to inflation and a lot of hasty decisions which are later, regretted.
Once you have signed your contract, there is no going back, which is why it is crucial to make certain living decisions before you put pen to paper. It is advisable to keep a cautious eye to the tricks of the notorious estate agent trade. SASSH, the Southampton accreditation scheme for student housing has a database of approved properties with an average weekly rent of £84.23, as well as an online guide to private rented housing.
The couple of weeks between now and January may be crucial in helping you to make big choices such as who to live with. Unless there is a ‘Great Fire of London’ style inferno in Southampton before next year, there will be plenty of perfectly nice properties, just waiting for you to browse at your own, leisurely pace. Starting to browse properties for ideas can be a fun pastime to cure the weekend hangover, but don’t get drawn into anything yet- keep an open mind. A lot of letting agents bring new properties out after Christmas, so it may do you favours to hold back from the initial rush of panic buying.
Whatever you do, don’t feel like you have to bear the house-hunting burden alone, take advantage of the excellent support that the University and SUSU has to offer. The SUSU housing page has a very useful housing guide including ‘dos and don’ts’ and viewing checklists. And if you have already been foresighted enough to find a group of housemates and a property, the University Advice Centre runs a contract checking practise, so you know exactly what you are signing for.
Although many amongst us are already picking out curtains, there is definitely no need to panic about housing yet or rush into anything you may later regret. Relax and enjoy the approach to Christmas (which is stressful enough alone!) and wait for the upcoming University housing campaign. Until then, think about your priorities in a housemate and who you want to live with. Make the most of your time and friends in halls, the housing countdown will shortly begin!