Choosing Your First Home

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10 things to avoid

1. Dodgy contracts

These do exist and it is vital that you avoid them. Try to use the Univeristy’s approved contract, or get your landlord’s one checked by a lawyer or the uni before you sign it. Your landlord should give you a copy and be happy for you to get it checked. If they are not, be suspicious and definitely get it looked at.

2. No deposit protection

If your landlord does not put your deposit into the Deposit Protection Scheme, do not take the house – they’re acting illegally.

3. High agency fees

Agencies often charge extortionate amounts of money for their services, called agency fees, which generally just include showing you around properties. Ask the agency outright how much they charge, and ensure you look at other options.

4. Mould!

Unsightly, looks incredibly unhygienic and is best removed: no one wants mould! Poor ventilation in your bathroom and damp all contribute to the fungi’s growth and once it is there, removing it permanently is very hard. When viewing any house, ask if there is a substantial mould issue, and who is responsible for its removal. In most cases, landlords cannot be held responsible for mould and it will be down to you to remove it. If you don’t want that task, don’t take a mouldy house!

5. A tiny box room

Houses with one smaller bedroom often lead to arguments over who gets it. A good way of solving the issue is to adjust that person’s rent to a lower sum and to increase the rent of the person with the largest room. The situation is best avoided unless everyone is happy with the arrangement.

6. Not enough bathrooms

We’ve all been there. You oversleep after a heavy night out and only have ten minutes to get ready for your lecture. And there’s a massive queue for the bathroom. Annoying but avoidable. Check carefully that there is a good bathroom to bedroom ratio; using your halls as an example is a good starting point.

7. Looking too late

It’s easy to put off house searching until right at the last moment. However, this will mean that you are left with everyone else’s rejects, and may panic and not decide properly.

8. Rushing into a contract

On the other side of the coin, it is also vitally important that you don’t just agree to the first house that you see. Have a look at a few houses quite early, so that you have a good idea of what is on the market and for what price. Then, when you are ready to look seriously, you will be in a much better position to choose the perfect house.

9. Bad landlords

Unsurprisingly, many landlords live up to their reputations and are not all that concerned about their tenants. It is therefore vital that you check with the pervious tenants that the landlord is reliable, quick to fix anything that goes wrong and honest, in both the contract and with your deposit.

10. Sharing with people that you don’t always get on with…

Sharing a house is very different to halls. You don’t have a cleaner and there are bills that need to be sorted. Think hard about how personality dynamics might play out.

10 things to look for

1. Location, location, location

There are two main areas for student housing, behind the library, which means you are only a ten minute walk to your lectures, or in Portswood, where you are only a ten minute stroll to the clubs. The choice is yours.

2. Security

Be aware that student houses will be targeted by thieves, so ensure that your house has decent security measures. Make sure that windows are all lockable, rooms have a separate key and any perimeter fencing is well maintained.

3. Furniture

It’s important to ascertain what comes with the rental and what does not. The last thing you want is to turn up and find that a bed wasn’t included! Ensure that you check with your landlord, and when you first move in, complete an inventory so that you cannot be accused of stealing or damaging anything.

4. Utilities

Does your house have its own washing machine? If not, is there a laundrette nearby? How much does it cost? Do you want a dishwasher? Is your oven in good working condition? All good questions to consider when viewing property.

5.  Rent

Landlords will not be happy if you cannot afford to pay your rent, and you can be evicted if you fail to pay it. Make sure that you settle on a price that you will able to pay every month, even over summer and other holidays.

6. Parking

Planning on bringing your car to uni? Check the parking provisions for your road – are there any restrictions or permits?

7. Communal areas

The kitchen and lounge are important areas in any student household, as the locations for parties and gatherings. It is therefore important that they suit your needs, space and furniture wise. A large room with no chairs is great for a party, but not so good for a film night.

8. Fire alarms and carbon monoxide testers

It is compulsory by law that your house has some form of fire detection and fighting equipment. It is suggested by the government and the Fire Officers Association that every house has at least one smoke detector, a fire blanket in the kitchen and a fire extinguisher.

9. Double glazing

It may seem trivial but double glazing will not only help keep your heating bill down, it will also prevent outside noise interfering with your sleep, and noise from parties getting out.

10. Garden

Great for BBQs and other social gatherings, a large garden can be a real asset to any house. However, the larger they are, the more work that will need to be done to keep them usable, so it is a good idea to check with your landlord if he has any provisions for the upkeep, or if it is left up to you.

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