Preparation is key before viewing properties. Consider taking a camera and perhaps prepare some questions before hand. Your main goal here is to be as curious as possible leaving little error for forgotten questions, remember this is the place where you’re going to spend a year of your life so don’t be shy to ask pressing questions.
Another thing to decide before you conduct your viewings is whether you’re going to allow an agency to handle the process for you, or whether you’re going to go directly through the landlord. Going through an agency adds an extra layer of security, the agency will handle the process acting as a “middle man” which in turn ensures all paperwork is done and legally protects you. This leaves little error for loopholes.
Another option is handling the process directly with the landlord. This option, although a bit more personal, may entail risks, so ensure the landlord you are dealing with holds all the necessary safety and security certifications.
Here are some notable problems to be aware of whilst viewing a student home:
Possibly the most common issue on the list is damp. Now, most students may not care too much at the first sign of dampness, cheap is good, right? Well it’s not always just a problem with the cosmetics of the property. This can very well pose a health risk if not dealt with immediately and if that’s not enough to startle you, it can ruin your clothes as well which is the obvious priority here!
You’ll want to keep your eyes out for any signs of flaking of the paint/wallpaper or black mould patches. Mould is also quite common within cupboards and wardrobes, so do snoop around a bit. Lastly, be aware of the smell of the house, as you can often smell dampness even if there are no visual symptoms.
You don’t want to be sharing your accommodation with any unwanted guests, so take precautions to keep your living space as a human only living space. Pests aren’t unheard of in student houses so keep your eye out for any signs of them. The signs to look out for include slug trials, droppings or rat traps.
Now as appealing as it sounds to move next to your party crazed friends, it may not be as great as you think a couple months down the line. When your fresher’s spirit is long gone and your essays are building up the constant noise may not be the best revision incentive. Although it’s fun for the first couple weeks, the novelty can quickly wear off. That’s not to say you should live in the middle of nowhere 30 minutes from any sign of civilisation but you should consider if staying away from the loud friends would be a beneficial move.
You should also check the area out on your way to a viewing, look out for any important buildings such as supermarkets, doctors, newsagent’s, pubs and clubs. The last thing you want is a 20-minute trek to your ‘local’ supermarket for a pint of milk at 9 am. If you’re stuck in this unlikely scenario, it’s worth noting any transport links in your area for those emergencies.
A student house can be a prime location for theft – a house full of laptops and gadgets with clumsy students who leave keys in doors! Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need your own personal round the clock security team, as that would be a little on the expensive side, but one fast and simple way you can ensure you have the maximum (as far as it goes for students) security is by checks. Simply checking the doors and windows are secure is the first step. It might also help to do a bit of research on the area you are moving into. If this unfortunate event was to happen, then you can cover your possessions within the property with Students Contents Insurance. This is a policy that covers your contents against loss, damage or theft. It will also insure your contents from any water leakage, or damage caused by storms or flooding. Typical items covered by a policy include furniture, clothes, electrical items, money and jewellery. Also, make sure to check there are working fire alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets.
Living in a group of 5 or more does mean that landlords must abide by HMO Regulations (more information can be found here). If you feel one or more of these regulations are not being met, don’t be afraid to ask you landlord; they exist for your own personal safety and comfort.
For more information on this matter do read this great article by Lock Smiths which comprises helpful security tips to bear in mind when living in a student accommodation. (better link this to the clumsy one of the group)
5. Check if the appliances are in working order
When viewing the property, make a note of all electrical appliances and whether they’re included or not. Make sure to flag any causes of concern with either your letting agent or your landlord then be sure to make amends to your tenancy agreement that ensures the landlord fixes them before you move in.
Do also make mental notes of whether there is enough space for all of you, ensure there are enough appliances to cater the various meals you will all be cooking at once and check there is adequate fridge/storage space so you don’t end up storing bowls and frying pans in your rooms. Look out for any dodgy looking plug sockets, if you spot any loose or exposed cables see to them immediately as they are extremely dangerous.
- Water Supply
Multiple students in one house means the property is going to be very heavy on water usage. You need to check the water pressure to make sure your showers are more than just a drip. Check the taps and toilets during your rounds of the property whilst keeping vigilant for any damp patches or signs of leakage; water damage causes ongoing problems if not treated with haste.
- Furnishing and fittings
Make sure you 100% understand everything that’s included with the property. From beds to washing machines to towel racks, you want to know exactly what you’re getting to avoid any surprises.
- Check insulation
Student loan – much like anything else – doesn’t like unnecessary bills, so do what you can to shrink them. One such thing you can look at is the insulation of the house. Typically, bad insulation = cold house and cold house = expensive heating bills. So, to counter this problem, check the windows to ensure they’re double glazed, the doors to check they’re secure and the heating system is relatively modern (just ask the agent this question). Note down any drafts you receive then use this knowledge to determine which room is the warmest.
It’s also worth having a glance up at the roof tiles before entering the property, you don’t want water leakages from rain fall throughout the year.
You can check out your energy proficiency rating here.
- Resist Freebies – Do your market research
As tempting as that 4K Television seems it’s most likely not worth it. Some landlords offer ‘freebies’ with their contracts such as a no utility bills for a year or a ridiculously overpriced and irrelevant TV to drive their prices up. Ask yourself whether you need these gimmicks before purchasing. These ‘kind’ gestures may be an effort to blind you from some real issues with the property or to drive up the price. What you can do before visiting the property is a bit of research on the area. You can conduct this research on property websites such as Rightmove or Zoopla, simply type in the area surrounding the property you are viewing and compare it to other properties being rented. If you discover an evident gap between the prices, that may be an indication that something isn’t right with the property.
- Talk to existing tenants
At the end of your viewings it’s worth catching an unbiased opinion on the place, your go-to-person will be the previous tenants. No one will know the house more than they do, so feel free to ask them as many questions as possible (possibly later when the landlord or agent isn’t around). They may make you aware of something the landlord has missed out on in the past or whether they’re lazy with maintenance of the property and so on. One super easy way to get these details out of the previous tenants without it being too awkward is to ask the simple question, “What’s the best & worst thing about living in this house?”
Now, go out there and put these steps into practice. Don’t be too hesitant, you need to act quickly after you’ve thoroughly discussed the options and reached a consensus or you’ll miss your window of opportunity. Student houses tend to go fast so plan before and bag your accommodation, hassle free.
If this is all too much to take in or you’re just feeling a bit stuck, give us a call on 01454 316718. Have a conversation with our student lettings specialist, Sally.
Or, if you’re interested in letting a property under us, visit our Student Application page and submit an application.