Top Tips for House Hunting

Top Tips for House Hunting

Emma Palmer


Deciding on your accommodation for the next academic year can seem like a very daunting task. Here, I share my top tips for choosing houses, housemates and what questions to ask!

Deciding to live with your mates seems like the best thing ever – you have your own house, you choose who you live with (so avoid the odd flatmates), you can have house parties (maybe not right now…), and you can make the place look really pretty with fairy lights everywhere. Sometimes, the reality is a little different and there are some important things to ask yourself and others before signing the contract.


Things to Ask Before Booking a Viewing

  • What is my budget for weekly rent?
  • How far am I willing to walk to university? – I managed to get somewhere that means I can leave 10 minutes before I need to be on campus which was a lifesaver, but think about how willing you are to wake up early for a 9am lecture.
  • Can I live with these people for a year? – You may be able to tolerate each other in lectures, but how about when they are singing in the shower at 2am and you just want to sleep? Also, if you end up having to isolate, can you tolerate being stuck inside with no escape from each other?
  • Do they have a partner who may stay the night? – Just so you know there may be another human around sometimes
  • What are your potential housemates’ interests, can you get along outside of studying together? – Can you settle on a film to watch, which fairy lights to put up, can you make conversation outside of uni work?
  • Do any of you smoke? – If so, how often, and when looking at houses, where will you go to do so?
  • Do you have similar routines? – Will they get up at the crack of dawn deep cleaning the house or will they not surface until the early hours of the evening and proceed to stay awake until 4am? Best to prepare yourself before the first night in a house!
  • Are they reliable and self-sustaining? – In other words, will they be able to pay rent on time or will it be a case of “could you pay a bit for me just this once?” Similarly, will they wash up their own bits or continuously use your favourite pan and never wash it properly so it gets disgusting and you end up crying on the phone to your mum because that was your pan
  • Sharing is caring, or every one for themselves? – Translation: will the house cleaning be shared or is it a case of I will clean my mess and refuse to touch any other aspect of the house? 


Questions to Ask at a Viewing

  • What is the monthly rent per person?
  • Who lives next door? – Are they students, working professionals (who don’t like being woken up by the Greatest Showman blaring out at 2am) or a retired couple? Also important, is there a dog next door?
  • What is included in the rent (e.g. bills, council tax, furnishings, TV license and internet)?
  • If bills are not included, who are the gas/electricity providers and how much roughly does this cost per month? – Generally, it’s an extra £10 per person, per month (pppm).
  • Who is the broadband provider and how good is the internet connection?
  • How old is the boiler (and any other appliances that come with the property!)
  • What is the neighbourhood like? – Student populated, supposedly a bit dodgy, quiet and friendly?
  • As tenants, are we responsible for maintenance of outside? – If so, check for anything that may cause issues i.e trees growing, crumbling bricks, etc.
  • Is the tenancy joint or separate?
  • Does my deposit go into a Deposit Protection Scheme?
  • Where is the nearest supermarket? – Priority when you realise you’ve run out of milk halfway through making the perfect cuppa.
  • Is there a parking space on the property, or is it free/permit on-street parking? – Good to know if you drive, if anyone comes to visit, and for when moving in/out!
  • Is there an up to date inventory of the property? Do you need to invest in anything such as lamps, desk chairs etc (normally student properties are all fully furnished!)
  • Does the letting agency or landlord manage the property – i.e. who to contact when the boiler breaks.
  • How much is the deposit? – Usually between £200-300, better get saving (otherwise ring the parents)!


Don’t Rent Until Your Set!

One key thing to remember is that before rushing into signing contracts, you know exactly what you’re doing. With the uncertainty of this year, check that your prospective housemates are definitely:

  1. Staying in York for the full academic year.
  2. Are dedicated to staying at University, this avoids the issues of replacing tenants and loneliness if your housemates decide to live at home.

Landlords are known for sometimes trying to rush students into contracts, landing them with sometimes questionable accommodation. Speak to previous tenants and check online reviews (not on their website!) to see how things really are.

Make sure you’re happy with the situation. It’s easy to just be the easy-going, “I’m happy with whatever type”, but trust me, I was there and it doesn’t necessarily make life any easier. If anything, it causes you issues further down the line as your housemates may end up taking advantage of that and you may end up with a house you’re not best pleased with – so set your boundaries and wants/needs early on!

Of course, there are so many more things to think about when deciding where to live, and a quick google search does wonders. More often than not letting agencies are helpful enough to provide FAQs on their websites, and tend to tell you a lot about the property and renting procedure at a viewing.


Remember, if you’re struggling for somewhere to live, check out some Facebook groups as there are often people offering tenancies in shared accommodation. Students are also regularly posting tenancies in our Virtual Community group on Facebook and on sites such as Spare Room who advertise rooms in shared houses.