Seven Steps To Domestic Heaven

How a house full of students will help you choose the perfect home

Just staring at the stain won't get it clean!

Choosing your new student home is one of the biggest decisions you will make while you’re at Uni. It’s a big chunk of your budget and it needs to feel like a home, so making sure you’ve thought of everything before you take the plunge will save a lot of head and heart ache.

Here seven students who lived together for two years share the secrets of their domestic bliss, by leading you through the pitfalls of renting, house sharing and offering advice.

They’ve since grown up (a little) and all have jobs and rent houses either alone, with other friends, or their partners, but what they learnt in their first student houseshare has stood them in good stead…

Housemate 1: Emma – the wild child
Emma was trying to choose who to live with. She thought that she was pretty much the perfect housemate because she loved a party, liked to cook and was very chatty. She forgot that she never cleaned up her spaghetti bolognaise, and came in ‘chatty’ at three in the morning!

The perfect housemate is someone different to everyone, and house sharing for Emma meant she had to learn that some people like their personal space and peace and quiet.
When you think about your perfect housemates think about what sort of people you get on with, and if they share the same idea of a good time as you do. Setting up some ground rules will make sure everyone feels their needs are understood, and made it easy to tell Emma to shut up when she was singing Girls Aloud while sitting on the front step…

Housemate 2: Mimi – the location scout
Mimi wanted it all; to be near bars and clubs, the city centre for some retail therapy, and Uni so that the housemates didn’t have to trek too far when they decided to educate themselves.

Most student cities have areas where all the students live, and while it can sometimes feel like you haven’t seen an older person in days, living in student land can have its advantages. You’ll be right next to Uni, but there’ll also be a community vibe, some areas have expanded because their student populations wanted more cafes and shops.

Living further away from Uni may mean more peace and quiet, but a longer commute to lectures, which can add to your transport costs. Prices will vary according to which area you want to live in, be sure to check out several areas before you make a decision.

Mimi wanted to be near her building at Uni, as well as some of her coursemates’ houses, so they choose a house in a
popular student area, which carried a slightly larger price tag, but ticked more of their boxes.

Housemate 3: Tom – the numbers man.
Economics student Tom knew how much he had to spend, and that was what he was sticking to. Before you start to look at houses, know how much there is in the kitty. Don’t force members of the group into paying more than they want to, when it came to the penthouse with Jacuzzi, Tom could not be moved.

Tom pointed out to the housemates that as well as rent they’d need money for agent’s fees and deposits. The group agreed that knowing what their landlord wanted financially upfront would make everyone’s lives easier.

Housemate 4: Alex – spokesman and forward planner.
Alex knew his friends; he could see Emma mentally spending her last tenner on vodka just as the electricity bill was falling onto the doormat. He sat down and worked out the cost of all the group’s bills, set up direct debits and put up notices to tell everyone how much they owed each month.

Think about how much gas, water, electricity, Internet, TV, telephones and all other amenities will cost you, and remember to tell the council that you’re all students or you’ll be liable to pay Council Tax too.

If you get a chance, speak to the current tenants and ask them how much they are spending on bills.

Harmonious living is all about getting the balance right. And dressing smartly, obviously!

Housemate 5: James – the level headed organiser
The group were really excited about their new house, but so far had done very little, except arrange a housewarming bash.
So James took the bull by the horn and armed with this magazine headed out to see some landlords and ask about some places that would suit the group. Being an organised soul, James had already talked to everyone about budget and location and could arrange some viewings.

Make sure that you start your search as soon as possible, the later you leave it, the fewer properties there will be, but don’t panic, there are more than enough houses for everyone.

Encourage everyone that will be living in the house to come to each viewing, if you have a large group this make take some sorting, but it will mean that everyone gets to see each house and you can make a decision that pleases the whole group.

Don’t commit to the first house you see, James had to calm everyone down, and point out that if you take the first place you have nothing to compare it to. Take your time to examine the quality of properties in your chosen area and pick the best value for your money.

Remember no matter how safe you feel, never go to view a property alone, and always let people know where you are going and what time you expect to return.

Housemate 6: Jenny – the inquisitive mind.
Jenny had lived in bad houses before, she wanted to know her new place would be safe and secure. She asked the landlord if their place had a valid gas safety certificate (required by law) and if it was part of the University’s accreditation scheme. She wanted to know how much rent and deposit the landlord wanted upfront, and if there was a finder’s fee, or any admin fees to contend with.

The group also talked to the old tenants to find out how reliable the landlord was, and how efficiently he dealt with problems. Next the group properly checked out the area, was there adequate street lighting? What were the noise levels during the day and evening?

When you go into the property, check the front door is secure, that there is plenty of furniture, that the taps work properly, the toilets flush, and that there are no signs of damp. Are there plants growing in the gutters, and missing down-pipes? Are the window frames rotting? This is going to be your home so do not be afraid to question the landlord or agency on any of these matters.

Housemate 7: Rob – the deal maker.
The group had found the perfect house. But Rob knew that by signing a contract you are entering a legally binding agreement. It was vital that everything was in order and that they were satisfied with each of the terms and agreements.

It is better to delay for a few hours or days to make sure everything is in order than to sign straight away. If you’re unsure ask the landlord if you can return the contract to him the next day or so. Read the contract carefully. Take your time and do not rush into anything.

Rob sought advice from his University’s Housing Office and didn’t sign or pay until he was 100% sure on everything. It is important that you insist on a copy of the contract for yourself. Keep it in a safe place, you never know when you might need it. Also get a receipt for all payments made regarding the property.

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