One of the biggest concerns we hear from you is how hard it is to find housing outside of student accommodation.
For international students especially, it can be hard trying to find private housing from abroad while not being familiar with the UK rental system. There are lots of rental scams out there, so be careful.
No matter where you’re living in the UK, here are some general tips to keep in mind when house-hunting. 🏠
Do your research
Before doing any house viewings or buddying up with the first person you meet on a Facebook group, do some research on housing options, prices and location. There are a lot of online resources through your university or college (just search your institution + ‘housing’). There are also social media groups where students can share their experiences and recommendations.
If you’re coming from abroad, you can find groups for other expats from your home country. For example, search: Aussies in London, Españoles en Londres, etc.
Here are some go-to websites and apps for student housing:
SpareRoom: for flats and flatmates
Rightmove: for flats and houses
Uniplaces: ‘marketplace of unique rental properties for students, young workers, digital nomads, travellers or families'
Studentpad: ‘student houses, private hall rooms, rooms to rent, flats and other lodgings’
Background-check your housemates
Living with other students is a great way to meet new people and lower the cost of your accommodation and bills. That being said, it’s very likely that these people are total strangers.
So, do your due diligence…and background-check your potential flatmates. This is when a good ol’ Facebook stalk is totally acceptable. Just search their name, and on Google (just in case🕵️), and always chat via video if you’re not in the same city to meet in person.
Where to find housemates
The best places to find housemates are through your university or college Facebook group or SpareRoom, which is the most popular flatmate search website in the UK.
Another great option is Mates Place. If you’re from the UK or know people in the UK, it will only show you mutual connections within your network. You can then contact your connection and double-check they are who they say they are.
Inspect the property thoroughly
When visiting flats, don't feel shy to inspect the property thoroughly. If the current tenants are present, feel free to ask them specific questions about the landlord, agency, or property itself and the surrounding area.
Some things to look out for:
Overall condition of the property
The surrounding area - is there an outdoor space, and who is responsible for it? Are there loud neighbours? Is the area safe?
Do the windows and doors have secure locks?
Are the power sockets easily accessible?
Check out a more comprehensive viewing checklist here.
Location, location, location
While affordability, condition, and good housemates are important, you’ll also want to think about property location. Choose somewhere that’s near enough to campus, with good amenities and transport.
If you’re happy with living slightly further out and commuting, double-check that the route is still do-able and make sure the cost of transport doesn't add up to rent closer to campus. For example, some trains into the city can cost £20-£30/day. So, if you’re commuting every day, including weekends, that could be an additional £500-£600/month.
Budget for bills and expenses
When budgeting for your student housing, remember to consider additional expenses like utility bills, internet, and council tax. These are not always indicated in the upfront cost, so you don’t want to get surprised after signing.
You can always ask the agent directly or other flatmates if you’re joining an existing household. If you’re unsure about what you can afford, we’ve got a Spending Snapshot Tool to help you figure out your expenses and income.
Don't rush into payments
One key thing to remember: never pay upfront without seeing the place or signing a contract. Scammers prey on students desperate for housing, so always inspect the property in person, or virtually if you're an international student.
It’s also important to get a written contract that clearly outlines the terms and conditions of your tenancy. If you’re unsure about the legalities, your student union or the uni or college’s accommodation office can help. Or get in touch with Citizens Advice.
…But also, act fast — it’s a competitive market
We’re not going to downplay that the rental housing market is competitive. Some renters have quoted receiving over 200 messages on housemate sites in just under 24hrs. So, whether you’re looking for flatmates or whole rental properties, you’ll want to act fast.
Do your research, but be ready to sign and pay a deposit if everything checks out. On sites like SpareRoom, you can create ‘alerts’ to get notified as soon as a property, or a flatshare matching your criteria, becomes available.
Hot tip: Create a draft template of an ‘About You’ on your phone so you can quickly copy and paste when an ad goes live!
Finding accommodation outside of student housing can be stressful. So, do your research, don’t send over any money until you’ve seen the property and have a contract, and make sure your potential flatmates are real humans. 🥸
For more helpful resources on student life, check out these blogs: