Now that reading week is a distant memory and the semester is resuming with its academic rigour, you’ve probably started thinking about your living situation for next year. Whether you’re now a seasoned pro, having gone through the process last year or a few times before, or in first year navigating the process for the first time, you might be looking for a guide for what to look for. Look no further!
Preparing for viewings
Like most things in life, preparation is key.
The first thing to decide on is who to live with. For some, the choice is automatically their first-year flatmates. For me, this was a topic that came up in conversation following reading week last academic year, with the split between the two flats on my floor naturally working itself out.
For others, it might be friends on your course, from a society or sports team or just a mix of people you’ve met over the past few months.
Regardless of who you choose, it’s important to know what their living habits are like. Whether one of your potential housemates will be on a placement and therefore getting up early or returning late in the evening to someone who will want to host house parties, it is a crucial discussion to have to ensure a suitable living environment for all. Determining this is straightforward if they’re your current flatmates, but if they’re not, an open conversation can often clarify things.
When searching for a house, it’s a good idea to search for properties from multiple students letting agencies and private landlords.
Manchester Student Homes can help with this search. They are a university-funded service which reviews properties to ensure they are safe, secure, and fair. Their website has a range of properties which all fit an extended code of standards. Even if you do not secure a property through them, they offer a free contract-checking scheme for all students to use.
Whilst the comfort of being close to friends in Owens’ Park or Victoria Park is very welcome in first year, next academic year you might find yourself trekking to Timbuktu to meet them (the short distance from Withington to Fallowfield in my case).
One of the main things to bear in mind is where the nearest bus stop is. For those in Fallowfield, the proximity of Owens’ Park to the bus stop can seem a bit of a luxury. Particularly if you tend to be rushing to that 9am or walking more than five minutes to your accommodation after a long day is an exhausting thought, prioritising a house close to a bus stop can be an important factor.
Likewise, think about whether you’re near to any supermarkets or corner shops. Luckily Fallowfield and Withington are quite populated by them, but if you’re living in a more residential area like Longsight or Rusholme you might have to venture a little further for that forgotten grocery item.
The distance between university and your house might come up in conversation too. For students who have many contact hours each week, spending half their life on the 142 isn’t the most serene thought. On the other hand, many find that the more residential, yet slightly further, areas of Withington and Chorlton suit their needs.
Put simply, be ready to ask questions. If they’re in, do talk to current tenants about why they are not re-signing on the house. In most scenarios, it’s a case of wanting a change, the house not fitting their needs for next year or even because they’re graduating. However, this can also help reveal if the landlord or agency you could be renting the house from is reliable.
Check for damp, pest problems, and mould – usually quite visible if the case.
Dealing with flatmates who can’t seem to do their washing up? Look no further than a dishwasher. A tumble dryer is always a good shout, especially if you think that the property would not have enough spare room for clothes airers.
A source of contention between housemates is typically from the size of bedrooms. Generally, student properties have most rooms renovated into bedrooms, which can sometimes result in the infamous ‘box’ room. With my current housemates, we tried to avoid properties which had this, and instead opted to view properties which seemed to have more equally sized rooms.
Ground floor bedrooms can cause worry for some people, especially if they are next to the front door or near the kitchen. Make sure to check if anyone you would be living with would be happy to take bedrooms in these scenarios.
Some student houses will have combined living-kitchen areas, which can be relatively small. While having an additional communal area besides the kitchen might seem unnecessary to some, for others, it serves as a refreshing escape from their bedrooms.
Key considerations for a kitchen include the fridge setup, both in terms of number and size. Multiple fridges can ease the storage crunch, especially in shared spaces, while larger ones accommodate bulk shopping. It’s essential to have enough preparation space to ensure there’s room for cooking and meal prep. Adequate storage, including cabinets and shelves for utensils, pots, and groceries, is also crucial for maintaining a tidy and organized cooking area.
Looking at properties requires a real assessment of your budget for next academic year. Talk with your potential housemates about how much you are willing to pay per week. Do remember that rent is paid monthly rather than in three instalments like with university-owned accommodation.
A large majority of student properties in Manchester come with bills included in the price of rent, with either a reasonable cap or no limit on consumption. For properties without bills included, you may be offered a bills package. Whilst an option worth taking on from the ease it offers, remember that you are often paying a much larger amount for the convivence. It’s pretty easy to find the best deal with comparison sites online, and although more work upfront, the money you save is usually worth the effort.
Letting agencies or landlords require payment of a holding fee to secure the property once you’ve found one that fits your group’s needs. Unfortunately, you might need to be prepared to pay this in one instalment, so avoiding properties with higher deposits could work well if necessary.
You’re not alone in your search for a house for next academic year. Don’t forget to check out the following resources: