Moving out of halls, for me, was bliss. I was one of the unlucky ones and would spend most of my days standing outside the SU, in the rain, waiting for the blue bus that would take me up that dreaded hill, back to University Halls. Needless to say, moving to Cathays and closer to the University felt like a dream, and while it was certainly better than trekking up that ‘mountain’ in pouring rain. I guess some things you learn the hard way.
I would definitely advise people to start looking early. But don’t put down a deposit for the first house you see. Call different agencies and look at as many as you can, even if it takes you in to February. Cardiff is a student city and there will always be houses. It’s better to take your time and choose a house you enjoy, rather than making a rash decision and regretting it the second you step out of the letting agency.
Find out who your landlord is! I cannot be stressed enough. Do not underestimate the importance of a good landlord and if possible, ask the tenants while house viewing. The first knock at my door last year was by a previous tenant to warn us about the landlord and his conniving ways. He’d charged them twice their deposit in fees and fines at the end of the year and they’d had to go to court. We got two more visits like this one with similar stories of an overcharging, unresponsive, unsupportive man who was concerned with making money at the expense of students. Do yourself a favor and make sure you do some research on your landlord beforehand.
As for picking who to live with, it tends to be hit or miss. Knowing someone is not the same as living with them. Unless you’re moving in together from halls, you haven’t really been exposed to whatever bad habits a person is hiding. The best way to make sure you’re going to be comfortable living with this person is to spend as much time as possible at theirs. Make a sleepover out of it and note the things that are important to you, whether this be cleanliness, noise, or mood swings.
While big houses might seem like a hoot and nostalgia might fool you into thinking you want to live with everyone in your halls, think about it well. If you’re one of those people that’s always fine with a crowd and the unavoidable mess that comes with it, by all means move into a small hostel. However, don’t let past experiences fool you — dreams are made of whatever makes you comfortable.
Finally, there’s the little things. These tend to go unnoticed in the thrill of looking for a house. Focus on bathrooms in particular. Look at the shower, particularly if you’re tall. Sink size is something I never thought I’d prioritize, but I spent the last year trying to wash my face in what looked like a small bowl. Consider how many toilets there are per person and whether or not it’s viable. Find the room you like the least and think about whether you’d be fine living in it for a year if it came down to it. If you suffer from allergies, think about whether or not you want to spend a large portion of your time hoovering your dust covered carpet.
There is an endless number of things to consider. Go in with a clear picture of what you want and do not let the letting agent sway you or pressure you into signing prematurely. Overall, the most consistent thing is to think of your home and what you love about it. While doubtful that anything will come close, try to look for the things you love in the houses you see. And if all else fails? Fairy lights make everything look better.