The housing headache

Credit: American Advisors Group Photo credit: American Advisors Group

by Greg Barradale

Fleeing the comfort of halls for the legendary second year house is a big moment. As much as living like a king in glorious Cathays is a new experience, so is navigating the minefield of student lettings.

Before you get round to viewing a house, there’s a few things you need to consider.

Think about the money. Do you spend a bit more on a nice place, or save a bit monthly on a place you can treat like a dump and forget about the deposit? Do you want the convenience and warmth of bills included, or are you willing to bear admin and arguments over heating to save some money?

Cardiff Student Letting should be your first point of call on account of the lack of agency fees and links to the Students’ Union. However, their portfolio is limited, so if you go with another company be sure to check out reviews for any worrying trends.

Now you’re doing viewings, the real work begins.

Don’t go for the first house you see; view some others. You might end up with the first one, but make sure to have something to compare it against.

Obviously whether you like the house matters, and it’s crucial it’s got fridge space for beers and room for a telly, but there’s a few practical essentials to look out for.

Double glazing is a must. Nobody likes paying for heating, and nobody likes seeing their breath. No mould. They say they’ll sort it out. They won’t. Avoid. Security – does the front door automatically lock?

Try and talk to the current tenants. Estate agents won’t want you doing it, which is precisely why you should. Find out about how easy and well set up the bills and meters are. It took us until after Christmas to find out we had three different meters in our house, but had only been registered for bills on one. Not that we were told that. Talking to the current tenant saved us £25 a month in rent, after discovering the estate agents were bumping up the rent quite considerably. Never be afraid to negotiate.

Keep your wits about you. Unfortunately, you need to be constantly on edge when dealing with letting agents. They’ll try to lure you into a false sense of security with sweets and leading questions, but give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. I’ve had estate agents confidently insist that replacing keys incurs a £20 fee, right up to the point I point at the contract they’ve just given me saying it’s £5. Students who know no better are easy pickings, so take your time, do your research and don’t rush into anything.

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