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Tips For Finding Flatmates Online

House-hunting during your time at university can be stressful enough on its own, but what happens when you find yourself without anyone to move in with? Perhaps your flatmates in halls are a nightmare, you know that your lifestyle wouldn’t be compatible with your friends’, or you just haven’t clicked with anyone. The pandemic has had a particularly huge impact in this area. At the University of Bristol alone, a poll revealed that one in five students moved into accommodation with strangers in 2021, with two-thirds of these finding their flatmates online via social media. So, if you’ve found yourself left behind, know that you are not alone. Here are some simple steps you can take to secure that all-important flat share.

Social media is your best friend

During the height of the pandemic, I was doing the first year of my degree online and living in halls with an extremely strict security presence. As a result, I didn’t even meet half of the residents on the same floor. This made making friends fairly difficult and, when house-hunting season arrived, I found myself in the nightmare situation of not having formed a group that I was comfortable enough to move in with. However, for the past year I’ve been in a wonderful living situation with flatmates who I hadn’t previously met.

You may be daunted by the awkward prospect of messaging random acquaintances. However, the number one place to find flatmates is via Facebook message boards, and there will most likely already be one set up for your university. Get a short bio ready and introduce yourself. Within minutes, it’s likely that you will have people in similar situations filling up your inbox. Make sure you keep your options open until you really do need to commit, though. Stories of ghosting and people dropping out without warning are all too common.

Meet up beforehand

Whether virtually or in person, meeting up with your prospective flatmates is absolutely vital. Apart from confirming that the random people you have met online are not trying to scam you (you should give out minimal personal information beforehand for this reason, and look them up on your university’s database if you can), it’s important to determine if you will actually get on with your prospective flatmates before your tenancy is ready and waiting to be finalised. Are your flatmates going to host house parties during exam week, or is their budget for bills and rent far higher than yours? You will have to compromise in some areas, especially if you are running out of options. However, starting your search again is sometimes better than being stuck in an awful situation for the entire year.

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

Preparation is key

So, you’ve assembled a group. Great! Now it’s time to get your priorities straight. You need to make sure that you all have similar ideas about where you want to live and nominate at least one proactive person who is willing to contact estate agents. When you find somewhere that you are all happy with, you will need to secure it before it is snatched up. Get confirmation from everyone that they have the right documentation to hand, such as their and their guarantor’s identity documents and proof of address.

Finally, put a cover letter together explaining that you are a group of friends looking for student accommodation for the following year. Add your contact details and even some photos of each of you. This will be sure to make your application stand out as with the high demand, competition for student houses can be fierce. However, it’s crucial that you don’t let anyone pressure you into signing anything that you are not sure about, however much you may want to avoid awkward situations with people you don’t know very well.

Know that it’s not too late

Especially when you’re a fresher, you will constantly hear warnings flying around that if you don’t find anything before the end of the first term, you’re pretty much out of luck for the next year. However, this is simply not true. While you should ideally start your search early, new ads will constantly pop up throughout the year. You just need to be proactive and keep an eye out on property search websites like Zoopla or Rightmove. If it’s really late in the day, you may want to check that the only properties left aren’t managed by that one notorious estate agent that causes horror stories in every university town. If that is truly all you are left with, make sure you know what to expect.

The most important thing to remember is don’t panic – know that you have options and that you can still have a brilliant next few years at university, whoever you decide to live with.

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I am a French and Politics student at the University of Bristol. Apart from politics and current affairs, I have a strong passion for music – when I’m not writing, you can find me at a gig or creating another hundred Spotify playlists. I’m always looking to bring issues that are relevant to young people to light through my writing.