Leaving university often means renting for the first time. Here are five tips from someone going through it themselves.
After living in student accommodation, or even with your parents during university, renting can seem really daunting. Perhaps you don’t know where to look, what your budget is, or whether to move back home? These are all things that have crossed my mind whilst looking to move.
First of all, breathe. Getting really stressed won’t help. Remember, it’s also an exciting time! Look over these tips and, hopefully, you’ll feel ready to tackle the market.
Decide a Budget
We’d all love to live in a mansion with a pool out the back, or a quaint cottage in the middle of nowhere. However, you have to be realistic about what you can afford when renting. Take an evening or two to sit down with a spreadsheet and analyse all your income and outgoings. You may not have a student loan anymore and have to completely rely on a job, paying bills such as water, gas, electricity, Wi-Fi, a TV license, and council tax. Will you need to hire a van to move furniture? Remember, if you want to live in a city, you’ll get a lot less for your money.
It’s a lot to think about, and it can be disheartening, but it’s better to have a realistic figure to work with from the offset. There’s no point getting your hopes up about a place you really can’t afford or getting yourself into trouble.
Credit and Affordability Checks
Before you start, it’s a good idea to know where you stand with your credit and affordability. Estate agents will check if you’re eligible for renting by doing these checks. If you discover that either your credit or affordability score is low, it’s not the end of the world. If your phone bill comes out of your parents’ account, switch it to yours. If you don’t have a job, consider getting something part-time to increase your affordability. Even if it’s not your dream job, it’s a step in the right direction.
A few of my friends have got store cards. You use this card to pay for things in that particular store, then pay it off later. I’ve not done this myself but, if you know you’re good with money, it will boost your credit score massively. However, be truthful with yourself. If you would abuse a store card then stay away from them. Other things, such as signing up for the electoral vote, will also boost your score.
Where Should I Look?
Now you’ve got a budget and you’re familiar with your credit score, it’s time to start looking. Sites and apps such as Rightmove and Zoopla are incredibly helpful for renting. Both offer specificity searches targeted at your budget, your area, and what you’re looking for.
You can save the properties you’re interested in to come back to later, or you can email or phone the estate agents on the property’s page. I have the app for both and, when I get a free 10 minutes, or just before bed, I have a little scroll.
The Long Game
Don’t go into this thinking you’ll be renting within a week. Realistically, it will take months. Starting to look as early as possible is the best. I don’t have to move out of my accommodation until September, but I started looking in March. There will be weeks where you won’t see any suitable properties, and the market is incredibly competitive. You’ll find that even enquiring a day after a property has been listed is sometimes too late.
If you’re interested in a property, get in there as soon as you can. I don’t like ringing strangers, but it’s honestly the quickest and most efficient way to get a viewing. Either way, it won’t happen overnight, so try not to get frustrated if it’s taking a few months.
Getting Your Hopes Up
Easier said than done, I know, but you’ll only end up disappointed. As I said, the renting market is very competitive and, even if you get a viewing, so have a dozen other people. It will happen for you at some point but, if you fall in love with every property you enquire about, the whole experience will be emotionally exhausting.
It’s good to think of the pros, but consider the cons of the property too. Don’t go into a viewing planning where you’ll put the Christmas tree. Stay realistic and the process becomes a lot easier.