Too early to rent?

by Readers Question

6 months ago

Too early to rent?

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Too early to rent?

My daughter is in her first year at university, but already she is being badgered about looking for a rental property for her second year which starts in September next year! Is this normal or is it sales pressure?

It’s a good question because in the most popular parts of the UK this is the time of year that students do in fact get reminded that they need to start looking for rental accommodation.

It’s difficult to know whether this is because there is a shortage of accommodation or whether, as you say, it is “sales pressure” from rental agents. Certainly the message from agents I have spoken to in different parts of the country is that most students are usually passive and disinterested, then start looking too late; get into a state of panic, and rent something unsuitable, on the wrong terms, or agree to share with people that they don’t really know, so they end up trying to break out of a tenancy agreement.

This can be costly and a major distraction from their studies.

I have to admit that I know what it’s like when kids rent the wrong house! Despite our advice not to rent a property, we received a phone call…”what do I do, we’ve got a rat infestation?”. Grrrrr (that’s me, not the rodent).

It’s therefore best to do some research, because you don’t want your daughter to be the last person looking for accommodation. Instead you will want her to have the best choice.

So, as you are hearing that now is a good time to start looking, try to decide if it’s normal for the area or “sales pressure”.

In fact, in my old area of Bournemouth, where there is a big student population and a well-established rental market, the agents also try to persuade students to find their accommodation in October for the following year. I’ve spoken to agents in other large university towns e.g. Durham & Nottingham, and it’s similar there.

There is apparently a lemming-like rush to find somewhere before Xmas. However, when I did the research I was informed that apparently there are usually plenty of properties available in January, so any pre-Christmas panic seems to be as a result of “word on the street” rather than a reality of the marketplace. However, you need to know what the situation is in your daughter’s area.

Start by speaking to your Students Union to get their opinion on the usual level of availability.  They can be extremely helpful, not just on property-related matters, so if you have any issues that you are unsure about, do get in touch with them. They are a lot more than just the managers of the Union bar and social calendar!

Regarding property, they can provide information and advice on:

  • Best rental locations, and areas to avoid;
  • Types of property and rental rates;
  • Agents and landlords who are known to them (they will know those with good or bad reputations);
  • Availability of accommodation and when you need to start looking for accommodation;
  • Public Transport;
  • Car Parking Permit arrangements;
  • Local knowledge e.g. nightlife and shopping;
  • Issues with any local landlords or agents.

Other suggestions for getting advice: if you know any Post-Grads, then ask them for their opinions. They usually know the area well, and have a more settled social life so they are more likely to avoid staying in the typical student areas but will have knowledge of the good, the bad & the ugly.

You could try a Google search for “problems in X area”. If nothing else you should get information on broadband, utility and traffic problems.

I would also recommend that you speak to a couple of letting agents to see what they say.

Big, national agency chains will have a lot of properties on their books as a result of their brand awareness and marketing campaigns. However, they may have higher staff turnover, so the staff may be younger and less knowledgeable on the market and area. My recommendation would be to initially find an agent that’s been in the area a long time, as their opinion will be more factual. A young agent may not live in the town and may have recently been transferred from another branch.

As a bit of advance warning, it’s also worth mentioning that agents have told me that one of the issues that causes the most problems is that students don’t worry enough about their choice of sharer. Obvious issues are new mates who aren’t house-trained, don’t clean up after themselves, don’t do their fair share of household chores, are irresponsible or disrespectful (they are likely to damage the property) or are reluctant to pay their share of the utility, food bills etc.

You might therefore want to give some parental advice about these issues before you start house hunting.

I hope this helps, so good luck in your research.

Ian Muir is a landlord, property refurbisher, ex-trainer of estate agents (although he insists that you don’t blame him for this) and the author of; Smart Student Guides: Renting Property. 147 Invaluable Renting Tips To Save You Money, Out Think The Rogues, And Get Your Deposit Refunded.

The paperback version of the book has just been added to Amazon and Ian informs us that a Kindle version will be available later this week.

More details via Amazon LINK

Comments

Barry Fitzpatrick

6 months ago

All the above is good advice.
60% of my student properties are now signed up for the next academic year. The best properties go first. Students don't want to be trying to find a place at the end of summer term during exam season and when only poor properties remain, choice is limited, and time is at a premium.
Check as well for any accreditation schemes, and/or licensing schemes as Landlords/Agents will have signed up to Codes of Conduct relating to the property, fixing problems and how they deal with Tenants.
Choice of housemates is crucial as many students especially first years are only just making friends, and have little idea as what they are going to like living with.

Yvonne Francis

6 months ago

As Barry has pointed out students do sign for houses for the next academic year in November despite many attempts by certain bodies to push it back to the following year. I'm a landlord with student properties and students are already approaching me. My advice to first year students is to ask students already in private accommodation and get recommendations of their property and it's landlord. I've let for forty years and had a run of students from one college for over fifteen years. They actually kept records of houses with reviews of landlords. It was great for me and great for my tenants coming somewhere tried and trusted.

Bill O'Dell

6 months ago

I'd always advise students to move into mixed houses as single sex house are usually the worst in terms of cleanliness/tidiness - there seems to be a race to collect the most toilet rolls or pizza boxes in a male house or be the most untidy in a female house!
Many Uni towns have a false dawn before Christmas, and often groups that get together too early end up breaking up as they get to know each other. When your daughter has found a group she would like to live with, it may well be a good idea to get all the data required together, the deposit together in a joint bank account, and guarantors all sorted before you go and start viewing. This would mean they can act on a house they like immediately and not lose the house because it takes too long to get everyone on the same page. And if you can, suss out if one of the group may fail a credit reference - otherwise you will lose the cost of that too as well as the house.
For me as a student landlord, if I'm approached in January by a group that has all their data together, a lead tenant who has all the information at their fingertips and a good communication network - whatapp group or similar - then I have a good feeling that I have a responsible group who are organised and likely to return my house in good condition. They are much more likely to be accepted than a group that are still looking for a pencil between them in June!


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