Finding your next home is incredibly exciting but it can also be a cause of worries and stress. To help you to feel more knowledgeable about the process, in this this week’s blog we are sharing some insights from a couple of 3rd year students who have plenty of experience of living in the city.
Here is what they have to say…
1. Finding accommodation and flatmates:
What would be the benefits of securing accommodation quickly?
Nat: “The benefits would be that because it is sorted quickly, it is easier to relax knowing that you have a good group and a house for next year and knowing that you will not have to split as a group or rush to find other accommodation. However, this appears to be the only benefit, and oftentimes even groups that secure accommodation quickly might not work out, with members dropping out of contracts to find a replacement throughout the year. So even though you secure accommodation quickly there is not necessarily a guarantee that it works out perfectly.”
What did you do first and where did you start?
Marie: “In my first year everyone was so stressed, I just rushed into finding a house and went everywhere and knocked on the doors of students’ houses. In the end, we secured a 5 people house through an agency.”
In hindsight, would you do anything differently a second time around?
Marie: “Second year we took our time and found some final year student living close by that agreed to talk to their landlord about us. If I was in my first year again I think I would really have looked on the internet more and find student groups or try to talk to second or third year students in societies or classes about their houses.”
What worked well for you and what were the pitfalls?
Nat: “What worked was actively trying to find a house through Facebook and friends, and once I found a house that worked financially, quickly getting in touch with the group to see if they wanted to meet so we could be introduced, and if we clicked well, looking round the house and signing the contract. Which is exactly what I did in the end, and now they are some of my best friends at University! “
Marie: “What worked well was finding a landlord in third year, pitfall was the agency, I would not recommend.”
How did you find ways of meeting other students and forming friendships?
Marie: “One advice if any (especially in Exeter): SPORTS! This is the best way to meet people. Whether you know anything about a particular sport or not you will always find people. And then societies, of course! And course mates! Never hesitate to propose to your course mates to work in the library together before tutorials.”
What advice would you share with new students to support them in finding friends to share with?
Marie: “Know what kind of a person you are: warn them in advance to avoid any disappointment: ‘I go out a lot’, ‘I love cooking’ ‘having nights in is a must for me’ ‘I wake up really early’. And ask them the same questions.
A great question to ask future flatmates is: “What would a perfect week looks like for you?” If they mention having dinner with flatmates, going out, going to the gym, working a lot etc that will help get a picture of what kind of people they are. DON’T FORGET the people you meet in the first months of the University WILL change and also they are most likely not really themselves in these first months as loads is happening and there is no established routine with lots of time spent in groups socialising. In your second year you will need to work more and go out less: more stress and a bit less fun. “
Did you arrange any viewings with private providers in the Purpose-Built Student Accommodation sector? What appealed to you about living in private halls?
“Nat: I have done this ready for my third year. After living with 8 others in my Second, I felt that for my third year I would be best living on my own and going out to meet friends when I feel like I need some social interaction. It’s appealing to live in private halls, because of bad experience with estate agents, and after interacting with staff at private halls they appeared to be much for accommodating. It also appeals to live in private halls in that you have much more of your own space. You don’t have to worry about application fees either which often occurs with most Student lettings agents in Exeter.”
How did you agree on the budget within your group?
Marie: “In my second year we just took the first house we found, I had no idea how much was ‘too much’. I paid 135 with bills if I remember well. In my third year we found this charming landlord through previous tenants. We payed £100 and we all thought this was perfect.”
Were your bills included?
Marie: “No, they were not included in my second year accommodation. It does make things complicated, especially within a group of friends. I think I would only recommend it if you have had experience with sorting out bills or when you are in the final year. It’s too much in your second year.”
3. Resources and support available when living off campus/in the city:
What support is available for students living in the city? (Community Wardens/accessing the Students’ Guild Advice)
Nat: “Student community wardens are your best bet for helping students live in the city. I worked as one this year and it was great to be a helping hand for students. As a student warden, I work in a team with other wardens, and help to provide information and facilitate students living off of campus. We do this by liaising with Exeter City Council, conducting walk-about to ensure that student households understand the refuse system in Exeter and support them if they encounter any issues, this may be as simple as helping them to obtain another recycling bin or stenciling house numbers onto their bins etc. We run termly projects and campaigns, such as the Students on The Move Scheme, and a glass caddying scheme, both which aim to support students with getting rid of unwanted items or glass that their household has collected over the terms. We are trained to security mark students’ valuables.”
Are there any ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of working with an Estate Agent when searching for accommodation?
Marie: “The pro is that it is reliable to work with an agency as they are tied by laws etc. Cons: DEPOSIT, I think I have not met anyone who has kept their entire deposit with an agency. Landlords know their properties very well and can tell if something was already very old and likely to break easily etc. and will likely less try to take advantage of students I think. Communication with landlord is also easier & less formal in general, I think.”
4. Overall experience and top tips
Can you share your thoughts and advice on sharing with a large group of friends? Is this practical or would you recommend looking for smaller groups of around 4 or 5 to share with?
Nat: “I think sharing with large groups of friends can work both ways. I think it’s all dependant on whether your group (small or large) can respect each other’s boundaries and give necessary space, and be able to resolve arguments super quickly, because arguments can occur in small or large groups, and that’s just the nature of sharing spaces with people.”
Marie: “I would not recommend more than 7. But no less than 4 I would say.
Please organise yourselves from the beginning, before friendship ties get stronger and you feel embarrassed to say what you have to say. Also cleaning rotas, I think, are less efficient than having a ‘role’ established for each individuals in the house. You will need to make a list of roles together ‘bins’, ‘cleaning surfaces & stoves’ ‘cleaning living area’, ‘cleaning bathroom 1’ etc.. and one person can have two roles of course depending on how hard it is (for example, bathroom 1 + kitchen floor= kitchen floor is everyday day or two days and bathroom every week)”
What is your overall experience of living off campus after your first year? What were the highlights for you? Is there anything you would have thought about differently now you have experienced this?
Nat: “There is definitely something different about living in a house compared to the University halls, I found that a house felt more relaxing, however I wish we had gone with a different estate agents – I would suggest looking at Google Reviews for Estate agents in Exeter, because they are actually very telling of what you are in for!”
We hope that you have found the excellent advice from Nat and Marie helpful. Most importantly, take your time to look into your options for housing. If you still have any questions please do come and see one of our friendly accommodation team in one of our drop-in sessions and check out some of our other information for off-campus housing on our Website.
Also, remember that this weekend British Summer Time ends, which means that the clocks will be going back an hour on Sunday 27th October. So you can enjoy the luxury of an extra hour in bed!
Have a great week!