Introduction to Student House Hunting
I'm in a group of three, trying to secure rooms to live in next academic year at Uni. As the downward spiral that is house-hunting continues, it seems to me we've made many mistakes. I dread the thought of other noders getting into the same predicament, so I thought I'd share them with everyone. They're not supposed to be as pessimistic as they sound, they're just supposed to be warnings:
Work out what's going on
My group was stuffed with this from the beginning. My Dad had offered to purchase a property, so we wouldn't have to go through the lengthy hunting process and have a guaranteed nice place and nice landlord. Bingo. Except my family isn't particularly rich, so we had to watch the property market to make sure we weren't diving in too high and coming out too low.
And so we waited.
And the Bank of England decided that in 2005 the market would slow to 0% growth. So that was the end of that. Now everyone has the jump on us by about two weeks. Which handily leads into...
Don't overestimate the time you have
As Richard O'Brien always responded when someone on The Crystal Maze said "Don't worry, you've got enough time":
"You never have enough time! Time is slipping away from you! Never enough time!
You too, have no time. Once the feeding frenzy begins (in our case when the University Accommodation Office opens up it's web site) it gets up to speed fast. You can see a property and like the look of it. You say you'll get in touch in a few days when you've seen a few more properties, to be safe. You don't see anything nicer and phone the first house. It's gone. You phone up to view a place in a few days when everyone can make the time. Don't worry, it'll be gone by the time the viewing comes around. Get a good start and work fast. Don't think you have any more time than the present.
Don't be a square peg for a round hole
Group dynamic is important. It seems very obvious when you see it written down, but believe me, you won't have thought of it until it's too late. Don't go as a three. Three is a stupid number at the best of times, as a housing number it's one of the worst. You leave yourself with a few options, none are particularly great:
1. Buy a three-bedroom place. This means a large flat or a small house. Neither are common.
2. Buy a big place (say, 5) then get more people later. This can net you a nice house, but you may be desperate enough due to time-constraints to get in people you don't like.
3.Move into an already occupied house with three bedrooms opening up. This can be good. If the existing students are willing to stay, you're guaranteed to not be looking at a complete dump. But you become the slaves to the house masters, and they call the shots. Also, in comparison to the amount of one and two bedrooms opening up, the amount of these places is miniscule.
When it comes to option three, regardless of group size, the dynamic becomes very important. Don't have a single sex group if you're more than three. If you do, you threaten to uneven the existing house's sexual balance, and your prospective house-mates are wondering what's wrong with you that the other sex won't give you the time of day.
Make hard decisions
This one is optional, and depends on a lot of things. How closely knit your group is one important factor, and whether you have the hard-headedness to make those calls. If it's not working, it might be an idea to say sayonara to your group. Either split up into rival factions or go Lone Ranger and try and be a bit rounder for existing houses. If you really want a nice house, it may be your only option. If you refuse to leave your group, then you may have to sacrifice if the group wasn't right to the outside world to begin with. Persuading the people within the posse as to why you're leaving can be hard, they may take it that you're dumping them personally, or leaving them high and dry. Spelling it out can take a while for the more emotional members and it may not work out for the best in the end. But that's something only a Higher Power would know.
Accept it might not be what you want
Should be considered in partnership with hard decisions. You know you were dreaming about that broadband connection so you could be on E2 all day and super-fast speeds? Forget it. Housing, in the UK at least, simply doesn't come with it as standard. Those that may cost more than you can afford rent-wise. This goes for a lot of other things too. Barbecue? Yeah, right. Garden? See above. Amazing super-fun happy slide? Please. But don't forget, maybe you can make some alterations yourself. For example, you could set up a wireless network, if the house isn't wired up properly or conveniently. Or maybe you could get a microwave for fifty quid and use it all by yourself, and make the rest of the house your cooking slaves.
To finish with, I'd just like to reiterate that these are warnings, not gospel. It may be noded, but it may not be right. You may find a dream home with pretty flowers and rabbits dancing merrily around the garden. You'll have a freezer you could store dead bodies in and it'll be right next to the University and yet be amazingly quiet. And you won't have followed any of my advice at all.
But forget the slide. That's just silly.