Securing student housing is a common source of stress amongst students - but it doesn’t have to be!
In this blog post, we’ll share our insights into the recommended timeline for choosing student housing, and the potential challenges that arise when delaying this crucial decision.
With these tips and best practices, you’ll be far better equipped to secure a place that ticks all your boxes
Understanding the Housing Market:
Student housing is pretty unique, in that it is largely governed by strict timelines.
As a result, your search for accommodation will need to consider these deadlines, and how they’re impacting the number of houses available at that given point.
The key yearly timelines for student housing applications and leases include:
- The start of the autumn term - ranging from the first week of September, to the first week of October (depending on the university).
- The start of the spring term - ranging from the first week of January, to the first week of February (depending on the university). Not all universities offer a spring term intake.
- The summer holidays - some student accommodation providers (both on-site and private providers) set their rental contracts as 10-11 months, so that students don’t have to pay rent during the holidays.
For students starting in the autumn term, their search for housing typically starts in January - February.
For students starting in the spring term, their search for housing typically starts in August - September (so that you’re not having to compete with the autumn term starters).
Whether you’re looking for a spot in your University Halls of Residence, or searching for a private rental, then you will need to bear these timelines in mind. January and August are usually the two busiest times of year for the student rental market.
But, if possible, starting your search ahead of these dates is a great way to ensure you have the maximum number of options available, and that you can secure somewhere at an affordable price point.
University Deadlines and Policies:
Deadlines and policies governing student housing differ from university to university.
These are shaped in accordance with their term dates, the amount of housing that is generally available (both on campus, and in the area where the uni is located), and the number of students that are predicted to join that year.
Generally speaking, the key deadlines and policies set by universities for securing on-campus or affiliated housing are:
- The application opening and closing dates for priority students - these include first year students, or students with additional needs.
- Application submission deadlines - these are usually set around 1-2 months before the term starts.
- The accommodation allocation date - this is when the university will respond to applications for on-campus accommodation, and assign students to their rooms, or let them know that their application has not been successful.
- The deadline for signing the lease agreement - this also includes submitting your deposit and first rental payment.
- Move-in and key collection dates - for on-campus accommodation, this usually falls on one fixed weekend.
- The deadline for late applications or waitlists - this is most commonly designed for students who secured their university place on clearing.
If you’re struggling to meet these deadlines, the university will do all they can to assist you.
However, it’s important to note that missing these deadlines can result in a number of consequences, including having to live in less-desirable accommodation, paying higher rental fees, having to live in a shared room (if it wasn’t your first choice), or paying late fees.
If your university runs out of its on-campus accommodation before you secure your room, then your next step will be to explore off-campus options.
Looking to off-campus alternatives is a great way to find accommodation on short notice. It also gives you access to a much larger pool of options, and properties of a wider range of sizes, features, locations and price points. So, you might actually find a place that’s a better fit for you!
Plus, many students find that off-campus accommodation helps them to separate their work life from their personal life. Most on-campus accommodation options are located right next to the lecture theatres, libraries and study areas. So, one of the key benefits to living off campus is that it allows you to finish studying, then leave work behind and set a clear geographical barrier, which allows you to fully switch off and enjoy your evening.
However, there are downsides to this approach. In some university cities or towns, the cost of rentals is significantly higher than on-site student accommodation. If you’re unfamiliar with renting in that area, then spend some time exploring the market, and figuring out your available options.
If you are starting your first year of study, we also highly recommend speaking to your university, and asking for their help in connecting you to fellow off-campus renters. Then, you can find students who are in the same position, and even potentially a group with a spare room available!
It is also important to note that student accommodation typically gives renters a lot more protection. Many first-time renters find that choosing on-site accommodation or going through specialist university accommodation providers is a softer start, as these organisations have the responsibility to keep the property in good condition, and to treat tenants fairly. In the private rental market, it’s more of a mixed bag - depends on how lucky you are with your landlord!
Tips for navigating the rental market and securing last minute places:
- Ensure all the necessary documents are already prepared - this includes your personal information, references, proof of income and last address, and guarantor (if applicable).
- See if your university has a dedicated accommodation services team - they will be able to provide recommended agencies or accommodation providers.
- Ask your university if they know of any other people in your position - they may be able to connect you to other students who are looking for a shared property, or a house that needs an extra person to join them.
- Use social media - join university groups (there might even be dedicated house hunt groups for your university), and connect with people in the same position.
- Get advice from other students - if you can’t find anyone in these groups who is looking for a housemate, ask them for recommendations on the best places and providers.
- Arrange viewings as quickly as possible - properties get snapped up quickly. So, if you find a place you’re interested in, try to book a viewing on the same or the next day.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate - if you find a property that’s out of your price range, you can still submit an offer, but try to negotiate the price down. Emphasise that you are a reliable tenant, with good references.
- Submit a competitive offer - if you can afford to, presenting an offer that is slightly higher than the asking price can help to increase the likelihood of your application being accepted over others.
If you take too long to secure your student house, then you may find that you get stuck with higher rental costs.
Typically - especially for student houses - the more affordable properties are amongst the first to go. So, the longer you take, the more likely you are to be stuck with a more expensive property.
As a result, delaying your housing decisions can make your budgeting options significantly more difficult.
If you do find yourself in this position, then you should speak to your university, and see if you are eligible for financial aid or housing scholarships. Although you shouldn’t depend on these when choosing a property, if you do find yourself stuck for other options, this aid might help make your decision (and the year ahead!) easier.
Alongside the financials, one of the key drivers for securing your accommodation ASAP is ensuring you find compatible roommates.
The more time you allow yourself, the more likely you are to be able to live with friends, or choose new roommates who you get on with.
If you have plenty of time to make your decision, then you can arrange to meet your potential roommates in advance. That way, you can get a much better sense of whether or not you’d be well-suited to living together. Even if it’s just one drink at the pub, this is a great way to help you find the most compatible people to live with.
Unfortunately, you probably won’t have time to fully get to know your housemates before you sign the contract.
However, the risk of disputes and conflicts is just as likely between former strangers, as it is if you lived with people that you knew before.
It’s unlikely that you’ll go through the entire year without one single dispute - after all, you are living together! So, it’s all about how you manage these situations as a group, and find a compromise that works for everyone.
Effective communication is key here. Arrange to speak to your roommate(s) in person, in a calm, relaxed setting. Then, communicate the issue calmly and politely, illustrating your perspective, while showing that you also understand theirs. Then, work together to find the best way to meet in the middle.
If this doesn’t work, other common conflict resolution strategies among roommates include:
- During the discussion, use ‘I’ statements - for example, ‘I feel that’, rather than ‘you are’, or ‘the issue is’
- Avoid interrupting your roommate when they’re speaking, and make it clear that you’re listening fully
- Ensure both parties are compromising equally, and that their compromises are being acknowledged
- Avoid involving the rest of your housemates, unless they are directly affected - as this could make people feel like they need to choose sides, and quickly make the house a very tense environment
- Involve a neutral third party, such as a landlord or a member of your university’s student union
- You could also see if your university has a housing coordinator, who could help to mediate the situation
- If you can feel the situation getting more heated, take a 10 minute pause to let tensions diffuse
- Confirm any agreements or arrangements in writing, to minimise the risk of any misunderstandings
- If necessary, if your deposit is at risk, or if you are struggling to cope with the situation, then don’t be afraid to involve your landlord or letting agent
Academic and Personal Well-being:
Arranging, exploring and managing student housing is one of the most stressful parts of being a student. Indeed, in any part of life, moving is right up there at the top of the stress list.
Think we’re being dramatic? A recent survey revealed that a staggering 62% of women and 51% of men said that moving house was the most stressful life event. This meant that moving house outranked starting a new job and even having a child, in terms of stress.
If you’re not careful, this stress can build to the point where it has an impact on your overall well-being, and start to impede your academic performance.
Although housing-related stress is certainly not uncommon, if you are in a tricky situation, implement some measures to stop these feelings from escalating and becoming unmanageable.
Effective steps that you can take to manage stress include:
- Managing your tasks and time, in a way that works for you - for example, this could be writing weekly or daily task lists, breaking down larger tasks into more manageable chunks, or organising your tasks in terms of priority.
- Asking for help or guidance
- Exercising regularly
- Spending time with people
- Engaging in crafts, your hobbies, or other activities
- Practicing meditation and deep breathing techniques
- Exploring mindfulness techniques
- Eating well
- Avoiding excessive caffeine
- Keeping your screen time to a healthy level
- Implementing a regular and sufficient sleep schedule
- Speaking to loved ones about how you’re feeling
- If the stress is becoming overwhelming, speak to a professional - this could be your university’s wellbeing team, or a mental health professional.
By implementing some of these stress-management techniques, you can help ensure that you are consistently making the best, most informed housing decisions - even when you’re under time constraints.
In summary, while it can be tempting to put off this daunting process, the sooner you start your search, the more likely you are to find an affordable, comfortable and convenient property for the year.
Early planning is key to finding (and securing!) the best possible student housing.
So, be as proactive as possible, seek guidance from the university and your fellow students, and ensure you have a clear understanding of your personal housing priorities.