Student Tips: How to find an accommodation in the UK as a student
Finding accommodation as a first-year student coming from abroad can be difficult and daunting. That is why I would like to share a personal story with you, to help you do better.
"When I first came to the United Kingdom, I was super excited and a little bit scared to start my journey in a new country without any friends or understanding how things work. In my first year, I stayed in a student accommodation and that was not what I expected. First of all the rent was super expensive for a room that was shared with one other student. Secondly, we slept 50 cm (19 inches) apart from each other, so you can imagine how small the room was. Thirdly the overall amenities were terrible, the shared kitchen was filthy and I got sick every two months. In conclusion, it was pretty much terrible. The next year I moved in with a friend in a shared apartment and life was so much better."
I am sharing my story with you because I want you to avoid the same situation I was in. Therefore, here is a 5 steps guide on how to land accommodation in the UK as a first-year student and live better.
1 - Renting anything in the United Kingdom is expensive
Based on the recent research by Homelet the UK average rents are at their highest levels since 2014, reaching £996. The United Kingdom ranks in the 21st place for one of the most expensive places to live. But it does not necessarily have to be that way. Learn about the area where you would like to live and understand what type of property you are looking for. For example, if your university is located in the North-Eastern part of the United Kingdom the median monthly rent is £500, almost two times lower than the average. By understanding your area that you are going to live in and what type of property you are looking for, you can prepare yourself and your parents for expected monthly costs. Understand your limits and if needed start looking for a student loan and part-time work options.
2 - Know your renting budget
Before moving to the UK, I never had serious conversations with my parents on how much they are willing to spend for my rent hence I did not know what amount of rent was high or low. Ask your parents what is their budget for your rent, it will help you understand if you require funding or a part-time job to sustain your living expenses. When you have a concrete figure, look at the available options in the area in portals such as Rightmove, Zoopla or OpenRent (if you would like to go around the real estate agents). If you have concluded that you need some external support check if the United Kingdom government can issue you a maintenance loan. The loan amount can go up to £12,382 so it should be enough to cover the rent and basic needs. Other funding options include, but not limited to are Future Finance and travel grants for students from the UK government. Lastly, your local banks/institutions might offer you a loan or scholarship to study and live abroad.
3 - Part-Time jobs could help you land the accommodation you want
If scholarships and financial aid are not available or enough to cover the expenses. I used to work as a waiter part-time while studying at university which helped me to pay my rent. It is possible to combine both if you plan right and know how much you need to work. In the beginning, you need to understand how much you need to earn per month. Here are some useful tips from Balance and Save The Student on how to set a monthly budget. When you understand how much you need to earn, look at what is available on the market in places such as Student Jobs, Reed or Gumtree. Just to note here, if you decide to work with an agency, the pay might be lower at around £7 per hour, because they take a fee from the company you work for. There are some pros and cons when it comes to working with an agency but it makes it easier to set specific hours and if the company likes the way you work, they might offer you a position. Besides working externally, another great option with higher pay and flexible times is working on-campus as an administrative assistant or similar role. For example, I worked as Faculty Fallow and earned around £10.25 per hour while working 15-20 hours per week. There are quite a few options you just have to decide which suits you the best and give it a go on landing the job.
4 - Connect with the other first-year students or even second years, before going abroad
Once you sort out the way you will finance your rent, the next step is to find the people you might live together with. It is expensive to live alone in the United Kingdom hence it is better to reach out to the people who are in the same situation as you are and avoid living with strangers. Before traveling to the United Kingdom, try to look on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Sometimes, you will find some specific groups related to your university and associated accomodations. Many universities have Facebook groups where you can connect with other students that are looking for people to either rent their room or someone to live together. This is a great way to get to know students that are coming to your university and people that can tell you more about University life. Living together with someone you know will not only make you feel safer but also it will be more fun and enjoyable.
5 - Learn about the requirements needed to secure the property
You have finished securing your finances, understood with whom you are going live now it is time to secure the property. After you have searched through property rental platforms and viewed the property, you will have to go through referencing. During the process, there is a possibility that you will need to have a UK guarantor or pay 6-12 months upfront. The problem is that if you are coming abroad, most likely you do not have a UK guarantor or do not want to pay all your funds upfront hence you might fail the application. But there is another way that I learned only later. You can hire a Guarantor, such as Guarnatid to secure the property and pay monthly. You have to pay a one-time fee and go through a quick and easy application process. If you want to learn more about it, click here.
After all these steps you should be able to secure the property as a first-year student and avoid the painful learning year that I had to experience.
Best of luck!