Friday, 31 August 2012

Little Guide to Flat Hunting

We are fortunate enough to start off with one follower before we have even blogged yet (Thank you Charlotte) so hopefully at least one person is reading this already! 

I (Rachael) decided to write this post to fill the time whilst babysitting! And because Karen and I are moving into the flat on Monday, and we have yet to properly start our blog haha
Heh - one of the very few photos of us all together. On a night out. Don't worry, better pictures shall come!
Little Guide to Flat Hunting:

1. Find some flat mates
Luckily for me, I already had Euan wishing to share a flat with me. But in dire want of further flat mates, we spent several months searching for and asking potential people if they'd like to move in with us. Karen was our best choice, and although we had to wait a while for her to make the decision (It is a huge decision to move out of your parents home with all those added benefits like not having to do the washing..!) we are so glad we got her ;) 
We didn't want to advertise for a flat mate on an online student site - firstly, most of the people on there are post-grad students, so much older than us freshers, but secondly, we'd both find it rather weird moving in with a complete stranger. That's not to say it's a bad idea! Just not for us. On my uni freshers page I still am seeing people searching for flat mates - and Uni starts on the 8th! 
Try to do this in advance

2. Decide where abouts you'd like to live
Karen and I are going to the same uni, whilst Euan is going to another in the same city. So we decided we should go for somewhere quite central, with bus routes close by for Euan's uni. There will be flats out there in the places you're looking, so don't waste time searching in places which will cause one of your flat mates upset because its a bad situation for them.
Be thoughtful

3. Google search for HMO flats
Ah, that little issue: 'HMO'. This stands for 'House in Multiple Occupation'. This is an important phrase for any potential student flat co-renters, because it dictates which flats you can even try to rent. What it really means is a house occupied by three or more people not of a single family. What this means for you, is that if you're looking to move into a student flat with two or more people you need to look for HMO flats - it would be illegal to get one without an HMO. HMO flats just have goverment laid-down rules for the landlord to abide by, and it is in your interest! (Just very annoying when you find out about it after making a list of possible flats..) You can read more about it here

4. Start booking viewings
Due to us finalising our plans to co-rent quite late on in the summer before starting uni, we had to do this step very quickly. We had ten or so flats that we wanted to view, so I contacted each via the email address supplied on each of the pages. Now, some of these were estate agent emails, and some were private emails. But they all had one thing in common - no one ever replies!! I discovered this after a couple of days of waiting, and so then began a tirade of phone calls. Don't wait - these are busy people with probably an inbox full of similar messages about bookings (especially if you're contacting an estate agent) so be pro-active and phone up, or visit the agent. Even phoning can be stressful: One man refused to let me book in advance, asking me instead to email each morning to ask if he had any free times. Then began a ritual, where I'd email each morning, wait till midday, phone him (where he'd mention he'd read my email..) to then get told to email the next day. He eventually gave me an appointment after we'd put down the deposit for our flat. Muahaha. Too little, too late.
Do it! Quick and proactive

5. If you see one you want, get it
This step was absolutely key for us, as we ended up with only a small handful of appointments, with multiple other groups of potential renters turning up at each. Our flat was only the second one we viewed, (and the first Euan had viewed), but we liked it, it was 5 minutes walk from Karen and I's uni, beside a bus stop for Euan's, and on the third floor of the building (more light, less neighbours, city centre rats tend to be on lower floors..) So after the viewing, we sat down in a cafe and simultaniously decided to get it. We then immediately went to the estate agent to get forms, and then came in with the deposit at opening time the next day - Keen Beans! 
Be decisive

6. Talk to the Agents
We pushed through our commitment to rent the flat very quickly, before any of our parents had either seen the flat or talked to the estate agents. This then made the following couple of weeks quite confusing, as we found out new things about it, and got told conflicting information about the rent, signing the lease, etc. Make sure you're talking to someone who knows what they're talking about in the estate agents - we suffered from doing the opposite..and discovering this a couple weeks later. Get your parents involved - it may be your flat, but no doubt they're paying for it, and will know more about all the mumbo-jumbo the estate agents are telling you, than you will. Let the adults do the talking (but make sure you're listening!)
Get informed

7. Pay up
First you shall be asked for a sum of money as a deposit which you shall get paid back at the end of the lease period, if you haven't damaged the property during crazy (drunken) antics like those which feature on How I Met Your Mother (my favourite tv show btw). After this you will need to pay your first month's rent as well as agent fees before you sign the lease and move in! Make sure you know what you're paying
Get on top of it

8. Sign the Lease
This is quite an exciting part for the 18 and olders, because you get to sign (possibly your first) legal documents! You're actually meant to get your parent/guardian (the fancy word in this scenario being guarantor) if you are under 17. Euan didn't abide by this, yolo and all. This is quite a lengthy process as there is a lot to read in the lease! A tip is to ask the agent's to send it via email to your parents before lease-signing day so that they can pick up on any unusual things which you may skip over. And you will probably need to have one person sign the bottom of each page - if you volunteer for this, beware, there are hundreds of pages to sign! Also, you don't all need to sign on the same day - but you will only get keys if you have both signed the lease and payed your rent.
Clue up

Well as far as 'flat hunting' goes, you're there! Well done! This is the stage we are currently at, because we pick up the keys on Monday to move in! 3 days time - so much Erhmagerd. I seem to have an inability to pack. 

Rachael XX
(And Karen and Euan in spirit)

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