The first steps to finding your new home…exciting times ahead!
Prepare to Search
Get organised before you begin looking.
Your starting point should be to work out your budget and decide what sort of place might best suit your needs and lifestyle.
Establish your priorities
Choosing the right place encompasses many factors: affordability, who you’re going to live with, what type of accommodation, comfort, safety, neighbourhood, local amenities, social life and nights out, proximity to key places, commute time and transport options, parking… there’s a lot to consider! You and any housemates need to decide what’s most important to you, so you can make a list of essential criteria for your property search.
Work out your budget & organise your finances
Bear in mind that affordability means more than just the monthly rent, as you need to budget for the on-going living costs. Also the initial outlay of taking on a tenancy (deposit, rent in advance, fees etc.) plus any furnishings and equipment you might need to buy.
Find out more:
Have a clear brief
Know your budget, length of tenancy and accommodation requirements (area, type, number of bedrooms, plus any other essential criteria). A clear brief means you’re less likely to waste time traipsing around unsuitable properties.
Start your search via free apps and online, contact letting agents, look at local papers and ask around. Arrange viewings and then make a rational evaluation of any potential property, so you know that it works financially and could provide a safe and enjoyable living experience.
Finding a home can be fun, but also time-consuming and sometimes frustrating – it is well worth putting in the effort, because you will be happier if you love where you live!
Where to Search
Some websites focus on renting whole properties, whilst others concentrate on letting rooms:
Launched in 2015, a state-of-the-art property search – simple to use and without ads
Helpful feature: Search by commute time from your workplace
Draw your own search area
Find Properly – London
Property search helps you cut your commute to frequently visited places, and lets you set priorities such as popular with graduates!!!, low crime, air quality etc.
You can map out areas where you would like to live and exclude ones you wouldn’t consider
Great for searching on the go!
Right move (Android)
Useful map view of properties near your current location
Helpful feature: Search by commute time from your workplace
Local letting agents
Letting agents will have in-depth knowledge of the area and can save you time and effort by matching your criteria with suitable properties, but you need to be proactive. Register your details, request property alerts, and call or check their websites regularly, so you don’t miss out. You can register for free with as many agents as you want.
Check local newspapers, magazines and ads posted in local shops or on work/college notice boards etc.
Ask around – friends or colleagues may know of someone about to move out, or other people who are looking to rent.
Regional Cost Comparisons
Rent and service costs vary significantly by region.
An initial internet search of various property websites will give you a fair impression of what you can get for your money, and how location affects prices.
Talk to local letting agents – they know their area well, and can tell you how much properties are actually going for, rather than just their advertised price; they can give you a good idea of the sort of accommodation you could get for your budget.
Check out these sites for a rough guide to rental prices or living costs by area:
Where can I Afford to Live? – BBC News (June 2016)
Calculator to work out where you can afford to live, depending on your budget; and whether it’s cheaper to rent or buy
Cost of Living Comparisons by Region – Numbeo
Database providing information on living conditions in cities worldwide – covers cost of living, property prices, quality of health care, travel, crime rates and pollution etc.
Includes a useful facility where you can compare cities.
Current rents by town – Home.co.uk
Search by area or postcode to get an idea of average rental prices.
Lists available properties and local agents.
The London Underground Rent Map – Thrillist (Sept 2015)
Average rent prices for one-bed flats within 1km of each tube station
London Property Prices on a Tube Map – Find Properly
Shows current prices (for rent or sale) along each tube line
Lists available properties near each station
Low Cost Options
If you’re up for something a bit different, you can find some cheaper alternatives to traditional renting:
Rent a room in someone’s home:
Book a room with a local, on a daily/weekly/monthly basis – ideal for interns
Room for Tea – London
Short-term accommodation, where people let a spare room in their homes – ideal for interns
All sorts of empty properties are available for affordable rent; in return you provide a service simply by living there, to look after the property and deter squatters/vandals etc. They include residential and commercial properties, often in desirable locations; they may be vacant for a variety of reasons such as waiting for redevelopment, owners living abroad etc.
Dot Dot Dot Property
A social enterprise: property guardian plus volunteering for a charitable cause of your choice
Share and provide some practical support and companionship for an older or disabled homeowner, in return for cheap or free accommodation:
(Source for Low Cost Options: ‘What Next? – The Graduate’s Guide To Post-Uni Life’: The Sunday Times (June 2015))
Looking for rental property 2-3 months before you’re ready to move is generally too early – decent properties will go quickly, particularly in big cities. One letting agent recommended that the optimum time from starting your search to taking a property is about 3-4 weeks.
That gives you enough time so you don’t need to panic; you can settle on something already available, without ruling out better properties coming on the market in the next couple of weeks.
It’s also a sufficiently short time to focus your mind – so you have a clear brief and make decisions promptly (and it prevents you from visiting hundreds of properties!)