Renting After Graduation: What To Watch Out For
Commercial renting is a little different from student lets. In this article, guest writer Lily gives some useful insights into navigating the rental market, and some of the important decisions you’ll need to consider.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
After the initial shock and celebration of graduating, and the cap and gown have been and gone, many are now faced with the next big decision — finding a place to live. For those opting not to move back home, renting after graduation can be an exciting yet challenging transition, filled with choices that can significantly impact the post-uni experience.
With areas like London becoming “entirely unaffordable” to graduates, according to SpareRoom, those seeking properties after university need to be equipped with knowledge to navigate the rental market.
Plan your budget
Planning your budget should be first and foremost when house hunting. Without the safety blanket of student loans propping you up, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got enough money. Remember that you’ll be budgeting for more than rent; you will need to cover the upfront costs such as the security deposit and a month’s rent in advance, as well as these ongoing living costs:
- Utility bills: This includes gas, water, electricity, council tax, phone bill and any streaming services you’re subscribed to. Remember to note down all your outgoings so you’re not caught off-guard by a bill coming out.
- Food: On average, you’ll be wanting to put aside 10-15% of your monthly income for your big shop. It can help to indulge in money-saving schemes like loyalty programmes that give away points and freebies. Save the takeaway apps for the bad hangovers and try and get creative in the kitchen instead.
- Transport: If you drive to work, be sure to budget for fuel costs. If you do commute to work on public transport, those small transactions can build up quickly and take a large chunk of your budget. Consider getting a railcard or look for any possible discounts to help you.
- Social life: Just because you’re adulting now doesn’t mean you can’t have a few after work on the weekend. Seeing friends and doing what you love is still very much an important part of post-grad life, so set aside some money that you know you’re going to need when you go out. Hangxiety as a young adult is no joke.
These are four primary finance factors that need to be considered every month. If you feel like you’re spending more in one sector and less in another, you can customise your budget to suit your situation.
Read before you sign!
It’s a tedious task to read any contract, but don’t get caught out by the small print! Make sure you’ve got someone who has experience to read over it with you, or at least make a list of things to check:
- Make sure the start (and sometimes end) date for your tenancy is correct.
- Familiarise yourself with the important details e.g. is it an individual contract or joint tenancy agreement? There are important legal differences and implications, so make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities.
- Check your deposit will be safe in a deposit protection scheme.
- Confirm your rent amount is correct.
- Make sure the contract allows for general wear and tear. When your tenancy ends, the condition of the property will affect whether you get back your full deposit – and it is only fair that the landlord should expect some general wear and tear to the property and furnishings.
- If you have requested any repairs to be carried out before you move in, make sure these are detailed in the contract.
You should also always check your inventory so there are no misunderstandings about the state of the property. Think of it as a checklist for both the landlord and tenants to record any issues or damage in the property before you move in. Depending on whether you have a fully furnished or partially furnished property, the inventory should also detail the furniture and appliances provided by the landlord, along with their respective conditions.
Sharing or solo?
A key consideration is whether you’re happy to share or not. Most people will have experienced house sharing during their university experience, so should be accustomed to having housemates.
Sharing a property with friends you’ve made at university, or diving straight into a young professional house share can be a great way to save money. Splitting bills and batch-cooking meals together can work out considerably cheaper than buying food for just yourself, as it can go off much quicker than you thought if you overbuy or under eat. Make sure you move in with people you trust, however; be aware that joint tenancy agreements mean that everyone shares equal responsibility for paying the rent and bills, and for any damage. So, if anyone causes problems or fails to pay, the landlord can pursue any of the tenants for the money owed.
If you’re considering going solo and finding your own place, make sure you don’t become isolated from others. It can be lonely living by yourself, so keep active and don’t let the privacy invade your headspace. You’re also responsible for yourself and the property entirely- this means all the chores, and all of the little bits you may not have noticed will now be on you. Setting reminders for bin day and keeping your cleaning cupboard fully stocked should be the first step. The tidier and cleaner you keep your space, the happier you’ll be, and the less likely damage will occur. You should also prioritise getting a spare key, since nobody will be there to let you in at 3am!
Consider the future
Each rental involves its own tenancy rules, including the length of the contract. Some places will have a minimum 6-month tenancy; this means that if you change your mind a few months in, your contract states you can’t break your tenancy. If you’re adamant about leaving, be aware it’s common practice for the landlord to charge you rent until your room is filled, and charge advertising fees, unless you find someone to fill your room instead.
Also, consider any job changes and opportunities. Are you likely to have to relocate? If your job isn’t as flexible as a WFH scheme, and if you may need to up and leave to follow your job across the country, a long-term fixed contract would not be ideal. Consider shorter term contracts or put some money aside for any emergencies, so that you could cover the costs of breaking the tenancy agreement.
After tenancy agreements with a fixed term expire, e.g., a 6-month fixed contract ends, you may then have a rolling contract where you are just expected to just pay monthly. If you find yourself in an uncertain situation at work, but know you need to stay in the property, saving up a few months’ rent or bulk paying, may allow you some breathing space while you figure things out.
In the aftershock of graduation, the decision to rent involves meticulous budgeting, careful contract scrutiny, and a strategic choice between shared or solo living. It should be an exciting experience that allows you the same independence as university, while earning your own money and navigating a world with less structure. Once you gain some renting experience, it’ll become easier to spot any red flags and know when a place and contract is just right for you.
Find out more:
If you need any more information on renting, check out HelloGrads renting section here, or our recently published book “Survive & Thrive: A Graduate’s Guide To Life After University”, available from Amazon, Waterstones and other good bookshops.
About the Author
ly Meyers studied psychology and then became a teacher. She particularly enjoys helping people understand the impact of technology and its effects on our brains and psyche. See her recent article on ‘Why is it Important to Manage Your Screen Time?’.