25 Questions to Ask About Student Housing: How to Choose the Best Student House
Choosing your next student home should be an exciting time, particularly if it’s the first place you’re going to be renting outside of halls.
Whilst it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of your search, it’s important to take a step back and consider all the important points against which you should be measuring whether you’ve found the right property.
To help you to do this, we’ve put together this handy guide.
1. Have I Chosen the Right Housemates?
Once you’ve signed the contract for your home, you’re stuck with each other for the duration of the tenancy. This means that it’s important for you to be sure that you’re renting with the right people.
Some of the things you should be looking to consider when picking your housemates include:
- Whether or not they’re responsible, since you’ll be taking care of important things such as bills and the state of the property together
- If cleanliness is important to them, as you should ideally be creating some sort of cleaning rota and staying on top of this throughout the year
- Whether they like to party a lot. If they do, they might not be the perfect housemate
2. What Do the Existing Tenants Think?
Arguably the best recommendation you can get for the property you’re looking to rent is from those currently residing within it. You may find that tenants are out whilst you do viewings, but if they’re not, why not ask them how they’ve found living within the property? Do issues get resolved quickly?
You’ve not committed to anything at the viewing stage and you’re fully within your rights to ask questions and see if the property you’re looking at is the right one for you.
3. What Do the Company’s Reviews Say?
Browse the company’s website and externally on Google to see what kinds of reviews previous tenants have left.
Be sure to check out Google reviews when searching for the company name. Look for telltale signs such as how many reviews in total were left. Is it just one or two or have numerous tenants left reviews? What star rating do they average? It’s always more tempting to leave a bad review if you’ve had a negative experience, so what do they average out at? What do the reviews actually say about their experience of renting from that company? Has the company responded to positive and negative reviews to show they take feedback seriously?
If you are checking out customer reviews, it’s worth looking at any negative reviews with a fair mindset, to see how the company in question dealt with any unsatisfied customers and whether they genuinely tried to find a reasonable resolution.
It’s also worth checking out the company's social media profiles - as this will often be where you’ll find their most recent customer interactions and announcements.
4. Who Would Be the Best Lead Tenant?
Picking a responsible lead tenant is an important part of renting your student home. Since they will take the lead with landlord communications, it’s vital that you pick someone in your group that is responsible, organised and efficient. This way, you can ensure that any issues get dealt with quickly and effectively.
5. Will We Be Happy Living Here?
Whilst There are of course lots of official boxes to tick and practicalities to satisfy. Where you live will form a big part of that, since you’ll be spending lots of time studying, cooking, sleeping and relaxing in your rental property.
Of course you’ll have to make a degree of compromise, but as much as you can, try and secure a property within which you can make happy memories with your housemates.
6. Is the Property Well Looked After?
A good relationship between student and landlord/property company works both ways. Most responsible accommodation providers will take care of their properties, but there could be warning signs to look out for just in case they don’t.
Some of the things you should be looking out for during viewings include:
- Damp and mould on the walls
- Whether the appliances look in good condition
- Whether the outside space is neat and tidy
7. What Appliances Are Included?
It’s important to take note of what appliances are included in the property you’re looking to rent. Many flats and houses will be fitted with the basics such as a washing machine and oven, but you’ll want to take a look around nonetheless.
Consider whether appliances such as a dishwasher are important to you. If they are, are they included? If not, would you be prepared to split the cost and would there be room to fit one in?
It’s also worth noting how many power points are in the rooms and checking where these are located, particularly if you’ll be needing to use lots of appliances at once.
8. Is There Outside Space & What Is It Like?
One of the best things you can do as a student is have a BBQ with your mates during warmer weather. This is just one example of the many reasons why it’s nice to have outside space to enjoy during your tenancy.
With some properties, there naturally won’t be anything more than a balcony - such as if you choose to rent a city centre flat. If this is the case, use Google Maps or local guides to find green spaces near you that you could quickly and easily head to on a nice day. Sheffield is a great place for choosing student housing as there are plenty of parks around you. Check out our guide to Sheffield parks for ideas on where you could go!
9. How Is the Property Heated?
When it comes to central heating, there are lots of potential systems that could be in operation. The style of boiler and whether a gas or electric system is installed are the two biggest factors you’ll need to consider.
If bills are included within your tenancy agreement, this may be one that you can pretty much skip, but if not, it’s worth doing some research so that you can properly factor the heating requirements into your overall costings.
10. Is There a Suitable Remote Studying Space?
It’s always been good to have the option to work from home as a student. Sometimes you’ll need to pull a late night to finish an assignment but heading into the library is the last thing you want to do!
We advise all students to make sure that they have a space that they can work from at their student property. In a shared house, this will usually be a desk in your bedroom, but it’s important to make sure that you’ll be comfortable working there. Things to look out for are a comfortable set up, natural lighting, and ideally it’ll be situated away from busy common areas of the house to reduce noise.
If your remote workspace meets these criteria, it could also double up as a good place to take video calls, which will come in handy for any remote learning or job interviews.
11. Internet Speed
Another important consideration is the quality and speed of the internet connection in a house.
It’s worth running an internet speed test in key common rooms in the house (especially anywhere you’re likely to be streaming video and working) and your own bedroom.
Many houses have patches of poorer signal - and this isn’t necessarily an issue that should stop you from moving into a house that you really like, but it could be worth discussing options to improve internet speed and coverage with your landlord if this is the case.
12. What About Any Damp?
Older student properties may accumulate damp, so make sure you keep an eye out for it when you’re searching for your own property to rent. It’s also worth asking existing tenants if they’ve encountered any issues, since some damp may be hidden behind furniture.
In addition, make sure that if damp has been encountered, you find out how it’s been dealt with. For example, has a dehumidifier been provided or has work been scheduled to tackle any problems as they’ve arisen?
13. Is the Property In A Good Location?
How you define what a ‘good location’ is will come down partly to personal preference. Some students will want a quieter location, whilst others may prefer being nearer to the pubs, bars and clubs.
There are certain things though, that you should at least be factoring into your decision; such as the crime statistics for the area. Similarly, being adjacent to a noisy road may affect how much you sleep.
14. What Outdoor Spaces Are Nearby?
Most students will find that they need to be frugal throughout their degree. This can mean that you need to find ways to be a little creative in terms of staying entertained without parting with your money.
One great way to do this is to spend time in the outdoors, be that in the countryside, in parks or exploring the city. Consider how close you are to any green spaces and spend some time exploring them with your friends ahead of deciding which area you want to rent within. It’s also worth noting the distance any countryside is away from you and how easily it can be reached via your usual method of transport.
Luckily here in Sheffield, where Gnome Student Homes is based, there is greenery in abundance; particularly in the Ecclesall Road student area where our office can be found.
15. How Far Will I Be From University?
How far you are from the university you’re studying at is important to consider for several reasons. Firstly, you’ll want to judge how far you need to travel to get to your lectures and seminars; as well as factoring in whether you’ll need to add in transport costs to your budget.
On the flip side, it’s also important to be in an area where you have good access to amenities, leisure facilities and entertainment; since these are all factors that will play an important part in your quality of life as a student.
16. Do I Need to Park & What Are the Options?
If you own a car, then you’ll naturally need to think about the parking situation in the area you choose. Lots of student housing is typically found within fairly built-up city areas, which can make securing a space something of a logistical problem.
There’s a good chance that you may need to apply for a permit if you select a popular location. It’s important to consider how these costs would then affect you. You may be fine with the price; or you may determine that you can actually leave your car at home.
If you really need your car but don’t want to pay for the permit, you may have to reconsider the area you rent within.
17. What Are the Transport Links Like?
As a student, you’ll likely rely on public transport a fair amount for getting around. Questions you’ll regularly find yourself asking are:
- How easily can I get home to my parents? (If living in a different city, particularly)
- How quickly can I get to university?
- Are the bus services regular/do I have to change buses a lot to get to university?
- Are there any other public transport options, such as a tram system?
- What would a taxi cost in and out of the city?
You can then use this information to inform the decision you ultimately take.
18. Will Bills Be Included?
So that you can budget appropriately, you need to assess which, if any, bills will be included within your tenancy plan. Some providers offer utilities within a rental package, for example. Once you know how your bills will fall into your budget, you can plan accordingly.
Make sure you cover everything when you’re assessing what you may need to pay for, including:
- TV license
Providing you meet the criteria, you may be exempt from council tax payments during your studies.
19. Does the Property Have a Smart Meter?
Smart meters are recommended by the UK Government for every UK property. They can help you keep track of your energy usage and reduce your consumption - reducing your bills and carbon footprint. Another benefit is that smart meter plans also mean that you don’t have to submit meter readings.
20. How Does the Rent Compare?
It’s always a good idea to have a rough budget in mind in terms of what you can afford rent-wise. This will enable you to narrow down the companies you can afford to rent with and use this information as a solid basis for your property search.
Once you’ve decided your rough ballpark figure and begun to view properties, have a think about what that money is getting you between different student accommodation providers.You may then discover that some offer better value than others in terms of quality, location and service.
21. Have I Sorted Contents Insurance?
Being a student can be tough when trying to make your budget stack up, but one thing you really can’t afford to bypass is contents insurance.
Whilst there is a chance nothing will go wrong, if there ever was a fire or a break-in at your property and you weren’t covered, you’d be in a far worse position than the relatively small cost you can take to protect yourself.
22. Where Will My Deposit Be Held?
By 2007 UK law, deposits for student accommodation must be held in one of 3 approved government Tenancy Deposit Schemes. These are:
Before signing any documentation, ensure that your deposit will be held with one these providers and you’ll then be covered in terms of fair management of your deposit money.
23. Have I Read the Tenancy Agreement?
Before signing for a new property, it’s absolutely vital to read the tenancy agreement fully. This is the document that you’ll be bound by in terms of what rules you must adhere to whilst living in the property.
The document will include plenty of important terms and conditions, whilst it will also shed light on smaller things such as whether you’re allowed to hang pictures and posters whilst living within the property.
24. What Is the Security Like?
Whilst there is of course a very good chance you’ll spend your rental spell in your new property without any thefts taking place, it is worth considering what the access to the property is like and whether any alarm system is fitted.
If there is a ground floor window down the back of a dark alley, for example, it may make the property an easier target for thieves. If you get the correct insurance, you should be protected in the event of a break in anyway, but it’s better to feel more secure in the home you live in.
25. Are There Working Smoke Detectors?
It’s essential that the property you live in has working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. You’ll want to check that these are included in the property and that they are all in working order ahead of you moving in.
During your tenancy, it’s then worth periodically testing the appliances to ensure they remain in working order and keep you safe.
Student Accommodation Sheffield
Here at Gnome Student Homes, we offer an outstanding selection of student properties in Sheffield; with a particular focus on the beautiful Ecclesall Road area of the city. Check out our selection today!