How to find a student house which is right for you!
Start your research EARLY
Exeter is unfortunately a university which has ridiculously early expectations and deadlines for securing houses/flats (deposits and contracts signed). For context, I had my house for second year signed and deposited for in late October (eek… I know).
Don’t worry about the deadlines and instead, focus your efforts on researching effectively. Call agencies and talk to landlords online ASAP, they are willing to help you out, just put the flags up early that you’re interested!
Ask older students at the University
I managed to secure my house through talking to a student in the year above - the landlord hadn’t listed the houses online yet, so in a sense, I got lucky by asking! Talk to older students at societies, on campus or just wherever you can find them really. Trust me, my fellow second year students are more than happy to lend a hand with the hunt if we can!
Assemble your house/flatmates before you sign ANYTHING
The biggest mistake I’ve seen people make is signing a house lease for more people than they have currently in their group. Yes, miracles happen, and people do find that extra flatmate, however, the risk involved is simply not worth it. I know many people who have done this and have in turn been forced to pay a much higher rent for a room left unoccupied or been left with a terrible new housemate (loud, messy, and rude!). Don’t chance it and select houses to view with the right number of bedrooms from the start. Consider your current flatmates if they are nice to live with too, as sometimes your best friends end up being a nightmare to live with #awkward.
Tip - I’d also recommend you make a document which everyone in your group signs to claim responsibility for rent or find another suitable flatmate if you drop out of the agreement. This has helped give everyone peace of mind in our house!
VIEW THE HOUSE
Some agencies and landlords can try to refuse to allow you to view the house before you sign, at least in person. THIS IS A RED FLAG. My uni mates who signed leases without viewing their houses have been left with hidden issues they now need to address alongside their degree - damp, mould, and pests (yuck). Arrange a viewing with the landlord/agency, and if there is a refusal and you’re still keen, consider going to the house to ask the current tenants if you can look round (many students will allow you to have a look around and will speak honestly about their experience in the house this year). No viewing = hidden issues. Whatever you do, don’t sign anything before you see it.
Take photos/talk to current tenants
Ok, you have secured a viewing, now the real work begins. When you view the house, look in all rooms and take photos of every room for future reference. If there are dehumidifiers or other signs of damp, mould, or pests, ask the representative helping your view the house and take photos – if it is a known issue then they should give you a definitive answer if you ask. If you can grab a tenant on the viewing, try chat to them and they might be able to offer you some insight into their experience so far too! Your hard work will pay off…
No questions are stupid questions
(and if the agency or landlord says so, walk away)
This is self-explanatory. Many landlords and agencies will avoid questions if they can’t give you the answer you want to hear. Why is the deposit so large? Are there any issues with the house which are known? When do we get our deposit back? Are all valid questions, and if they are avoiding certain ones, it’s another red flag. Don’t feel stupid asking, as we’re all doing this for the first time too!
Location, location, location
From experience, the closer to campus the better. Less time to commute for lectures, get to society events and use other University facilities. If two houses are on par in pricing but one is closer: go for the closer one. Student streets nearby the uni are more expensive but can be worth it - Victoria Street, Pennsylvania Road and Powderham Crescent to name a few… Also, if you have a few St Luke’s housemates and you want to be kind, you might want to pick somewhere in-between the two! No commute = a good thing, however, just few minutes further away might actually work out quite a bit cheaper!
Other quick FAQ’s
How much should I be paying -
Without bills from experience, the lower end is about £100 a week (RARE) and the upper end £220. Closer to campus is expectedly more expensive. Expect to pay more for bills included. From my casual chats with students, about £160-170 a week ex bills for a house with a convenient location is the going rate (2023/24).
What deposit am I expected to pay?
Many agents and landlords will ask for a holding deposit (usually one week’s worth of rent). You will usually get this back at the start of your agreement, as a deduction to your first rent payment in the new academic year - just make sure you take a note of it, you need to get written confirmation about the amount, when it will be returned and the criteria to get that holding deposit back. You will also pay a deposit for damage which you will get back at the end of the tenancy – this is usually about £500.
How much are bills?
It depends, but you should expect to pay around £30-50 a month for Wi-Fi, Water, Electricity and Gas. If bills aren’t included, I’d AVOID using combined bill services as they charge ridiculous prices offering peace of mind, when really, they’re just ripping you off! Go on a variable tariff if you get the option.
Should I view the property?
YES, online viewings are not adequate at showing all potential problems with properties, so you’ll need to go in person to get the full picture.
What about private halls?
Might be a good choice, however, the possibility to live with people you choose is sometimes not there, it can feel like a repeat of first year and the rent can be LUDICROUS (though many include gyms which I’m eternally jealous about). As a rule, if you have a pre-formed group, put in the effort to find a house first before looking at private halls as you’ll get more out of it.
Need any further advice? Why not have a look at our Housing support page!
Matty, Second year student