The housing situation in London was one of my main hesitations when I considered moving to the city. It’s intimidating to face as a young student, especially if you’re on a budget (like me). The good news is that tens of thousands of students navigate this process in London every year, and it shouldn’t be a deterrent for living in one of the best cities in the world. To help prepare you, I’ve rounded up some of your options and the most helpful information for conquering the London housing market.
Student accommodation through your University
Most universities will have some kind of housing available for their first-year students. If you apply early, it can be the easiest way to make sure you have a place to live on your first day of class. University supported residence is safe, reputable, and up to a good standard. If you’re a mature student (older than 21) it’s also possible that your university will place you with other older students; this can be a wonderful thing during the orientation week parties that you may have outgrown. I attend Queen Mary, which is one of the few universities in London to have their residences on campus. It’s truly a great thing to live in a great, big city, but be able to walk to class in two minutes. However, not every university has this benefit, and it can be a pain to live in uni housing 45 minutes away from campus. This is an important thing to look up before choosing your accommodation. The tricky thing is that many London universities will only allow you to live in housing during your first year – after that you’re on your own.
Private student accommodation
There are a number of private student accommodation companies in London. Reputable companies like IQ and Liberty provide very high-quality housing in the student dorm style across the city. The downside is that these places are usually far more expensive, and their leases generally last for the entire year – so you must commit to paying rent all summer. The bonus is that the rooms are usually far nicer than university accommodation, and you still get the safe, social environment of living with students. This option will also be available over the course of your entire degree.
Many of my friends found a place to live through websites like spareroom, where people advertise a room in their home to rent. This can be the most affordable route, and you might end up living with a cool group of people. The downside is that you lose a lot of the comforts that come with student organised accommodation; you need to keep an eye out for shady landlords, and you may encounter problems with your flatmates that can’t be fixed by a designated person in charge. But it’s a great option if you’re looking for both accommodation and some roommates.
Finding a place with a group
It’s also possible to bring a group of people together and find a house or flat to live. Many people do this in the later years of their degree. You may also be able to find flatmates in networks you are a part of already. You can post in Facebook groups for alumni of your school and find likeminded people that also need a place to live in London. You have many options, and places can come furnished or unfurnished.
Be conscious that with the competitive market, you might need a guarantor that resides in the UK, reference checks, or to pay additional agency fees. These things might make it more difficult or more expensive, so ask lots of questions and do your research beforehand.
- Look for your accommodation in August – things open-up later when other students move out.
- Take advantage of any help your university provides. They might have a specific database for off-campus housing, or provide resources about your rights as a tenant and best practices for navigating the system.
- Thoroughly evaluate a place the first time you see it. Once you see a place you like, you have to take it immediately.
- Check out the travel zone that the accommodation is in – it will affect the cost of travelling into university (you are charged for passing through a zone, even if you don’t stop in it).
London is so big and there are so many people, there will always be a place to live and flatmates to find. You shouldn’t let the challenge of finding a place scare you from living in this incredible city!