It was roughly a year ago I packed away my textbooks and joined the working world, for those of you getting your degree grades this week congratulations! Your next step may be to think about finding a flat or somewhere to live, I've just moved out of my first flat, we were there for a year and although we definitely had our ups and downs with it, we loved it none the less. I thought since it's about that time of year that I'd share some tips on how to successfully rent your first flat and some things to look out for that I've picked up from this past year.
1. Research your letting agent
This is the number one thing I'd recommend. Although my flatmate and I absolutely loved our flat this past year, we had so many issues with our letting agent from day one and it did put a dampener on things. So definitely ask friends in the area if they've ever rented with that agent before, or check them out on google reviews or social media because in theory the letting agent is supposed to make your life easier. Don't be fooled by them putting pressure on you, you may find that they're not the only agent letting out apartments in that building, if in doubt call the building/development owner and ask which letting agents they are aware of or that they'd recommend. Things to look out for on reviews are, if people have had trouble getting in touch, or emergency repairs not being dealt with, and any mention of deposit issues and I'd personally stay well away. Especially if this is your first time renting, always get a second opinion on what they're telling you and always ask them to clarify in writing what you're actually paying for before you pay for anything. Basically just get to know who you're working with before you commit to anything.
2. Take photos of everything
In the unfortunate event that you do end up renting with an agent who is slightly less than helpful you probably won't know that until an issue occurs. On the day you move in and even when you first go to view the property, take photos of everything. Ideally on a phone because then it'll be time, date and even location stamped to prove authenticity. We managed to get back hundreds of pounds on our deposit by having photos from the day we moved in. A photo counts as concrete evidence and for the sake of a few snaps here and there it's worth covering your own back.
Times to take video/photos
- - viewing
- - date of move in
- - any issues throughout ( eg. if an engineer comes out to fix something like an oven or a window ect take photos of the window before and after in case any damage is caused.
3. Email don't phone
The same as photos, a way to make sure your back is covered is to always email through an issue instead of phoning the office, by phoning the office there's no proof of what was said during the conversation or who you spoke to. By putting things in writing again it'll be time and date stamped and there's no way to prove it didn't happen, and should you not get a response then send as many follow up emails as necessary until you do. It's even easier to keep track of things if you can keep it all on the same email thread, that way should there be any miscommunications you can just go through that one chain and see where things went wrong.
4. Shop around
I'd highly recommend figuring out what your non-negotiables are and sticking to them, but then bare in mind that everything else is ok to be flexible. So if location and price are top of your wish list then you may have to compromise on having a good view or a private parking space. Don't be afraid to widen your search, you may be surprised with the gems you find.
5. Don't stretch your budget - there's a budget for a reason
With your first flat its very easy to get carried away with the budget and keep stretching it by an extra £50 here or there, but trust me you'll thank yourself for being strict with yourselves. When we went flat hunting we set up 4 viewings all in the same day and it worked really well, the difference between the flats was so obvious and we did pick different flats all at different price ranges so we could see what our money could get us. In the end we went with the flat we both had started the day saying we thought was the one *typical* and as that was viewing number two of four so we decided not to see the others in the end. The one flat that was slightly over budget actually cancelled our viewing the morning of so we took that as a sign that it just wasn't meant to be. Keep in mind all the additional costs you'll have on top of rent like electric bills, council tax, do you need a gym membership or a travel card? You'll be thankful you didn't blow the budget on rent when it actually comes to paying it.
So there we have it! I really hope that was useful for you and you hopefully picked up some tips and tricks. Having your own flat can be both scary and exciting but as long as you read the fine print, stay realistic to what you can afford and do your research you'll have a great time!